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Watching Chris Gayle bat from the outside is an exhilarating experience. But what is it like to bat alongside him when he is smacking the ball all over? We asked the man who watched most of Gayle’s 175 against the Pune Warriors India from the other end of the 22 yards.
Tillakaratne Dilshan, who formed a 167-run opening partnership with Gayle – out of which his own contribution was 33 runs – shared the experience with iplt20.com after the RCB drubbed PWI by 130 runs.
Here are excerpts:
Have you seen an innings like that before from the non-strikers’ end?
No. This was the first time. I batted with him in the last IPL too and he scored a couple of hundreds. But this was something special. In my career this was the first time I saw someone hit the ball so cleanly. I was just standing at the other end and enjoying every bit of it.
Did he tell you anything before or during that knock that made you feel that he might go on to produce something so special?
In the fifth and the seventh over when he hit the medium pacer (Mitchell Marsh) and left-arm spinner (Ali Murtaza), I knew he could easily clear this boundary for many times (Gayle hit Marsh for 28 in an over before carting two sixes and a four in Murtaza’s over). After that I just decided to take singles and give him the strike.
What was the conversation like between the overs and during the strategic timeout?
We just enjoy batting together in the middle. I, especially, enjoy batting with him a lot. I took over the hitting in the last match but today he was completely in charge, and that is mostly the case. Every bowler in the world is scared to bowl to Chris; there’s no doubt about that. We don’t talk much. Both of us believe in hitting the ball and that’s what we look to do. We just look to enjoy every single ball.
From the outside it looks like Gayle just sees the ball and hits it. But having batted with him many times now, could you tell us how much he thinks about his game and plans his innings?
He has looked to settle down first before going for his shots. He doesn’t take too many chances for the first couple of overs. Once when he starts seeing the ball well, he takes the charge on. Once he reaches that stage where he knows he can clear any boundary.
You said you approach batting in similar ways. Then what separates him from you?
I think he has more power. I try to give him more strike in the first six overs because I know that he can clear the 30-yard circle more cleanly than I can. Not only the circle, he can clear the ground easily.
With Gayle, AB and yourself in the same dressing room, how much and what do you discuss about batting and different shots?
Before the match I was talking to some of my fellow Sri Lankan cricketers and they were amazed at how four of the most dangerous batsmen in the world – Gayle, Virat Kohli, AB and myself – are in the same team. With that kind of a line-up we can go a long way in the tournament.
AB de Villiers is giving you strong competition in playing innovative shots. In the nets do you both invent shots together?
We don’t invent shots together. I just practise my ‘dilscoop’ a lot and I’m looking forward to play it sometime in the tournament. AB keeps inventing new shots, as he did last year as well. Having AB at the crease is always a big headache for the bowlers. We don’t talk about each other’s shots honestly.
You’re also looking for a big knock in this tournament?
Definitely! In the last few matches I have been getting 20s and 30s. I want to score a big one and make it easy for the middle order batsmen.
Any bowler worth his salt will admit that there are not many nightmares worse than bowling to Chris Gayle at his destructive best. Ask the Pune Warriors India bowlers who bore the brunt of the man’s murderous mood at Bengaluru as he smashed records after records to scorch his way to the highest individual score in T20 history.
Two PWI bowlers averaged more than 20 runs per over while another two went over 15 as Royal Challengers Bangalore amassed 265 in their 20 overs. In the same innings Bhuvneshwar Kumar gave away 23 runs in his four overs. The seven balls that Bhuvneshwar bowled to Gayle yielded 11 runs. Gayle scored his 175 runs at a strike-rate of 265.
While the young pacer was dejected with the team’s 130-run loss, his own disciplined performance gave him something to take away from the game. Bhuvneshwar spoke to iplt20.com after the match about his plan of bowling to Gayle and the team’s morale.
Was this the toughest test of your career so far – bowling to Chris Gayle?
Yes and no. As a team it was a tough match to play but individually for me it was good. We gave away 265 runs out of which I gave only 23 runs. That was satisfying for me.
You bowled seven balls to him and conceded just 11 runs. What was your plan bowling to him?
With the new ball I was trying to get him out because he’s that kind of batsman who can cover up later on even if you bowl some dots to him initially. In the death overs I just tried to keep him off strike so that I can bowl to the other batsman. I just tried to keep the ball away from his body so that he can take a single and get off strike.
Was this also a day when bowlers regretted becoming bowlers?
You can say that. When he bats like that nobody wants to bowl, especially on a wicket like this where the ball comes on well onto the bat. All I can say is that it’s tough luck for the bowlers if he decides to bat like that.
What was the discussion like in the team during the strategic timeouts?
During the first strategic timeout we just spoke of getting him out as soon as possible. But we couldn’t do that. We tried to do different things but he just kept hitting. Ishwar Pandey was playing his first match in this tournament and he went for 21 runs in the first over. He obviously became nervous and it happens when you’re playing against Gayle. We could have bowled better but then you never know.
How tough is it for a team to recover from such a shock?
It is very difficult, especially for us as we are going through a tough time. But all we can do as a team is stick together and keep backing each other. We’re trying to be as positive as we can and can only hope for the best from here.
It would obviously have been tough as a bowling side. But merely as a watcher, did you enjoy the knock?
Not really. When you’re in the bowling side you never enjoy it if some batsman is hitting you or your bowlers like that. I would have enjoyed it if I was watching it on TV.