West Indies v India, 1st Test, Antigua, 2nd day June 3, 2006

The inability to control Gayle

The Indian bowlers allowed Gayle to free his arms by bowling too wide or too full, and because of their inexperience they couldn't find an alternative strategy to control him
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Chris Gayle and Virender Sehwag play similar roles for their teams. Both are free-stroking openers who can give their team fast starts that waylay the opposition. Sehwag began to fire for India but the momentum fizzled out after his departure for 36 off 37 balls.

Gayle, on the other hand, stayed at the crease for longer than Sehwag. Taking advantage of a woefully inexperienced seam attack, he flung his bat at anything outside off stump and before India knew it, West Indies had knocked off a huge chunk of their total. The following graphic depicts Gayle's wagon wheel.

During the Indian innings, the West Indian bowlers relentlessly pitched the ball on or just outside off stump and got it to move away from the right-handers. And their strategy worked. Blame it on low confidence and tentative prods, but six of the top seven Indian batsmen eventually nicked to the waiting cordon. When the Indian fast bowlers tried similar tactics, Gayle powerfully flayed at anything outside off stump. He did edge some, but they flew high and hard over the slip cordon, and when he connected, they disappeared to the fence. Gayle scored 52 of his 72 runs on the off side and 42 came between third man and cover. The Indian bowlers allowed Gayle to free his arms by bowling too wide or too full, and because of their inexperience they couldn't find an alternative strategy to control him. The following pie-chart shows the line the Indian fast bowlers bowled to Gayle.

Most of the balls were on or outside off stump and that's precisely where Gayle scored most of his runs. Just 12 deliveries were pitched on middle and leg stump and Gayle managed to score only four runs off them. Perhaps Sreesanth and co should have dug it in and got it up around his chest but they didn't and India paid dearly. A seven-two off-side field didn't help matters and neither did the fact that there wasn't a permanent third man.

George Binoy is editorial assistant of Cricinfo