Bangladesh v WI, World T20, Group 2, Mirpur March 25, 2014

The high-risk game

West Indies invest heavily on the Chris Gayle method in T20s, but the day it fails, it could leave the team in a spot of bother
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Chris Gayle is the king of Twenty20. His sheer presence under a helmet with bat in hand is intimidating for most bowlers. He can obviously intimidate with his tremendous six-hitting ability. He can also intimidate with what he does not do. He does not change his expression, whether he is on 15 off 30 or 30 off 15. It remains the same if he hits three successive sixes or plays three successive dots.

He has also developed this method of going slow at the start, leaving the opposition even more anxious about what is going to come next. Often, it is carnage. If he is around by the tenth over, and hasn't done much, the bowling side is not doing anything wrong if it expects the worst for the last ten. This method has worked for Gayle throughout the world in the numerous T20 competitions. He takes huge risk in an already risky format, and backs himself to get proportionate returns. That he often does generate those returns shows his pedigree in the format.

Risk is risk after all, though. And the magnified risk that Gayle's method involves means he needs someone to mitigate that risk, to temper it to a more manageable proposition. Dwayne Smith was the answer this night. Marlon Samuels was the answer in the 2012 World T20 final. There was no answer against the Indians two nights ago.

Smith pottered to 11 off 29 against India. He made 72 off 43 against Bangladesh. It was a terrific innings on a pitch almost every other batsman from both sides found difficult to score on. He pulled and swept ferociously and kept hitting boundaries, especially against spin, even as Gayle plodded on. Smith hit 10 of West Indies' 17 fours, and three of their five sixes.

Smith has his on days and his off days, with usually no middle path. On the former, he is a runaway train which runs over everything in its path. On the latter, his inertia is broken by his own downfall. Tonight he was on. Against India he was off. More risk.

The point is all these elements of risk could hurt West Indies badly in a crunch game, in conditions that are not going to get any easier for their hitters who would much rather prefer to have the ball coming on. It has already happened against India, who did not provide any leeway for West Indies to push on from a slow start. Their fast bowlers got the new ball to dart around, and their spinners then took over in helpful conditions. Fortunately for West Indies, it was their opening game in the tournament, and not a must-win one. Even more fortunately for them, Bangladesh then produced an apologetic performance on the field. How many times will you see successive deliveries go for four byes each, or the same fielder dropping catches off successive balls?

When asked if it was team strategy for him to go after the new ball while Gayle played himself in, Smith said that if he made runs, Gayle would be free to do what he was doing. "I don't know if it is a strategy or not," Smith said. "My aim is to get off to a good start and that's how I play. It's just for me to keep scoring and if Chris is working himself in, at least there won't be pressure on him if I am scoring freely."

Of course, the pitch was not easy to accelerate on. And even Gayle ideally would not take so much risk that he reaches a strike-rate of 100 only in the 18th over. It was probably one of those days where it just did not come off for him. It can happen to the best of batsmen. There can be a case that you have invested so much in your build-up that you then do not feel like throwing it away. And before you know it, the end of the innings is approaching. Seeing what we have from Gayle in the past, it is unlikely this approach will not pay off for him in some game in this tournament. Smith was confident about that.

"I am sure that Chris would get the runs at some point of time in this tournament because he has been batting through the first six, he has been batting to ten 10 overs. I am sure that at some point, he is going to get off to a good start, get some good scores."

Again, the point is, this approach could also pull West Indies down to the point of no return. It is high risk after all. There are always two sides to it.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on March 26, 2014, 18:33 GMT

    Even if we take match fixing out lets talk about to indian team west ind and ind, india are only winning games because there middle order batsmen dint got any chance to perform. India have chased both matches in 19th and 20th overs so not good from any means, indian batting will be tested if they bat first where dhoni is insecure to do so. Dhoni likes to chase and they know they cant not defend any total, if Bangladesh and aus bat first and score 160 india wont be able to chase.

    Now as far west IND is concerned they have no chance to beat pak and aus, as both of these teams will go for a kill

  • Rajesh.Kumar on March 26, 2014, 12:26 GMT

    I have the gut feeling that after yesterday's performance, WI have picked up momentum. I expect them to defeat Aus and Pakistan quite easily. Aussies are bad players of spin, so they don't stand a chance against the likes of Badree and Narine. Pakistani batsmen are basically club level batters, so WI will defeat them quite easily. I suspect that WI and India will be in the semi finals.

  • dummy4fb on March 26, 2014, 8:52 GMT

    Honestly, I am expecting this group will become wide open. Aus are very powerful and were only denied by Pakistans supreme talent in bowling, Ind doesnt have this luxury and will be beaten by Aussies. India also didnt win by a good run rate against West Indies or Pak when chasing only 130 and Pakistan still have a chance to improve their NNR wth relativey weaker teams like Bang and WI. I expect Aussies also to hammer West Indies as their batting could smash the weak W.Indies bowling. Also Pak play West Indies in the last group game and would know the exact equation so I tip Pak and Aus to quaify for Semis ie which is normally what happens ie Pak lose to Inda but still end up in Semis at their expense

  • android_user on March 26, 2014, 8:37 GMT

    BD paid too much attention on gayle.so i think thats another reason gayle couldn't open his arm.looked like BD didn't have any other plan than restricting Gayle.

  • kamran.afzal on March 26, 2014, 7:33 GMT

    Interesting point by Ricardo; as I remember how in the 90s, the Indian team won and lost with Tendulkar... while Tendulkar was at the crease (or about to come), all was well... players were confident; supporters relaxed... but as soon as he got out, chaos set in... Gayle probably doesn't hold that kind of a role in this lineup, but his presence can definitely be assuring for the team...

  • Srini_Indian on March 26, 2014, 6:32 GMT

    I do feel this is the right strategy. WI have too many hitters and within couple of overs, they can turn it on. Gayle's presence is invaluable and as the tournament progresses, Gayle will get into his groove.

  • dummy4fb on March 26, 2014, 6:24 GMT

    My problem with Gayle is not that he took 48 balls to make 48 runs, my problem is the guy is so lazy, he trots between the wicket, he very seldom runs 2 runs, even when it an easy 3, his demeanor sends a message that he doesn`t want to be there, surely that is not good for the team.

  • dummy4fb on March 26, 2014, 5:58 GMT

    SInce it was Bangladesh , Gayle managed to play these many balls and reach a strike rate of 100. If it were against AUS or PAK, he would have perished in the first few overs. His records in crunch games or finals are as good as Tendulkar's..

  • Unbiased-views on March 26, 2014, 5:47 GMT

    @Rohit You are absolutely wrong mate!!! If WI can beat Aus on friday before India's game against Ban, then India will have to win only "1" match out of 2!!! Other semi-finalist will be decided by the winner of PAK v/s WI!!!

  • RibhavBansal on March 26, 2014, 5:21 GMT

    I just cannot fathom how everyone is okay with Gayle scoring slowly, in the IPL, he goes hammer and tongs from the first ball, that is why he is successful there, is it because the Windies board is not paying him as much as Mallya? Come IPL, even Pollard will be fit or will play through injury, Bravo who has scored consecutive ducks will score crucial vital runs for CSK. Where do these people disappear when they play for Windies?