Chris Gayle has often professed his love for the Twenty20 format in the course of the last two years. Ever since he announced himself with a stunning century in the first World Twenty20 match against South Africa in Johannesburg in 2007, he has been one of the most feared players in this version. However, even by his lofty standards, in the last one year, he has been nothing short of extraordinary. In a format where it is almost impossible to maintain both a high average and strike rate, Gayle has done that with consummate ease for well over a year across multiple series. Gayle, who has not been selected by the West Indies team for a while now, has played in Twenty20 tournaments in India, Australia and Zimbabwe and scored over 1500 runs since the beginning of January 2011.
Gayle has comfortably been the highest run-getter in Twenty20 games in the last year but the astonishing aspect of his run-scoring has been the fact that he has averaged 55.35 and maintained a remarkably high strike rate of 172.99. David Warner, the only other batsman to aggregate 1000 runs in the same period, has a lower average (42.17) and strike rate (136.84). Gayle, who has hit the most sixes (121), has the highest percentage of runs in boundaries as well (76.25). Shaun Marsh is next, with a boundary percentage of 63.48 followed by Warner (62.32). Despite such an aggressive approach, Gayle has made four centuries since January 2011 including two for Bangalore in IPL 2011.
*Stats updated till the end of the Big Bash game between Sydney Sixers and Sydney Thunder on January 8, 2012
Another stand-out aspect of Gayle's dominance in the format has been his ability to perform successfully in different conditions. In IPL 2011, Gayle was the highest run-getter by far (608 runs at 67.55). He almost singlehandedly took Bangalore to the final, though he was unable to replicate his form in the final. In both IPL 2011 and the Champions League Twenty20 in India, Gayle scored at a strike rate of close to 180 and had a boundary percentage of nearly 80. Even in Australia, where the batting conditions are slightly tougher with bouncier tracks and bigger grounds, Gayle has hardly had a problem, apart from a six-ball duck against the Sydney Sixers. His strike rate and average in the Twenty20 Big Bash last season were 213.33 and 40.00 while his corresponding numbers this season have been 153.64 and 58.00.
Unlike many players, Gayle has not found batting in the second innings to be a serious challenge. Although his average in the first innings (67.33) is higher than that while chasing (46.37), his strike rates in both innings are fairly well matched. He has also scored two of his centuries while chasing and has maintained a boundary percentage of over 75 in both the first and second innings. His one notable failure while chasing came in the IPL final against when he was dismissed for a duck in the first over as Bangalore lost heavily chasing a target of 206.
During this period, Gayle has superb numbers against all types of bowlers. Against right-arm pace bowlers, who have dismissed him the most times (15), Gayle has an average of 57.60 and a balls-per-dismissal figure of 32.60. His strike rate and boundary percentage against right-arm fast bowlers is also up there with his overall numbers. Against right-arm spin, though, his average and strike rate are both lower than against any other kind of bowling: the ball turning away from him seems the best bet against Gayle. In the IPL 2011 final, for instance, he was dismissed in the first over by R Ashwin, the Chennai Super Kings offspinner. Gayle has a high boundary-run percentage against them but has been dismissed much more often (balls-per-dismissal figure of 28.25) and averages lower (41.87). Left-arm bowlers have not quite been a threat for Gayle. Against both pace bowlers and spinners, he has a strike rate over 200 and has been dismissed only four times (all by pace bowlers).
*Stats include all matches except the game between Mashonaland Eagles and Matabeleland Tuskers played in Harare on November 25, 2011 in the Stanbic Bank 20 series in Zimbabwe.
Breaking up the 20-over innings into four five-over periods, it turns out that Gayle's average strike rate never goes below 160 in any of those periods. In the first five overs his average strike rate is 162.33 with a boundary-run percentage of 81.37. However, in the next two five-over periods, his strike rate goes up to 175.50 and 210.16. Although he has rarely managed to last the twenty overs, he does boast a strong performance in the final five-over period also. Warner, another successful opener in the last year, has a lower boundary percentage than Gayle across all four periods but has scored at a higher run-rate in the last five overs.
*Stats include all matches except the game between Mashonaland Eagles and Matabeleland Tuskers played in Harare on November 25 2011 in the Stanbic Bank 20 series in Zimbabwe