Royal Challengers Bangalore's Chris Gayle hits a six during their T20 match against Pune Warriors at Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. (PTI)
Chris Gayle has been so sensational that most teams have opted for a radically different approach to assess what total would be par for course against the RCB.
The consensus, and not without reason, is that the aim should be to post a total assuming Gayle gets out cheaply, for the day he fires, no total is insurmountable. Inspite of his regular heroics, Gayle too, like the rest of us, has his weak spots. When plotting against Gayle, teams could consider some key points.
Line and length
Being a T20 freelancer made Gayle aware of the importance of being consistent inspite of the volatile nature of this format. He needed to find a template that allowed him to optimise his strengths and also score more often. That's when he decided to resist the temptation of exploiting the field restrictions right from the beginning and started to give the first few balls/overs to the bowlers. While that's a good ploy, this offers a small window for the opposition to dismiss him by bowling attacking lines and lengths complimented by fielders in catching positions. That's when it's prudent to shelve the typical T20 line and lengths and adopt a more conventional Test match bowling strategy. If there's some swing on offer and the bowler has the ability to move it away from the southpaw, the bowler must pitch the ball fuller and pitch outside the off-stump inviting him to drive through the off-side. While Gayle plays most shots in the book, he isn't the best driver of the cricket ball when the ball is new and moving.
Chris Morris and Dirk Nannes discovered another way of getting the better of Gayle. Instead of bowling line and length on the fourth stump line, they bowled quick and into his body. It wasn't a barrage of bouncers, but just cramping him for room with most balls finishing at his thigh height. Both the bowlers peppered him so much with that line that it led Gayle to abandon his template. He played a couple of uncharacteristic shots (a boundary and couple of play and miss) to put the bowlers off their plan without realising that bowlers were trying to do the same to him.
Eventually, Morris succeeded as Gayle perished while attempting a wild heave to a wide delivery - a ball he would've left alone on other occasions.
While even part-time off-spinners have managed to dismiss Gayle a couple of times, it is the one with quality who've found consistent respect from the big Jamaican. Ashwin got him a couple of times in last year's edition by inducing a false 'stroke' and since then, Gayle has followed a different approach while tackling off-spinners.
Instead of going after them, he prefers to milk them for singles and attack the bowler at the other end. So, even though it's worth gambling with a spinner early on, it's the quality of bowler that's likely to make the difference, the one who could make Gayle play an attacking shot and induce a mistake. While most plans go out of the window once the Gayle show begins, it would be worth planning and failing, than not planning at all.
The writer is former India opener