Chris Gayle's unbeaten 175 against Pune Warriors at Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium continues to be the talking point of the Indian Premier League 2013 even as teams ponder over "a plan" to check the marauding Jamaican, who struck a world record 175 not out for Royal Challengers Bangalore on Tuesday.
With Gayle in stunning form - he is currently the T20 tournament's highest scorer with 432 runs from eight matches - and looking virtually unstoppable, even Sunil Gavaskar is at a loss of words (read strategy) how to blunt the blazing willow of the Caribbean showman.
After a series of 'home' games, RCB will be on the road next week and Mumbai will be their next stop. The Wankhede Stadium pitch is known to aid good batting and with the pace and bounce of the track just perfect for a pugnacious batsmen, Gayle will be eyeing an encore.
To a question on how Mumbai Indians can stop the powerful Caribbean, Gavaskar jokingly said: "Mumbai Indian should have three or four fielders in the stands because that's where the ball is going to land!"
Gayle's record 175 off 66 balls surely has got the world talking. Comparisons with Brendan McCullum's 158 not out in the IPL's opening game in 2008 are part of every cricket show in the media, but Gayle seems to be winning every debate hands down.
Till Gayle smashed the hapless Pune bowlers to smithereens, McCullum's record 73-ball 158 for Kolkata Knight Riders in the opening game of the IPL against RCB on April 18, 2008 stood the test of time. Probably, in the fitness things, Gayle rewrote the mark with a world record 30-ball 100 that enabled RCB score a never-before 263 for five at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, the same place where McCullum dazzled.
But men like Gavaskar and Ajay Jadeja don't want to place Gayle's 175 and McCullum's 158 in the same pedestal. While McCullum's innings was no mean effort, Gayle's essay was "something extra-ordinary," feels Gavaskar. "The euphoria of a spectacular opening ceremony played a big part as McCullum rejoiced in the moment and his bat fired," said Gavaskar on a TV show.
That McCullum's innings was a "one-off" is eloquently proved because the Kiwi could never replicate the same magic consistently for KKR, something that Gayle does with random ease. The Kiwi failed both as a batsman and a captain and currently struggles to find a place in the KKR first XI.
"Gayle is special. He has 11 T20 centuries and those have come across the world. Even Viv (Richards) hasn't scored like that. Many of his centuries have come in Australia where the grounds are big. So Gayle is no ordinary batsman," explained Gavaskar.
It is not his belligerence that has caught the pundits' imagination, but Gayle's ability to take responsibility is definitely laudable. RCB has prospered every time he has stayed at the crease and went on to score the big runs, even a 40 or a 50. The way Gayle paced his innings after scoring the 30-ball century on Tuesday explains his intention of batting as much as he can and push the team's score.
"I am sure he had McCullum's innings in mind, but Gayle is clearly emerging as a thinking cricketer and considering his flamboyance, he re-established himself after the century and kept on batting with grace and poise.
"He is turning out to be a smart thinking cricketer and mixing his game according to the need of his team. That's the mark of a team man," feels Farokh Engineer, who claims (deliveries faced were not recorded those days) to have scored a 46-ball century against a West Indian attack comprising Wesley Hall and Charlie Griffith in Chennai in 1966-67.
Gayle's outstanding innings - it had a record 17 sixes -- on Tuesday has pushed the boundaries in T20 cricket for sure. If men like Gavaskar and Engineer say that Gayle is not just a slam-bang cricketer but a "thinking one" at that who can score centuries consistently across the world, it is the best advertisement for a format of the game not taken too seriously by the purists.