Gayle's mix of determination and chaos
Five-hundred-and-thirty-two runs weighed down on Chris Gayle when he walked out to bat at Newlands in 2004. But South Africa's mammoth first-innings score only provided opportunity for Gayle to showcase his brutality. West Indies were 126 for 1 after 24 overs, with Gayle on 101 off 81 balls. He finished with 116, all but four of his runs coming in one session of play. The bowlers might have assumed his troublesome hamstring - he was returning from injury - would make him a soft target. But Gayle took that as an excuse to further enable his thirst for boundaries. A gameplan that has become painfully familiar to opposition bowlers over the years.
The other side
Since December 2008, West Indies were reeling from five successive, debilitating losses. It began with a series defeat to Bangladesh, at home and a tame three-day surrender in Brisbane indicated worse times were ahead. "My heart is in it and I feel really strongly that I am the right man to lead West Indies through this challenging period." Gayle lent his proclamation merit with one of his more poignant centuries, becoming the sixth West Indian to carry his bat through a completed innings. There were no bullish shots. There was only substance. The 411-minute vigil saw him blunt Australia's best efforts, quell the misbehaving Adelaide pitch, reinvent his devil-may-care image and most importantly imbue hope among his charges. His 165 was a herald that his West Indies were not pushovers.
Back in his boots
His first six in Adelaide had taken 257 deliveries. In Perth, it took only 36. There were six in all and one of them thudded onto the roof of the Lillee-Marsh stand as he blitzed the sixth-fastest century in Test cricket. Gayle's determination gets limited air time because of the ease with which he massacres attacks, but on this tour he was a man possessed. Though Frank-Worrell trophy remained with Australia, he finished the tour's top scorer and even managed to tempt some fans from the opposition camp. "I'm an Aussie, but I was barracking for him," Lillee said, just as Gayle wound up to pepper the roof again.
Ending a three-year wait
He only had one victory since assuming the captaincy. His own form was suspect and his last century was a landmark innings of 317 in 2005. West Indies' tour of New Zealand was Gayle's second overseas assignment and another series defeat loomed in Napier until he knuckled down. He had hurtled to his first fifty in 65 balls, but spent 40 more in the nineties, constantly reminding himself the value of his wicket. He slipped while searching for the 100th run but so did the fielder. Gayle completed his second-slowest century to date and his 197 out of West Indies' 375 to ensure a drawn series. It was the beginning of a profitable series and Gayle revealed the secret afterwards: "Once I'm ready mentally, trust me, I can guarantee that I'll get some runs," he said after ensuing ODI series and gained the No.1 ranking.
Burying the hatchet in style
Nineteen months out of Test cricket and he warms up by carving 24 runs in the first six balls he faces. The long and ugly standoff between Gayle and the WICB lay forgotten as he steered West Indies to a nine-wicket victory over New Zealand. Both parties exchanged heated remarks and the government's assistance was required to remedy the situation. "I knew I'd come back. Even if it [took] two years. It was just a matter of time. I am here now," said a satisfied Gayle. His first innings back fetched 150 and en route, he beat Gordon Greenidge as the West Indian with the most runs against New Zealand. He was an unbeaten 64 in the second, and a nonchalant raise of his bat was all he allowed himself after the victory. West Indies had gone 31 innings with only two century partnerships at the top. Gayle came back and West Indies enjoyed a 254-run opening stand.
Lounging with the best
"I'd love to get that 317," Gayle had said after coasting to a double-century in the first day of the Galle Test. It was his first Test since being displaced as West Indies captain. His side was chasing a maiden victory in Sri Lanka and Gayle delivered an innings that was every bit typical, from repetitive and disdainful blows down the ground to eye-catching celebrations - he lay down on the pitch with a big, broad smile upon reaching 100. So dominant was he that Ajantha Mendis, who eventually dismissed Gayle, admitted they were worried the West Indian would canter to 400. That did not happen, but his 333 stays the second-highest score by an overseas batsman in the subcontinent. A stubborn Sri Lanka were able to add a bitter pill to those achievements and were aided by rain on the final day to escape with a draw. Gayle became one of four players to record twin triple centuries.