Phil Simmons, the West Indies coach, knows a thing or two about batting line-ups capable of making a par score look embarrassingly inadequate. His first ODI hundred came in his ninth match, against India at the University Stadium in Trivandrum. With Kris Srikkanth scoring 101 from just 106 balls, India ended up setting West Indies 240 to win from 45 overs. By the standards of the time, it was a mammoth chase, but the men from the Caribbean breezed home with 13 balls to spare. Gordon Greenidge led the way with a 76-ball 84, and Simmons finished the job with 104 from 129 balls.
That line-up also included Richie Richardson and Sir Vivian Richards, and after Chris Gayle had inspired a Wankhede waltz with a 47-ball century at the start of the 2016 World Twenty20 campaign, Simmons was asked how he compared – in terms of destructive power – with the giants of generations past. “To destroy an attack like that, the only person in my time that I would put him with is Sir Vivian [Richards] because Sir Vivian used to go out there and destroy attacks like that,” he said. “I think he is up there with Sir Viv in the way he tears apart attacks.”
Richards made a lot of his runs in the V, and also possessed the most withering and contemptuous pull shot in the game. Gayle’s methods are as uncomplicated. Not for him too many cute deflections and manufactured strokes. On Wednesday night, he largely targeted the straight boundaries. When Ben Stokes tested him with a short ball, it landed on the second tier of the stand at square leg.
“I think it is as simple as you see it, because this is the first time I am with the T20 team since I have been back [as coach],” said Simmons. “I have been sitting and talking to him to see how he works it out. It is as simple as he makes it look out there…He practices hard, he hits a lot of balls in the nets but he works it out just as he did today. ‘[Adil] Rashid is my bowler for the day, I will take him down’, it is as simple as that.”
Gayle is now 36 and, but for a few breaks here and there, has been part of the West Indies dressing room for more than a decade and a half. Simmons, who played his last international three months before Gayle made his debut, said that he didn’t have much to offer in terms of advice. “Bat 15 overs for me, that is all I need from you,” he said when asked what he had told Gayle. “I know that once you bat 15 overs, we would be somewhere near to the target we want to be setting or chasing.”
For the teams that will come up against him later in the competition, the most worrying aspect was the ease with which Gayle played a variety of bowlers. With the exception of Chris Jordan, who put together an outstanding spell (four overs for 24), he was ruthless against every bowler. In 13 balls against left-arm pace [David Willey and Reece Topley], he scored 32. Ben Stokes, right-arm fast-medium, went for 13 in six. Adil Rashid’s legspin was clobbered for 15 from six balls, and Moeen Ali’s offspin for 33 in 14.
“You think it is a big statement, but there is more to come,” said Simmons. “It was great to see the way he played from the start. 180 is a par score for this ground, and we tried to make sure that they didn’t go much past that.”
With Gayle in full flow, notions of what constitutes par are almost irrelevant. (Wisdenindia.com)