After his quickfire double hundred today, the third double hundred (he's also got a 197 in there) of his test career and thirteenth hundred in total, I got to thinking, is Chris Gayle a bit underrated as a test match batsman?
He's infuriating, of that there is no question. You always get the impression that he isn't quite making the most of his undoubted talent because he looks like he doesn't really care all that much. If you saw his celebration today you'd probably put to bed the theory that test runs for the West Indies don't matter to Christopher Henry Gayle. Having said that, he doesn't do much to counter the theory, saying after Windies' three day defeat to England at Lord's in 2008 that it "wouldn't be so bad" if test cricket withered and died.
So maybe he isn't as committed to tests as a Sachin Tendulkar or a Ricky Ponting, but does he deserve to be held in higher regard?
When you look at his stats they don't jump off the page. 89 tests and a batting average of 41. In these days of lifeless pitches and mammoth totals that is by no means a great average. However when you look at his numbers compared to his West Indian contemporaries it is surprising just how important he has been to their batting for the last decade.
Since his debut in 2000 only two men, Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, have scored more runs for the West Indies and while Shiv plodded along at a strike rate of 43, Gayle has comparatively raced along at a strike rate of just under 60 in collecting just 500 fewer runs than his senior colleague. Admittedly Chanderpaul has played more gritty innings and dug his team out of the mire more often (he's been not out in a staggering 17% of all his knocks), but Gayle's knocks at the top of the order shouldn't be overlooked.
Indeed only 13 batsmen in all of world cricket have scored more runs since January 2000 than Chris Gayle, only five have scored faster than he and only four are openers. He averages 50 from 5 tests in Australia and 55 from 5 tests in South Africa, no mean feat either of those. He's never had one of 'those years', like Yousuf had in 2006 or Tendulkar is having this year, but he's scored plenty while not many of his team mates have been able to hold a place in the side, never mind score 6,200 runs.
His double hundred today away in Sri Lanka would probably not eclipse the 165 he scored in carrying his bat against Australia in Adelaide last December but its a big achievement nonetheless - only four other non-Sri Lankans have registered doubles in Sri Lanka.
I'm not suggesting Gayle is one of the greats, he isn't and he almost certainly never will be. But is he a it underrated? Maybe just a bit. In a time when West Indian batsmen have not been setting the world on fire, he's been not-so-quietly getting on with the job, and doing it pretty effectively too.
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