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All hail Gayle, king of the T20 castle

The Roar logo The Roar 17-03-2016 Alec Swann

Who’s the best Test batsman in the world? Is it a) Kane Williamson; b) Steve Smith; c) Joe Root; d) AB de Villiers?

You could form a fair argument for any of the quartet, and while De Villiers may have slipped from his perch after a relatively barren few months in white clothes, he would still have plenty of support.

Let’s switch to one-day internationals now.

Your choices are a) de Villier; b) Williamson; c) Virat Kohli; d) Rohit Sharma.

Again, each has his merits, but if an answer had to be formulated, then either De Villiers or Kohli would be at the top of the pile.

As it’s currently Twenty20 season in the international merry-go-round, it seems only fair that we do the same for the shortest format. So who is the pick of the following four?

Would you choose a) Chris Gayle; b) Chris Gayle; c) Chris Gayle; d) Chris Gayle?

Let’s face it, there is no decision to make.

In 20-over terms, the Jamaican is head and shoulders above his contemporaries, and while plenty of others can turn it on over an hour and a half of allotted time – Aaron Finch, David Warner, Alex Hales, De Villiers, Kohli etc etc – Gayle has no equal when it comes to batting in such a frenzied arena.

His evisceration of England at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, a 47-ball century enabling his West Indies to laugh in the face of England’s respectable 182-6, was merely the latest masterpiece in a career that has provided the walking definition of Twenty20.

In the game’s almost 13-year existence, Gayle, who has been an ever-present, has made 8826 runs at a mind-boggling strikerate of 150.15, with 17 centuries and 55 scores of 50 plus.

Over such a lengthy spell in a format that, by its very nature, doesn’t crave or demand consistency, these are astounding figures. While statistics can tell any tale you’re willing to read, Gayle’s can hardly be said to represent anything other than excellence.

He should be good with that kind of experience as, at the last count, he had represented his country, Barisal Burners, Dhaka Gladiators, Jamiaca Tallawahs, Kolkata Knight Riders, Lahore Qalanders, Matabeleland Tuskers, Melbourne Renegades, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Somerset, Stanford Superstars, Sydney Thunder, Western Australia and Worcestershire.

But nobody comes calling, especially in the day of the cricketing mercenary, if you can’t deliver the goods.

In Mumbai, Gayle gave a masterclass in how to construct a 20-over innings, and in how to manage a potentially tricky run chase.

Don’t panic, pick the right bowlers to target and the appropriate times to do it, and finish things off with time to spare.

Easier said than done, and given there is less time to plan than in a 50-over contest there is obviously far less room to manoeuvre, but Gayle has the enviable habit of game dance to his tune.

When you possess the ability to almost hit a boundary to order – or more likely a six in Gayle’s case – the ten an over, which used to signal certain defeat, is now well within grasp.

A total around the 180 mark might well be the average Indian Premier League score for the Wankhede but it still takes some getting, and while Eoin Morgan’s men will receive criticism for their inability to even turn the finish into a close one, sometimes you have to accept you’ve been beaten by greatness.

In addition to accelerating limited overs scoring rates through proving just what is possible, Twenty20 has transformed the style of the modern-day batsman.

Switch hitting, ramp shots, reverse ramp shots, the back-away swat only Glenn Maxwell seems to be able to play – the orthodoxy of old has been tossed out of the window and it isn’t coming back.

Yet while Gayle is the master, his method hasn’t incorporated much in the way of the new-fangled approach.

He stands still, he hits hard and, in the main, he hits straight. In many ways it’s one-day batting of the old school with a couple of gears added to take full advantage of the environment.

Somebody, at some stage, will overhaul the records Gayle has set. There is always someone else and that will never change. But for now, just appreciate what the sport has got as the West Indian, right now, is lord of the manor.

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