Despite no major success at #3 for WI, Gayle ‘happy’ to play role

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Christopher Gayle, the world’s most decorated Twenty20 batsman, has taken on a new frontier at the age of 41, batting at number three for West Indies in Twenty20 Internationals.

In February 2006, the left-hander started his International T20 career against New Zealand and made 10 from 12 balls.

In March 2021, against Sri Lanka, he batted at number three for the first time in an International T20 match – after 54 innings – and made a first-ball duck.

He has batted in the position five times in T20I, and has a highest score of 32*, an average of 17.25 and strike rate of 102.98.

At the top of the order, he averages over 30 and has two centuries to go with 13 half-centuries; his record in T20 leagues is even more phenomenal opening the batting.

However, over the last two seasons of the Indian Premier League, Punjab Kings XI have opted to bat him mainly at three, and now the West Indies.

At the IPL, he has reaped success in the position; at the 2020 IPL, he played seven matches and scored 288 runs, inclusive of 99, and a season’s average of 41.14 and strike rate of 137.14.

This season he played eight matches and scored 178 runs at an average of 25.42 and strike rate of 133.83.

Speaking after Saturday’s thumping win over South Africa in Grenada where he made 32* in the first T20I, Gayle expressed he is happy to perform the new role.

“We talked about this already, leading up to the Sri Lanka series, I know where I was going to bat, the captain laid it out on the table and I am really happy to play the role and with my experience, it will play a big part,” Gayle told Cricket West Indies media on Saturday.

“With so many match-winners in the team it just actually makes my job easier as well and just try to play my game when it is actually required.”

The presence of the destructive batsman, who is widely regarded as the ‘King’ of T20 cricket, at number three, has affected the presence of another power-hitting talent, Shimron Hetmyer, from occupying the position.

Hetmyer, who made his T20I debut in December 2017, a period Gayle where was not playing too many T20Is, has 14 innings in the position which has yielded 239 runs at an average of 19.91, just over his career average of 18.95, and a strike of 112.73.

The numbers would suggest, both have yet to fully lay claim to the critical position based on current performance.

West Indies are two matches into a 15-match schedule across three series and the Jamaican said he is enthused about what lies ahead for the squad, given the depth in quality available.

“It is pretty upbeat, it is good to have [Andre] Russell back, he was the only one missing [from the Sri Lanka series] but we have a very strong captain, and I always say that is very important for a team. It does not matter what team; the captain is always important. We always support the head, and the body will function.”

After the South Africa series, the World T20 defending champions will face Australia and Pakistan in the Caribbean as they prepare for the World T20, which starts October 14 in the United Arab Emirates.

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