World Cup 2019: Where do you bowl to Chris Gayle?

It has been more than a decade since Gayle scored a hundred against India in ODIs; he will be hungry for one at Old Trafford on Thursday.

A statistical deep dive reflects Gayle’s discomfort against short balls and back of a length deliveries; and at times, a regular off-break.   -  REUTERS

“No one was down at long-on. So in some ways, it was a risk-free shot. But even if there had been a man — two men, three men, men on ladders I would still have done it, because he was a debutant,” is how Chris Gayle describes his first-ball six in a Test match against Bangladesh spinner Sohag Gazi.

Gayle is known for springing in such surprises. He can be ruthless on his day.

At 39, the engine is rusty but the hunger remains and that’s what keeps him in the headlines ahead of any big match. In the last decade or so, the Universe Boss — as Gayle is popularly known — dictated terms against most international sides except Team India.

As Virat Kohli’s side takes on West Indies at Old Trafford in Manchester on Thursday, the spotlight will be back on the Jamaican superstar.

Vulnerability against off-spin

A statistical deep dive reflects Gayle’s discomfort against short balls and back of a length deliveries; and at times, a regular off-break. Knowing his vulnerability against off-spinners, these days he prefers to play them out in singles unless there is a demand to score at a certain required rate.

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Three years ago in the ICC World T20 final, England had choked his flow, starting with Joe Root — a part-time off-spinner. Gayle likes being fed on the slot by pacers and a bit of turn is a turn off for the big man. Trying to loft the flighted delivery, Gayle found Ben Stokes at long-off.

Joe Root celebrates the dismissal of Chris Gayle in ICC World T20 final in 2016.   -  GETTY IMAGES


Virender Sehwag — who often got India breakthroughs in the middle overs with his off-breaks — had cleaned up Gayle by bowling full and on the off in the tour of West Indies in 2006. It was a straight ball after a couple of classical off-spinning deliveries that caught Gayle off-guard.

Mumbai off-spinner Ramesh Powar, who played 31 ODIs for India, had a Gayle moment too. He had bowled a tossed-up delivery — in the same series — that was drifting away. Gayle, once again, came charging to clear the long-off boundary. He found Ajit Agarkar in the deep.

In 2007 in Nagpur, Harbhajan Singh threw one at the leg-stump line that invited Gayle to launch an aerial strike over the on side. But a massive outside edge went to Rahul Dravid at first slip.

In the current Indian squad, the answer lies with Kedar Jadhav whose side-arm spin can trouble any batter in the world.

Bowling short

Gayle has been a victim of short balls in his last five outings against India.

In the Trans-Tasman World Cup in Perth, Mohammed Shami tested Gayle with a short ball which he skied it over the leg side picking Mohit Sharma at deep square leg.

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At home in Trinidad in 2013, Gayle had fallen to a short of length ball outside off by Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He had edged it to Dinesh Karthik behind the wicket. Umesh Yadav had picked Gayle with a back of a length delivery, caught by Suresh Raina at short cover, in the same series.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar celebrates dismissing Gayle during the fourth match of the Tri-Nation series at the Queen's Park Oval in Port of Spain in 2013.   -  AFP


Bhuvneshwar also troubled him in English conditions in the Champions Trophy six years ago. It was a short of a length ball again that did the trick. He didn’t offer enough width to Gayle, but the southpaw still went for the cut and got a top edge that went to Ravichandran Ashwin at slip.

‘Not the same Gayle’

Former India seamer Madan Lal, who was part of the 1983 World Cup-winning side, reckons Gayle is a shadow of his former self.

“It is not the same Gayle anymore. He has not been doing well. I think Jasprit Bumrah or Mohammed Shami might get him early. He is a powerful hitter but I really don’t know now; of what I saw in the last couple of matches, I think he can get out anytime,” he told Sportstar on the eve of the match.

Lal, who dismissed Sir Viv Richards in the 1983 final, specified that bowling short to Gayle will require planning. “You can bowl short balls to him definitely. If it carries, he can get out. It depends which area you are going to bowl the short ball. He can go on back foot and hit you over cover and point but if you bowl him in the blind areas, he can get uncomfortable.”

India will be hoping to get Gayle early, but at times, the best-laid plans can go awry.

Gayle in numbers

Last five games vs India: 21, 0, 10, 11, 21

Last ton vs India: 123 at Kingston, May 18, 2006

Last fifty vs India: 64 at Kingston, June 28, 2009

Gayle in World Cup 2019

50 vs Pakistan

21 vs Australia

36 vs England

0 vs Bangladesh

87 vs New Zealand

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