The Jamaicans pride themselves in producing a batsman like Chris Gayle, someone who embodies their carefree attitude, bats in a higher gear and can instill fear into a bowler's mind. But the locals were yet to see him make a one-day hundred at Sabina Park. So it came as no surprise when, on 99, his tickled single to backward square elicited a raucous reception. The ground may have been just half full but the fans produced one hell of a noise while toasting, someone they call, "our master-blaster".
Gayle himself didn't hide any emotion, celebrating with a leap and a pump of the fist. "It was very special to get a hundred at Sabina Park," said Gayle at the end of the day. "It's my first one-day hundred here and hope it's the first in a long list." What had slightly frustrated the spectators, though, was the amount of time he pottered around in the 90s (including facing four dots balls when on 99) but he revealed how determined he was to get to the landmark. "I'd made 95 against Zimbabwe recently [at St Lucia] and didn't want to repeat the same here. It's been quite a while since I got a hundred [almost a year] and I was very keen to get there."
There was a distinct change in his game compared to the Zimbabwe series. "While playing against Zimbabwe, I started slowly before accelerating," he continued, "but then I thought that it wouldn't be typically Gayle. So I reverted to my earlier strategy." Considering the success he's had against India - this was his fourth hundred against them - Gayle would know what strategy to use. "It was important that I started well. I'd done well against India when I went there and it was good to maintain that consistency. It's important to go from strength to strength."
It must be tough bowling to a batsman like Gayle and the brutality of his cross-batted shots left the Indian bowlers gasping for most part. If the ball isn't in the right area, you might as well forget the rest. When Virender Sehwag tossed one up, Gayle duly lost the ball by lofting it over the Northern Stand; when the fielders were in the right areas, he reverse-swept Harbhajan Singh from way outside off stump. It's a mixture of improvisation, timing and power. Greg Chappell's statement at the post-match conference, about how tough it is to plan against a batsman like Gayle, tells you something.