How often does a batsman’s 151* end up in T20 defeat? You’ll have to ask Somerset, the English Natwest T20 Blast team that has employed the services of ‘big boss’ Chris Gayle. That’s right. Gayle, who enjoyed a relatively quiet season with RCB in India this year, has landed in England to play his first T20 series there. Three years ago, he almost did, until WICB acted up again. This time, while his national team braces up to face Australia at home, Gayle—the freelancer beyond all freelancers—made every English cricket fan’s dream come true. He signed up for Somerset, and is already in business.
Somerset, captained by old hand Trescothick, with the likes of SohailTanvir in the team, has played two games in three days—against Essex, and then against Kent. The game against Essex saw the first glimpse of Gayle on English T20 soil. He didn’t disappoint. A whirlwind 92 meant that Somerset won their game away from home without many hiccups. However, Gayle isn’t known to play humungous innings while chasing scores. Except for his 95 in the first game for RCB this year, most of his big centuries have come batting first. Gayle has chased both times for Somerset now, with a 50% record.
That the top order is over reliant on him is an understatement. The Jamaican’s monstrous 151*, as he batted through the innings to help his team chase down a mammoth 227, went in vain. He smashed 15 sixes at Taunton—the ground famous for Indian fans because of ‘that’ 1999 World Cup game with Ganguly and Dravid going nuts against Sri Lanka.
The next highest score was 29, with his teammates probably too much in awe at the other end to do some actual work. This isn’t the first time Gayle has taken a country by storm. He is easily the most destructive T20 batsman in world cricket, and he has no shortage of offers to play domestic leagues. While his national team struggles to rebuild with a brand of jack-of-all-trade youngsters, Gayle looks like more of a mercenary on a mission—determined to party in every country, as long as the session is preceded by a routine destructive century on the ground. He has broken every record there is to break in T20 cricket; records that will stand for a long time, considering AB de Villiers’ all-format genius and lack of time for the shortest.
Somerset will savour his services for the next month or so. And with RCB set to play Champions League cricket later this year, Mr. Gayle has a busy busy year ahead. This isn’t very usual for freelancers, but Gayle’s impact is felt far more than the likes of Bravo, Smith and Narine.