x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Chris Gayle playing on gut level

West Indies opening batsman turned 33 today and ageless Jacques Kallis draws plenty of praise.

Chris Gayle cools off after a nets practice session in Colombo today. The opening batsman, considered one of Twenty20's most destructive players, is prepared and quietly confident about the West Indies' chances of winning the tournament. Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP
Chris Gayle cools off after a nets practice session in Colombo today. The opening batsman, considered one of Twenty20's most destructive players, is prepared and quietly confident about the West Indies' chances of winning the tournament. Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP

Chris Gayle, the hard-hitting West Indies opening batsman, celebrated his 33rd birthday today by telling batsmen how to hit sixes during the ongoing World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.

"It takes a bit of strength and once the ball is in your slot you go for it," Gayle said ahead of the West Indies' first match, against Australia here today.

"It's instinct, to be honest. You have to let the mind and body flow together. You don't want to get stuck in a two-minded situation.

"You just try and be natural out there and things will actually flow for you in the end," Gayle was quoted as saying by the West Indies Cricket Board.

The left-handed Gayle, whose 27 sixes are a tournament record in the World Twenty20, is one of the most feared batsmen in all formats of the game with a penchant for big hits against both pace and spin.

His rapid-fire 117 off 57 balls with 10 sixes and seven fours against South Africa in the inaugural World Twenty20 in 2007 remains the highest individual score in the competition.

"The key is balance. You have to have good balance to be able to hit a lot of sixes," said the Jamaican, who also has two triple-centuries in Test cricket to his credit.

"I pay special emphasis to my balance. You have to realise that bowlers are not always going to make it easy for you. You have to create the shots, so you have to make sure you do it well."

Gayle said he looked forward to playing against Australia, who thrashed Ireland by seven wickets in their first game on Wednesday.

"The first game is vital," he said. "You don't want to play catch-up cricket in T20, so it's a very big match for us. It will also get our confidence going.

"In our team we bat right down, and bowling-wise we have spinners and fast bowlers. The key for us is to get to the second round and try and take it step by step."

The West Indies, one of the pre-tournament favourites, play Ireland on Monday.

AB de Villiers, the South Africa captain, and Mahela Jayawardene, his Sri Lanka counterpart, marvelled at the ageless Jacques Kallis, 36, describing the all-rounder as the best of his era.

Kallis returned career-best figures of four for 15 to take the man-of-the-match award as South Africa thrashed Zimbabwe by 10 wickets on Thursday. Jayawardene paid tribute to him ahead of their Group C game tomorrow.

“I don’t think anyone would disagree that Jacques would be the best all-rounder in our generation in all forms of the game,” Jayawardene said.

“He’s improving every day and that’s because of the hunger that he has and the competitive edge. He didn’t show any complacency when he went out against Zimbabwe; the intensity was the same.

“That’s a quality that every young cricketer should have. Jacques is a great opponent and that level of players, that’s what they want to do. They don’t want to be remembered as players who used to be brilliant, not so anymore, but they want to be at the top as long as they play.”

De Villiers, too, conceded he was in awe of Kallis.

“Jacques is an amazing player, one of a kind. Obviously, I’ve no idea how he keeps doing it,” De Villiers said after South Africa’s 10-wicket win over Zimbabwe. “I am jealous at what he gets right at this old age, I can’t think of myself doing that at that age.

“He is a wonderful player and we are grateful to have him in the squad.”

Kallis, who made his Test debut in 1995, has scored more than 10,000 runs and taken over 200 wickets in both Tests and the 50-over format. In 21 Twenty20 internationals, though, Kallis has scored five fifties.

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