Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Sixes anytime and every time

Published:Friday | March 11, 2016 | 3:06 AM
New Zealand’'s Brendon McCullum
West Indies' Chris Gayle
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Good things, it is said, come to those who wait, and although it is not so long ago, two years is long enough, long enough to make one wonder if it would never come back again.

The reason is simply this: it may not be the best of cricket, not in its most sophisticated way, but it is cricket, and Twenty20 cricket is indeed enjoyable, especially when is served up a little at a time but at regular intervals.

Twenty20 cricket is not for those who were born and grew up on delicate and rasping cuts, elegant drives, off the front-foot and off the back-foot, vicious pulls, swivelling hooks, screaming bouncers, deadly yorkers, tantalising flight, subtle spin, and mesmerising spin.

Twenty20 cricket is for swinging bats, big hits, and acrobatic fielding, the vast majority of hits for sixes, intended or not, flying over the boundary and disappearing into the stands, sometimes into the night sky, for huge sixes.

That, apart from the guarantee of a result, plus the carnival-type atmosphere at the matches, is the attraction of Twenty20, and that is the attraction of T20 World Cup number six which is now under way in India.

That is why I enjoy it. There is never a dull moment, not even when the minnows are in action, when the skill is not so high. The ball still sails over the boundary, and the sight of them travelling far still excites.

For the West Indies, the tournament begins next Wednesday when the 2012 champions take on England at the Wankede Stadium in Mumbai in a battle of two of the favourites.

The starting favourites are India, Australia, South Africa, England, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and that's not necessarily in that order. The favourites are plenty, but that's the nature of the competition and that's how close it promises to be.

As we welcome this rendition of Twenty20 cricket and ponder the wonderful performances to come, the power-hitting of Chris Gayle, the elegance of Virat Kholi, memories of some of big-hitting deeds of the past come to mind.

Records, they say, are made to be broken, but those who saw these tremendous big hits will never, ever forget them.

In hitting the highest score ever, Sri Lanka's batsmen went to town against lowly Kenya in the first tournament in South Africa in 2007 when they smashed the highest score of 260 for six, and India followed up with 218 for four against England, also in South Africa in 2007.

And South Africa, despite the efforts of Gayle, who cracked 117, scored the third highest total when they romped to 208 for two off 17.4 overs replying to 205 for six in South Africa in 2007.

That was the day when Gayle got "mad", ripping fast bowler Shaun Pollock to ribbons, his four overs going for 52 wicketless runs.

I wish I was there on any one of those occasions to see the balls sailing over the boundary, just as I wish I was there for the entire match between India and England when the teams piled up a combined 418 runs for the loss of 10 wickets off 40 overs for the highest match aggregate with India scoring 218 for four and England 200 for four.

Probably the day I missed most, the one in Bangladesh last time out, the one which was that between two minnows, the one in which 382 runs were scored for the loss of eight wickets, was the one in which Ireland scored 189 for four and the Netherlands scored 193 for four of 13.5 overs.

Sixes fell like rain from the sky.

Probably the days I missed most of all, however, were the ones starring Brendon McCullum and Gayle, the two master hitters of T20 cricket, indeed of any cricket.

In Bangladesh, in 2012, McCullum, batting for only 57 deliveries, slammed 123 runs with 11 fours and seven sixes out of 191 for three against Bangladesh, and before that, in South Africa in 2007, while batting for 58 deliveries, Gayle smashed 117 with seven fours and 10 glittering sixes against South Africa.

Another dazzling display was that of Yuvraj Singh, a left-hander who, also in 2007, cracked 58 runs off 16 deliveries with seven sixes against England.

With sixes being the heart of Twenty20 cricket, with each hit followed by loud bursts of music, flashing lights, and jumping spectators, probably the man of the T20 World Cup tournaments has been Gayle, the bravest and most destructive hitter of them all.

One batsman has hit 10 sixes in an innings, and that is Gayle, who has also hit a total of 49, 18 more than second-placed Yuvraj Singh on 31; six batsmen have hit seven sixes in an innings, including Yuvraj Singh and Shane Watson; 13 batsmen have hit six sixes in innings.

This time, it could be the same, except that one man, McCullum, is missing.