On Feb. 24th 2010, I remember meeting two of my friends—both of them ardent Sachin fans—and dedicating a loud and boozy night to the player after he scored the first-ever ODI double century.
Many had expected smashers like McCullum, Sehwag, Gayle or Dilshan to puncture that landmark sooner than later, while Saeed Anwar’s 194 stood for 13 long years. The landscape of ODIs were changing after the advent of the IPL, and McCullum’s 157 in a T20 game were indicators that 200 was no more unachievable in a 50-over game. Not many expected Tendulkar, pushing 37, enjoying a prolific third wind in his career, to get to 200 at that stage in his career. He did, however, and went on to win the World Cup a year later for the first time.
5 years on, 200 has been crossed for the fifth time.
You read that right. The floodgates opened with that innings, and the smashers we talked about realized that all they had to do was open the innings and play through. When they did, more often than not, 200 was just another milestone. Not surprisingly, Sehwag got there next.
Surprisingly, Rohit Sharma got there next, and twice. His 264 could stand the test of time, but nowadays, it isn’t a huge deal anymore for anybody to cross 200 in this format. Gayle’s whirlwind 215 wasn’t a surprise anymore.
What’s even more shocking is the way these openers take ages to build their innings till the 30th over, scratch around at lower strike rates, before going ballistic like a video game on cheat code after the 40th over. AB de Villiers’ unreal 149 (44) last month was another shocker, an innings that surprised more than any of these doubles—because he came in to bat in the 39th over! His was easily the most audacious limited over innings ever witnessed, above milestones, records and landmarks, against a deflated West Indies attack that didn’t know where to hide.
Gayle’s double century was 10 years in the making.
His fearsome striking and languid destruction was built for the limited overs format, but he—along with Sehwag—became only one of two contemporary test openers to have two triple centuries. Bradman and Lara, the others, batted at 3 and 4. This is no mean feat, against any team. 300 doesn’t sound like much in tests anymore, especially because 200 has been made a mockery of in ODIs for half a decade now. But in tests, a 300 is rarer and requires skill, technique, temperament, patience and concentration. McCullum almost made a mockery of a Test 200 late last year too, but fell before 300 became just another number. Misbah had destroyed the ‘Fastest 100’ barrier in tests in 2014 too—a year where batting assumed a disturbing precedence over any other skillset on the field. Gayle’s two triple centuries is an astonishing achievement for a free-swinging, calypso-busting West Indian southpaw. His IPL exploits are already stuff of legend, and his sole international T20 century was as expected as a Kohli century while chasing. But with the first-ever World Cup 200—the only non-Indian to score one, and the only one scored outside India—Gayle became the only player in history to have a 100 in T20s, 200 in ODIs and 300 in Tests. And to think, he averaged 19 over the last two years in ODIs, was on the verge of being dropped from the format, and didn’t play internationals for a while in between after his run-ins with what is, quite frankly, the most juvenile board in world cricket.
He was given a long rope, and his mere presence at the top was enough to push his team forward against the flow of form. His double century is a reminder that he remains unique, and a once-in-a-generation batsman who must be given the respect he deserves. Anyone could have done it, and that he did it finally—was more of a personal statement than yet another record-breaking six-fest.
It was a happy throwback to a time when cricket was just a game of fun, raw talent, pace and natural ability—much before it became a number-crunching orgy of statistics, charts, technology, mechanics, diets and fitness.
Dwayne Smith’s paunch, Gayle’s disdain for anything that requires more than two steps, Darren Bravo’s bulging waist and Andre Russell’s Mohawk…they don’t belong in modern-day sport, but they’re desperately required and needed, much like memories and flashbacks are in movies in order to demonstrate the futility and ‘innovations’ of present-day cricket.