Not many players over the years have been compared to Viv Richards but Chris Gayle’s ability to destroy opposition attacks puts him right up there with the batting great, according to West Indies coach Phil Simmons.
The tall left-handed West Indies opener made a mockery of a steep 183-run target set by England at the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday, smashing an unbeaten 100 to set alight the World Twenty20.
Simmons, who has seen his fair share of maverick West Indies batsmen during his long career, reserved the highest praise for Gayle after he clubbed 11 sixes to overtake Brendon McCullum’s career record for the most in internationals in the format.
“To destroy an attack like that, the only person in my time that I would put him with is Sir Vivian because Sir Vivian used to go out there and destroy attacks like that,” Simmons told reporters after the match.
“I think he is up there with Sir Viv in the way he tears apart attacks.”
The gum-chewing Richard ripped apart bowling attacks with a swagger that is part of cricketing folklore and the now 64-year-old Antiguan is considered a benchmark for attacking batting.
A number of batsmen over the years have gone on to achieve more than Richards did but very few have been able to strike as much fear in the minds of bowlers.
“Bat 15 overs for me. That’s all I need from you,” Simmons said when asked what he tells Gayle before the opener walks out to bat.
“I know that once you bat fifteen overs, we would be somewhere near to the target we want to be setting or chasing.”
Gayle’s unbeaten 100 on Wednesday, his second century at a World Twenty20, helped paper over the cracks of West Indies’ tumultuous build-up.
The 2012 champions were embroiled in a contract dispute with their board, who threatened to send a second string team to the tournament.
The victory over 2010 champions England, almost without breaking sweat, underlined their status as one of the most dangerous teams in the tournament.
South Africa, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan – the other teams in Group One – will already be hoping Gayle has an off day against them.
“You think it is a big statement, but there is more to come,” Simmons promised.