In case you missed it, Chris Gayle scored 175 off of 66 balls a couple days ago in Bangalore in an IPL match against Pune.
It was the highest score in the history of the format.
His 100 only took 30 balls, the quickest century in history.
He struck 17 6s, the most in a T20 innings.
I watched his innings, finally, earlier today. And while some of the sheen had been taken off because I knew what I was about to witness, it still was an impressive piece of T20 batting skill. It was Chris Gayle at his absolute best in a format that suits him like a glove.
(Also doesn’t hurt that Pune’s bowlers are not really anything to write home about; but that shouldn’t take away from Gayle’s accomplishment.)
It was the right player, at the right time, in the right place, against the right opponent. It was serendipity; and the batsman seized the moment and brought the house down.
And, hopefully, he inspired a new generation of Caribbean cricketers to look into picking up the leather and the willow.
Some of the accounts I read, however, had other ways of describing Gayle’s performance: vicious; brutal; violent; murderous; savage.
Not all, mind you, but some. In fact: many. Especially on Twitter. This is not an isolated situation: it’s a common way to describe a particularly powerful stint at the crease. This has always seemed odd to me, because cricket for all intents and purposes cricket is a terribly non-violent sport. Sure, there are flashes, the bodyline tour for instance, and the occassional pushing and shoving match, but of all of the world’s team sports, cricket is by far the most peaceful. (That point is of course debatable.)
Violent imagery is common in the description of most other sports, but what I have always liked about cricket writing is its ability to leave that cliche at the door for the most part (the one notable exception being that the bowlers are known as the “attack”). And so when a batsman puts on a show like Gayle did in Bangalore, I always cringe because I know I will soon be reading normally phenomenal cricket writers resort to war metaphors.
Cricket deserves better than that.
And here’s the thing: Gayle’s performance was not brutal.
That does not describe what Chris Gayle did.
What Chris Gayle did was no different than what every batsman sets out to do in every T20 match the world over: score as many runs as possibly and score them as quickly as possible. He is just more skilled than every other T20 batsmen.
I would use words like transcendent; artistic; skilled; masterful; genius.
It was those things. It was not violent, it was not brutal, it was not ruthless, and it especially was not grossly ruthless.
It the best man who ever played the format showing why he is exactly that.
He was an artist painting us a picture of perfection. It was not savagery; it was poetry.
The above is all just a personal opinion, of course, and I freely admit to being a bit of a peacenik. But what has always drawn me to cricket is the great writing it inspires, and it pains me when cricket writing dips below the level that I am used – and innings such as Gayle’s always seem to inspire such a dip.
And in the interest of full disclosure; I understand the extreme irony of the above considering Pune’s nickname is the “Warriors” – and also my reaction on Twitter was as low rent as everyone else’s:
175 off of 66. Bloody hell.
— Matt Becker (@limitedovers) April 23, 2013