T20 suits them to a T

Chris Gayle... ever the sharp-shooter in T20s.-AP

Chris Gayle and Yuvraj Singh are at the top of the charts when it comes to T20. With a strike-rate of 143.91 in Twenty20 internationals, Gayle can shred bowlers’ reputations and rival captains’ hopes with equal felicity. It is still early days for Yuvraj in his post-cancer scenario but with his inner competitive fires still raging, he remains a vital cog among M. S. Dhoni’s men. K.C. Vijaya Kumar surveys the scene.

In the micro-second mayhem that often determine the key moments in Twenty20, these men often seize the occasion and buck the odds. Among this rare tribe, men like Chris Gayle and Yuvraj Singh hold a special place. The duo, along with a handful of others, could well determine their respective team’s fate in the current ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.

Both have had their share of tough times but have overcome the hurdles with their spirits intact. For close to a year, ‘Why is Gayle missing?’ was the stock question that haunted the West Indies captain Darren Sammy’s press conferences. Gayle’s differences with the West Indies Cricket Board and the hardening of stance by both parties robbed the Caribbean Isles of its most potent batsman though for Twenty20 leagues in India, Bangladesh and Australia, Gayle lent biff and also drew in the crowds.

Anil Kumble, chief mentor of the Royal Challengers Bangalore, once said: “Gayle conserves his energy very well. He scores his runs mostly in sixes and fours. Often he fields at slip and when he bowls, it is off a two-step run-up. He is a remarkable player and has helped RCB progress well.” The opener’s blitzkriegs with RCB often prompted clichéd placards that stated ‘Gayle-storm’ to pop up all over Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium.

That's the way forward, Yuvraj Singh seems to say. The whole of India is solidly behind this never-say-die cricketer.-AP

Thankfully for the West Indies, egos were reined in both at the administrative and player level so that Gayle could wear the maroon cap yet again. He quickly buckled down only to exhale with the expansive six against New Zealand and as he strides into Sri Lanka despite the recent injury that kept him out of the island’s premier league (SLPL), the West Indies will fondly look back at his 57-ball 117 against host South Africa in the inaugural World Twenty20 in 2007.

That century, the first by any batsman in Twenty20 internationals, emphasised that Gayle is the biggest marauder of the white ball under lights.

With a strike-rate of 143.91 in Twenty20 internationals, the former West Indies captain can shred bowlers’ reputations and rival captains’ hopes with equal felicity and as long as Gayle is in the mix, the West Indies will be the eternal dark horse in cricket’s shortest format.

If Gayle had to cope with red-tapism that often defines set hierarchies, Yuvraj had to suffer the worst trauma that has afflicted any cricketer in recent times. Since that dark day when he hurriedly left Bangalore’s National Cricket Academy while the Indian team for the One-Day Internationals in Australia was announced without his name for obvious reasons — his medical reports had just come in and the news was a grim prognosis of cancer — the southpaw willed his way to a full-scale recovery that is the stuff of legend.

This shopkeeper in Amritsar wishes that the fortunes of the Indian team would soar as high as the special kites that he is selling.-PTI

After coping with chemotherapy overseas, Yuvraj finally emerged from cancer’s shadow. He promptly returned to the NCA and worked hard to regain his strength and fitness. The journey was slow and the daily starting point was the pre-dawn wake-up calls and the prompt arrival of the academy’s trainer Nagendra Prasad at Yuvraj’s hotel room. Prasad used to accompany Yuvraj to the NCA, and along with physios Nitin Patel and Ashish Kaushik, charted a training schedule that gained intensity over the months. Gradually Yuvraj was able to handle bowlers running in at full tilt and his massive shots threatened the cars parked near the academy. And though the jury was divided over whether his recall to the Indian team was an emotional one, Yuvraj proved that he does belong to the big stage through his exploits for India in the Twenty20 match recently against New Zealand in Chennai.

Prior to grabbing headlines either way — be it his ‘Player of the Tournament’ performance in the 2011 World Cup or his travails and recovery from cancer — Yuvraj had left a deep imprint with his six sixes off Stuart Broad in the 2007 ICC World Twenty20 edition which India won. Until then it was a feat that remained the stuff of fantasy though Sir Garry Sobers and Ravi Shastri had done the deed during their playing days.

The ability to clear the ropes has remained a key feature in Yuvraj’s arsenal and in his initial years at the highest level, he patrolled the inner circle with searing intensity until a dodgy knee slowed down his sprints. His left-arm spin has also added a welcome sheen to his ability and for a team that is still searching for its next Kapil Dev, the riches that Yuvraj provides is a delicacy that cannot be resisted.

It is still early days for Yuvraj in his post-cancer scenario but with his inner competitive fires still raging, he remains a vital cog among M. S. Dhoni’s men. The premier event in Sri Lanka with its attendant pressures will be a good barometer to judge how far Yuvraj has progressed from the debilitating illness and yet he has a quiet confidence that has been further amplified by his team-mates’ faith.

Other thunderbolts in the Indian armoury... Virat Kohli, Mahendra Dhoni and Virender Sehwag.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

Gayle and Yuvraj may be top of the charts when it comes to cricket’s own version of ‘Moses parting the sea’ but there are a few others too who can add a twist to the cricketing tales that will soon emerge from Colombo, Hambantota and Pallekele. Other than Yuvraj, India has Virender Sehwag, skipper M. S. Dhoni and Virat Kohli, who can sledgehammer their way past inflationary required run-rates while Australia has David Warner, Shane Watson and an eager beaver in Michael Hussey.

Sri Lanka, meanwhile, has Tillakaratne Dilshan to hassle fielders and Lasith Malinga to crush toes and flatten stumps. Add to the mix, South Africa’s AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn; New Zealand’s Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum; Bangladesh’s Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan; and Pakistan’s eternal storm-trooper Shahid Afridi and you have an event in which upsets can spring from any quarter thanks to the game-changers.

And England though will miss Kevin Pietersen while he broods about inappropriate texts besides being part of the tournament’s high-profile commentary panel!