Part One: How Do You Get Chris Gayle Out?

Part One

As England’s bowlers toiled against Christopher Henry Gayle in their opening match of the T20 World Cup, cricket fans just marvelled at the simplicity and power of the destruction.

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Gayle – after scoring 7,000 test runs in 103 matches, including 15 hundreds and a top score of 333 – became a T20 specialist for hire. The T20 specialist. The Gayle Force swirls in and out of these competitions all over the world, is paid a handsome fee, and entertains crowds.

His only current weakness appears to be post-match interviews.

This article by Mike Selvey is not only well worth a read, but highlights the methods behind the Jamaican superstar.

“No one hits the ball with his thunderous ferocity, but hours of practice go into making the game look effortless. Small details. He will tell of the moments at the start of a big match as he prepares for a fast bowler to run in at him. For several thousand years, archers have employed breathing techniques to steady themselves: first several deep breaths, as if drawing the string, then a slight exhalation, before holding the air in, and letting it out only as the arrow flies. Gayle may not have studied it but instinctively he understands the practice. “Controlling my breathing definitely helps me,” he says, “especially facing the first over where the new ball might do a little bit. You want to have as still a head as possible and if the coordination of your breathing is out of sorts then your head will keep moving. You have to be very still to focus.“You need a good build-up leading up to the game. A couple of days before, you want to have bowlers bowling at you – get a feel of things, get the technique in order. The day before a game, it is all about some fine tuning: balance, grip, feel of hitting the ball. I need to leave practice feeling confident that the ball is coming off the bat right. After that it is more about thinking about the bowlers you are coming up against.”

“You can practice specifically, especially if you have a good idea of the areas a bowler is going to bowl. These days everyone looks to see a batsman’s weak point and try to target those, so you have to work on these and make them a strength as well. You should be able to score all around the wicket, so you are not going to get tied down by one particular bowler. I practice my six-area, more fine tuning, hitting the ball straight. Sometimes you are looking to hit the ball in a particular area and its not going to go there, so it is vital you want to make sure your body is in a good position to strike the ball. Do this, and a mis-hit will still go a good distance so you still get value for the shot. You can’t hit every ball exactly where you want, that just isn’t going to happen.”

So if you are in the dressing room of a team preparing to face Chris Gayle, specifically in India, how do you plan to get him out?

Going through all the scorecards for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the past three IPL seasons, I’ve looked at the Player vs Player section on CricInfo. Here is the example from the England versus the West Indies opener when Gayle scored an unbeaten hundred.

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Painful reading. Apart from Chris Jordan, who seemed to restrict Gayle’s boundary hitting ability from this, albeit tiny, sample.

It is worth remembering that Jordan is defined, by CricInfo, as a “fast-medium” bowler. All bowlers have been catergorised according to their Cricinfo profile, which has its flaws, such as insisting Shane Watson is also a fast-medium bowler, but is the best we’ve got.

Gayle’s Career T20 Record

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Key: Boundary Ratio = Number of fours and sixes divided by total balls faced. So Gayle’s ratio, across his huge T20 sample, is, roughly: one boundary every five balls. 

Gayle’s IPL Record (Last Three Seasons)

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Bit of a shit sandwich this one: two fantastic IPL campaigns, with what can only be described as a season from hell by Gayle’s incredible standards in between. In 2014, Gayle faced 320 balls, and didn’t even manage to score at a run-a-ball. Half the deliveries he faced were dot balls, and only one in ten balls went to the boundary. He destroyed what little left-arm bowling he faced, but struggled against the rest. In particular right-arm fast bowling. The sample is a lot smaller than the other two seasons, but it will be when you get out cheaply a lot. I excluded the matches he played in Abu Dhabi, because this analysis is focused on how to get Gayle out, in India.

Gayle’s Record Against Different Types of Bowling

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Key: SR = Strike Rate per 100 balls; Dot Ball Ratio = 0.50 means every other ball Gayle faced was a dot. Strike Rate (on the far right) = the number of balls it takes to get Gayle out.   

I got this idea from the above article by Mike Selvey, as he explained, this type of analysis goes on in the Big Bash:

Peirson’s statistics are examined. Immediately it is obvious that he slaughters fast-medium and medium pace to the extent of an average of almost two runs per ball. Against left-arm orthodox spin, though, his strike rate drops to 87.5 runs per hundred balls. It is a stark difference. Saker is concerned anyway that he is deprived of top pace, and an obvious solution might be to start with Doherty’s left-arm spin at one end. If it wasn’t for Lynn.

Lynn is the Brisbane Heat’s gun batsman. Thirty matches in the previous BBLs has brought him 644 runs from 468 balls, an overall strike rate of 137.6. He has hit 38 sixes against bowling of all pace. But he is particularly brutal against fast bowling (strike rate 210.9), clinical against fast medium, hits off spin, but seems to get tied down by left-arm orthodox spin, against which his scoring rate is reduced to 85.9. It is clear from a wagon wheel chart that his boundary shots tend to come in two areas: fours he hits mostly in an arc from straight to extra cover; sixes he clears his front leg and belts over a legside mirror image. Footage shows an upright stance and tendency to sit in the crease, so from the seamers, the yorker and bouncer are obvious ripostes early on, and balls aimed at his hip from a heavy length.

Key Points

  • Do not bowl left-arm spin, or left-arm medium. Gayle scores nearly three runs PER BALL.
  • The samples are too small for any firm judgement, but he does struggle against the quicker left-arm bowlers.
  • Against right-arm offbreak bowlers, over 200 plus deliveries, he is well below his career strike rate of 150 runs per 100 balls, scoring at a run-a-ball. Furthermore, just under one in ten balls goes to the boundary, and they get him out once every 26 balls.
  • Gayle also ‘struggles’ against right-arm fast bowlers. They also restrict him to slightly over a run-a-ball. But fail to get him out as often, taking his wicket once every 55 balls.
  • My main problem with this general analysis is that when he faces right-arm medium fast bowlers, the strike rate jumps up to 179 runs per 100 balls. Does the change of pace from fast bowlers to medium fast really make all the difference? The answer lies in looking at which individual bowlers have done well against him.

Gayle Vs Individual Bowlers

Malinga

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So from 25 balls, Gayle only scored 11 runs, was caught out once, and only managed one boundary. Impressive figures from the Sri Lankan.

Steyn

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Apart from one terrible three ball spell in 2015, Steyn also bowled well, restricting Gayle to one boundary and a high proportion of dot balls.

Morkel

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Again suffering from Small Sample Syndrome, but equally, three spells with a huge proportion of dot balls, including one spell of five balls for no runs.

We are now starting to build up a fuller picture of those fast bowlers who cause trouble for Gayle, and as you’d suspect, it is the best in the business.

Malinga, for me, is the best bowler in T20 history; Steyn is phenomenal and Morkel can be Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 13.19.27very awkward for batsman, with his height and bounce the key strength.

All three are express pace.

So the old adage of taking pace off the ball does not seem to apply to restricting Gayle.

In Part Two, we will look at the right-arm offbreak bowlers who have succeeded versus Gayle, as well as his record on the individual grounds in India.

Finally, if Australia play West Indies then Shane Watson should bowl against Gayle, because like the pace bowlers above, he has got the better of Gayle, dismissing him twice in 25 balls. Stats, eh?

Read Part Two now Click Here

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