Of the 12 six that Chris Gayle met at the CAA Center on Monday, only two remained in the arena during his 54-ball tournament. The ten others climbed over the bleachers and disappeared from the parked cars, bystanders, security guards, and the food stalls outside. Bullets disappeared into trees and shrubs, and the referees had to call for a replacement. It will not be a surprise if ball boys are stationed outside the arena during Gayle’s next innings. If not, Gayle can consume the entire stock of kookaburra balls.
Earlier in the day, during the first game of the day, Toronto Nationals’ Canadian batsman and opener, Rodrigo Thomas, scored a memorable six when the ball had broken the glass window of one of the corporate housings. His captain Yuvraj Singh sent a ball high in the direction of the media system – and how the glass did not break this time, remains a mystery.
On Friday, Umar Akmal sent a ball to the stands, demanding a quick intervention from the spectators. On Sunday Shahid sent Afridi fans with his huge blows to the flight. All this is expected in a relatively small space. Watchful cameramen. Security personnel keeping an eye on the ball. And the ball boys, who mark the border line and watch for flat hits in their direction.
Chris Gayle’s mission seems to eliminate the risk for everyone. The ball is not hit so hard, but fired high and far away. Most of the six he crashed today were over 80 meters long (according to the televised numbers). Two traveled 87 meters. One walked 89 meters.
And a 93 meters. Each was a heartfelt expression of Gayle’s musculature and stroke technique – as if he would say to the photographer every time: click away. If there ever is a statue for Chris Gayle, it must be one with legs wide apart. His bat picks up the ball from outside and slams a six at Midwicket over the roof. This is a picture that would convey so much of its appeal.
“I’ve never liked math at school,” begins a chapter in Chris Gayle’s autobiography Six Machine. “It was not the topic for me, the only thing I loved was the six-time table, one six is six, one six is not enough, two sixes are twelve, three sixes are more like that, four sixes are twenty-four is the right beating Six Sixes is World Boss. “
Gayle continues to talk about how, when beating sixes, he effectively instructs viewers to dance to his tune. “You know from the crowd’s reaction to how you perform and how you beat Sixes, and you know how to be a conductor, how to raise and weigh the noise.”
There is a whole subculture of stories about Gayle’s Six from around the world, across tournaments and series. Years ago, in Bangalore, a ball shot in the bleacher injured an eleven-year-old girl’s nose. When he learned what had happened, he went to the hospital to apologize. The girl told him not to worry and just continue to beat six. At the Royal Challengers’ next home game in Bangalore, posters shouted, “Please, break my nose, Chris.”
When Gayle played for Somerset in Taunton in 2015, she sent a ball into the adjacent River Tone. The ball swayed up and down the surface … as a fan took off most of his clothes, jumped into the river and brought them to shore. He later met Gayle and told him what he had brought back. Gayle not only signed the ball, he also met the man for a drink.
Gayle has currently reached 941 sixes in T20s. He has thundered six for teams like Balkh Legends, Matabeleland Tuskers, Rangpur Riders, Lahore Qalandars and Jozi Stars. He has done so across continents, on big and small soils, against elite bowlers and not so elite bowlers, in front of crowded houses and empty bleachers.
A distant second on the list – as far as the test average of Steve Smith by Don Bradman – is Kieron Pollard with 607 six. Brendon McCullum, now retired, is third with 485. Shane Watson has 431. The rest has under 400.
Gayle will reach his 1000th T20 Six in the next few months. Among the records he will leave behind, this will probably last the longest. It can also be the one who cemented his heritage.