TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
CHRIS Gayle is Snoop Dogg in pads, a ripping rhyme of runs and boundary bombast. Darren Sammy is the cricketer even a dominee would let his daughter date.
Both are among the hired guns in the domestic T20 that starts on Sunday with a triple-header at the Wanderers.
The thought of 180 consecutive overs of the short, sharp and brutish stuff crammed into 12 hours will make those who prefer their cricket to be played in whites and pause for tea to long for the comparative bliss of root canal treatment.
But, for others, who consume life vicariously in bite-sized chunks fed them umbilically from glowing screens, T20 is the only way cricket makes sense.
For better or for worse, they are the future. And Gayle, even if he is hardly a kid anymore at 35, is an important part of sustaining the present until it becomes that future.
He is the ultimate emphatic player in the format that subtlety forgot. In fact, by one admittedly creative measure, Gayle is more valuable to his team then Brendon McCullum and David Warner combined.
The dozen centuries Gayle has scored – the record for T20 – top the 10 shared by McCullum and Warner, Gayle’s closest rivals on that score. Together, McCullum and Warner have had 373 T20 innings. Gayle has had 181, or less than half as many.
Unsurprisingly, Gayle is the most prolific T20 batsman with 6551 runs to his name. Next on the list is Brad Hodge, who has scored 466 fewer runs than the Jamaican despite having had 27 more innings.
Gayle also owns T20’s highest score, an undefeated 175 he blitzed off 66 balls for Royal Challengers Bangalore against the Pune Warriors in last year’s Indian Premier League.
Geoff Toyana, who coaches the Lions team the lusty left-hander will pad up for against the Dolphins on Sunday, can’t hardly wait for Gayle to blow in: “At least he’s coming this time – he left Jamaica on Wednesday and he’s in London now; he arrives at 7am (on Friday).”
Well might Toyana be interested in Gayle’s travel plans. In 2011-12 and 2013-14, he was set to play for the Dolphins before being ruled out through injury.
But quite how someone as straight-laced as Stephen Cook, the Lions captain, will deal with an overgrown wild child like Gayle, whose Twitter feed is not for the prudish, is a compelling sub-plot to the tournament.
Toyana, however, was not concerned about potential man management issues: “We’ve got all kinds of characters in our squad – some crazy guys and some nice guys. I don’t think Gayle will give us a problem.”
Titans coach Rob Walter is unlikely to be asked whether he expects trouble from Sammy, who has already arrived at Centurion.
“I have always tried to bowl dot balls,” Sammy said on Thursday. “As we say, a dot is as good as gold in T20-cricket. If I bowl dot balls, I build pressure.”
Sounds rivetting. Not. But the Titans won’t complain on Sunday if Sammy puts his bowling where his mouth is against the Cobras – who will expect more exciting stuff than that from Kieron Pollard.
The Knights, meanwhile, will need Andre Russell to play above expectation against the Warriors, who will bank on Craig Kieswetter’s experience.