Friday, April 19, 2024

How Gayle ‘stats’ up


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Barbadians love to compare statistics of West Indian cricketers and generally use their batting and bowling achievements to evaluate how good these players were during their careers.

But because of the varying strengths of opposing bowlers, the changes in rules, use of technology, pitch conditions, as well as granting Test status to minnows like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, it is not always fair or prudent to compare individual statistical records from different eras.

Whereas statistics seldom lie, they shouldn’t not be the be-all and end all when determining who was a better batsman or bowler as some players, especially those from the present generation, who may have better stats, could not tie the shoe laces of those of bygone years.

Unlike the current crop, former players batted on uncovered pitches and could not challenge what were considered unfair verdicts made by some “home” umpires’ via the Decision Review System (DRS) like is the case even in spite of a panel of neutral Elite umpires.

Nevertheless, with Chris Gayle having just played his 103th Test, it would make interesting reading to see how his batting stats stand up alongside the four leading West Indian openers of yesteryear, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes and the late Sir Conrad Hunte and Roy Fredericks?

Gayle has recorded 15 centuries and 37 fifties in an overall aggregate of 7 205 runs from 181 Test innings, with ten not outs for an average of 42.13 at the time of writing this article after his knock of 64 in the first innings of the opening Test against Bangladesh in St Vincent.

It is noteworthy that Gayle is among an elite group in the history of Test cricket with two triple centuries – 317 in 2005 versus South Africa in Antigua and a career-best 333 against Sri Lanka in 2010.

Greenidge amassed 7 558 runs in 108 Tests from 185 innings with 16 not out at an average of 44.72 with 19 hundreds and 34 half-centuries. Haynes scored 7 487 runs in 116 Tests from 202 innings with 25 not out. He had 18 hundreds and 39 half-centuries, averaging 42.29.

Gayle will now enter the second Test starting in St Lucia on Saturday, just 282 runs behind Haynes and 353 adrift of Greenidge.

It is worth noting that Gayle has played 13 Tests and batted 21 innings fewer than Haynes while he has four innings and five Tests fewer than Greenidge.

Unlike, Greenidge, Haynes and Gayle, who all played over 100 Tests, Fredericks and Hunte only featured in 59 and 44 Tests, respectively, so it would be an unreasonable juxtaposition.

However, for the record, Hunte made eight hundreds and 13 fifties while scoring 3 245 runs from 78 innings with six not outs at an average of 42.49. Fredericks also made eight hundreds but had 26 half-centuries while amassing 4 334 runs from 109 innings with seven not outs. He averaged 42.49.

There will always be pros and cons by the fans in arguments as they point to weaknesses or strengths of each opener.

Greenidge’s technique, Haynes’ ability to bat through the innings in difficult situations while some may point to Gayle’s general lack of footwork.

Neither Haynes, whose career-best was 184 against England at Lords, nor did Fredericks, with a life-time best of 169 versus Australia, manage a double century. Hunte’s career-best was 260 in 1958 against Pakistan.

Many of Gayle’s critics believe he is on the decline and that it would’ve been better to invest in a young opener in the ongoing two-Test series versus Bangladesh.

Some sceptics have also opined that Gayle should not go to India next month or to South Africa at yearend. Whereas Gayle averages just 28.55 from nine innings in five Tests in India with a solitary fifty, he has hammered two centuries in five Tests in South Africa while averaging 54.50.

It is worth noting that since Gayle was reintegrated into the West Indies’ team in 2012 after his much-publicised stand-off with the West Indies Cricket Board and then team coach Ottis Gibson, he has scored 832 runs in 12 Tests at an average of 46.22 with two hundreds and four fifties.

In 2012, he scored 318 runs in four Tests at an average of 53 with one century. He also played four Tests last year and made 242 runs at an average of 40.33 with one ton. In the three home Tests this year against New Zealand, Gayle managed 208 runs at an average of 41.60 with a best score of 80 not out.

Actually, Gayle’s record overseas (48 Tests, average 43.77, eight centuries) is marginally better than that at home in the Caribbean, where he averages 40.80 in 53 Tests with seven centuries.

He has played in just three five-Test series but his highest aggregate is 400 in the four-match rubber in England in 2004 while he had the distinction of carrying his bat for a second innings knock of 165 against Australia at Adelaide to salvage a draw.

On the other hand, Greenidge, who played in 11 five-Test series and a six-match rubber, thrice scored 500 or more runs in a series, like Gayle never scored a century in Pakistan where he averaged a dismal 17.27 in six Tests.

Greenidge’s record in Australia was just modest as he scored a solitary century while averaging 30.96 in 17 Tests.

He never had the luxury of playing against minnows, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh or against Sri Lanka or South Africa.

Two of his four double centuries came in the 1984 away series against England, while the last, a career-best 226 was scored in the penultimate Test of his illustrious career at Kensington Oval against Australia when he was 40 years old.

Haynes played in ten five-Test series and one six-Test rubber but only scaled the 500-run mark in 1998 against Australia “Down Under” but he achieved the feat of batting through the innings thrice.

He never scored a century in India where his average was a meagre 22.17 in 10 Tests but he had three tons in six Tests in New Zealand.

On the subcontinent, Haynes didn’t fare well, averaging just 24.94 in 21 Tests.

He was dominant on the home pitches in the Caribbean, averaging 56.05 in 49 Tests while in 67 overseas Tests, Haynes averaged a modest 33.50.

Unless he retires from the Test arena shortly, Gayle, who will turn 35 on September 21, will definitely overtake both Greenidge and Haynes in terms of runs and may close the gap where centuries are concerned.

But regardless of whatever feats he achieves in the future, very few knowledgeable cricket pundits would elevate him above either Greenidge or Haynes in terms of batsmanship. Maybe, Fredericks but certainly not Sir Conrad.


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