May 17, 2011

The styles of Gayle and Sehwag

The two opening batsmen have more in common than just their placid demeanours and astronomical strike rates

A poll on a social-networking site recently declared Chris Gayle a far more destructive batsman than Virender Sehwag. When Gayle arrived in the Royal Challengers Bangalore camp last month, their two-year purple patch in the IPL had been crushed and the team were preparing for a premature exit. When Sehwag joined a depleted Delhi Daredevils, little did he know that he would have to single-handedly steer his team through his time in this IPL.

But while Gayle's first-game heroics battered the Kolkata Knight Riders, Sehwag's ferocious intent couldn't do much to change Delhi's kismet. Unlike Gayle, who had Virat Kohli and AB de Villers to back his explosive style, Sehwag didn't have a strong batting line-up supporting him. Delhi won each time Sehwag clicked but it didn't happen often enough.

Though Gayle and Sehwag are both big-hitters, match-winners, and brutal on all bowling attacks, you wouldn't quite think their batting styles are comparable. Let's give it a shot, though.

Most batsmen have a trigger movement before the bowler delivers the ball. It could be a slight shuffle across, a small press or something else that helps you get moving before the ball is delivered, which in turn helps you get into position quickly. But both Gayle and Sehwag stay completely still till as late as possible before a delivery.

The quicker the bowler, the more crucial these movements, for you don't want to be late for the ball. But these movements can also give away a batsman's preferences in terms of strokes and scoring areas. For instance, if he goes back and across, chances are he's looking for a full ball and transferring his weight on to the back leg. The only movement from that position will be a forward press. Likewise, if he plants his foot in front, he prefers short-pitched deliveries.

But these apply only to lesser mortals; great batsmen can do without. Both Gayle and Sehwag move only when the ball leaves the hand of the bowler, and hence give nothing away. In fact, even when they do move, their movements are restricted to the minimum.

The lack of foot movement may have its pitfalls but their quick hands make up. When you can't reach the delivery with your feet, the chances of missing it increase, but both these batsmen have mastered the art of throwing their arms at the ball. And the minimal movement ensures they rarely find themselves in awkward positions that might lead to their playing off-position shots.

Sharp eyes
Gayle's and Sehwag's batting seems to be based on the simple technique of see ball, hit ball. This approach can only be effective if you do the first part right. While most good players pick the line and length quickly, what separates these two from the rest is their ability to pick slower balls and other variations with ease. Love Ablish, the Kings XI Punjab medium-pacer, changes his pace and disguises his deliveries well, but he couldn't fox Gayle who delayed his downswing a fraction to send the ball over the ropes.

Ashish Nehra once told me that there are only two batsmen in the Indian team, Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, who, when countering sudden changes in pace, don't turn their aggressive stroke into a defensive prod. Instead they wait a fraction longer and at times even convert a defensive prod into a lofted drive. Most batsmen would be too early on the shot while facing a well-disguised slower one, but not these two.

What makes Gayle and Sehwag even more dangerous is that they don't need to go down the track or generate momentum to send a spinner for six

Hitting from the crease
What makes Gayle and Sehwag even more dangerous is that they don't need to go down the track or generate bbody momentum to send a spinner for six. While Gayle prefers to give the fast bowlers the charge every now and then, like Sehwag he stays put in the crease when facing spinners. Both trust the downswing in their back-lifts to generate enough power, and it rarely ever fails them.

Astute brains
Since their batting looks simple and uncomplicated, most people discount the tactical shrewdness of these two. If the ball moves prodigiously at the start, they are happy to bide time. Even in Twenty20 games, like they did against Punjab and Deccan Chargers respectively, where they allowed the early swing to fade away before exploding.

Gayle and Sehwag always target certain bowlers in the opposition and play strokes that may look ambitious but are percentage shots. They also trick bowlers by wildly heaving at and missing deliveries intentionally. Once, in a domestic game on a poor surface, Sehwag stepped down the track and played a rather ambitious shot, only to miss the ball by a mile. It looked suicidal but he had a plan in mind. He charged the bowler because he wanted to force him to shorten his length, which he did the following ball, to be dispatched to the fence. Gayle does the same against many quick bowlers only to sit deep inside the crease on the following ball. There are astute cricket brains working behind those rather calm facades.

Both Gayle and Sehwag may have two Test triple-centuries to their names, but their recent performances in Twenty20 have been just as pleasurable to watch. Unless, of course, you are the hapless prey in their sights.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Beyond the Blues, an account of the 2007-08 Ranji Trophy season. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shankar on May 19, 2011, 16:43 GMT

    I really find both overrated. I mean Gayle gets out easily just like that, you can't trust him to win a match and the same is for Sehwag.

    For me the most entertaining player I've ever watched was Michael Bevan because he was the most reliable player I can think of.

    I find players like Ponting, Waugh Brothers, Martyn, Astle, Kallis, Vaughan, Tendulkar and Jayawardene much more entertaining than Gayle, Afridi, Warner, Sehwag and Lara.

    To say it though I think in a match I would trust Sehwag more than Gayle but I would want either on my team.

  • Dummy4 on May 19, 2011, 10:48 GMT

    Guys I think we should stop debating on who is better, who is more destructive etc. None of us here can bat like Tendulkar,Kallis,Viru,Gayle ,VVS etc. so just enjoy their batting while they r still there and stop criticizing these great entertainers.

  • Kaundinya on May 19, 2011, 7:09 GMT

    and people who think Sachin won India plz come out of the illusion. 240 of his 480 came in the Matches that India did not win and don't tell me that they helped India go anywhere. Those 240 are only as useful as Sehwag's 69 , Gambhir's 50's in those same matches. and @kiwirocker: forget about the social service part . It is actually a personal thing and there might be people who have done more social service than Imran khan even though they are not as rich as him. That is not something that should be discussed here. there are other forums for that kind of discussion. as far as god respect given to Sahin is concerned. Don worry yourself with that . that is a feel that some section of Indian fans believe. May be they feel that a Sachin's century wheather India wins or not will make some poor and hungry Indians forget their hunger.

  • Kaundinya on May 19, 2011, 6:59 GMT

    @kiwirocker : Sehwag is a flat track bully!! may be!! I remember him making two chanceless 100s and a 50 in newzealand when India lost the series 5-2. I remember that all of those tracks are either two paced or were seemer friendly. There was wild swing present in some of them. I also remember that none in both sides combined had an aveage more than 25 !! Ya I also remember his 195 against a very good australian side in melbourne when the rest of the side crumbled. Yes I accept that Sehwag is not very good with the ball bouncing above waist height from a good length with out a lotta room on the off side. But can you tell me the number of batsman who can play such a ball. Kallis and Dravid can play that cause of their footwork and defence. But can either of them even ona flat track accelerate fast as Sehwag. That is something that Sehwag lacks. But you can't call him a flat track bully unless you give 5 people who came after Sehwag and can play better than Sehwag on such pitches.

  • Dummy4 on May 18, 2011, 22:20 GMT

    by the way..i reckon that no attack is quality to an inform inform gayle or sehwag can make any attack seem rediculous

  • Dummy4 on May 18, 2011, 21:21 GMT

    @ Kiwirocker..Sachin is respected for his work me any person in the world, who even after achieving everything possible in his trait , still work as hard as a newcomes in the trait and loves his job as much.. no one... Thats why when u feel frustrated just say om sachin tendulkarayah namoh...3 times is enough..u will be able to wwork properly

  • Dummy4 on May 18, 2011, 20:44 GMT

    AND NO ONE CANT COMPARE ATTITUDES OF PLAYERS..BOTH GAYLE AND SEHWAG ARE LOVED BY THEIR FELLOW PLAYERS..AM A WEST INDIAN..SO I WILL ONLY SPEAK ABOUT WHAT I NO ABOUT MY TEAM..chris gayle is very affable behind the seens..all west indies love him as much as they love brian lara..from waht i am reading sewag is the same way in the india team..india is our favourite team after the west indies..cheers

  • Dummy4 on May 18, 2011, 20:40 GMT

    lol what is teh debate...they both dont have footwork..they both are aggresssive..gayle is a left handed version of sehweg is right handed version of gayle...but over the years gayle have proven to have that extra more aggression..both bastmen scored 300 runs in test..i no indians love their cricket but your guys dont have to be SOOOOOO defensive because a writer says that gayle is more aggressive..LOL TAKE A LOOK AT THEIR INNNINGS..LOL SIMILAR AVERAGE..EVERYTHING...relax guys...i lvoe aggressive cricket..test or one day..if u can score runs..technique doesnt matter..GAYLE AND SEHWAG IS THE BEST COMBINATION OF OPENERS EVER....


  • Dummy4 on May 18, 2011, 20:04 GMT

    Pretty ordinary artcile by cricinfo standards....these points have been made by commentators all along... the way it has been penned down could have been much better....

  • VaRUN on May 18, 2011, 17:39 GMT

    Viru is the most overrated player of this decade and that is an understatement. Viru cost us the SA series with his mindless batting. Viru can never score more than 20 runs in a test match( 5 boundaries where 3 of them would be edges) against a good bowling line up in testing conditions like England and SA. I think it will help the Indian team if even Chopra can open the batting with Gauti in England.

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