Chris Gayle has been the flavour of the IPL so far, with two spectacular hundreds in his first four innings since joining the Royal Challengers. It's almost as if he is determined to make up for lost time. Amidst all the carnage he has unleashed, you can't help but feel for the bowlers.
I feel that some poor quality bowling has helped Gayle along the way, but then again, given his approach, it is inevitable that the bowlers will feel the pressure, and know that the slightest error will be punished.
With Gayle, it's not just the bad balls that are put away. He is more than capable of scoring heavily off good deliveries too.
Even good, experienced, top quality fast bowlers can go for plenty in the T20 version, because that is the nature of the game. On good pitches, a good-length ball is a good-hit ball. That's where the bowler needs to be extremely creative.The only way to stop a batsman like Gayle from scoring quickly is by getting him out. Especially at the start of the innings, the bowler's mindset has to be geared towards dismissing him, and that's where the significance of pitching the ball up and bowling wicket-to-wicket becomes obvious.
Pitch it up
I feel the best way to go in the initial stages is to pitch it up and bowl on the stumps. That must be the stock delivery, with the philosophy being 'if you miss, I hit'.
I haven't played too much T20 cricket, but from what I have seen, even in 50-over cricket these days, the batsman's thinking is along the lines of every ball has to disappear, especially in the first 10-15 overs when the field restrictions are in place.
At this stage on Indian pitches, it is extremely difficult for the bowlers to dictate terms, especially to someone like Gayle who uses perhaps the heaviest bat in international cricket.
A combination of the nature of pitches, short boundaries and heavy bats means everything is loaded in favour of the batsmen.
If a bowler is having a lean patch, he will be made mincemeat of.
You have to be at the peak of your thinking and execution skills. If you bowl a good ball and are hit over the top, so be it. But if you bowl a bad ball, you have no hope whatsoever. The best way will be to bowl with variety and keep the batsman guessing.