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    Chris Gayle: man on fire

    With five scores of 50 or more in six international innings since returning for Windies, Gayle has shown his value.

    In six innings international returning to West Indies' limited-overs set-up, Chris Gayle has hammered runs and brought life back to the side. There is no way you can under-emphasize that.

    Here are the numbers (ODI and Twenty20) since Gayle returned to the West Indian set-up for his first international match in over 15 months: 381 runs at 95.25 and a strike-rate of 121. In six innings he has scored 53, 2, 85*, 53, 63* and 125. In six innings he has hit 25 fours and 28 sixes. That's one more six than the next best batsman, Lendl Simmons, hit batting in the top three for West Indies in the 21 limited-overs matches he played in Gayle's absence. In this same time, there were 10 half-centuries and no century by an opener in either format. Gayle has four fifties in five innings, to go with a century in his most recent innings.

    That was Gayle's 20th century in one-day cricket, and took him past Brian Lara's 19 as the most by a West Indian batsman. He could have reached there in his past two innings, if not for a dubious lbw decision at The Oval and the rain in Sabina Park during the first game against New Zealand.

    Clearly, the form Gayle showed in Twenty20 cricket over the past two years has been channeled into his international outings. In the 2011 IPL he scored more IPL runs than any other batsman – 608 at an average of 67.55 and strike-rate of 183.13 – and in 2012 did better with 733 runs at a strike-rate of 160.74, scoring eight 50-plus scores, the most in IPL 5. After lighting up the past two IPL seasons with some tremendous hitting, and treating fans in Bangladesh, Australia and Zimbabwe to some audacious Twenty20 innings, Gayle has proved to West Indian fans that he can be as destructive in ODI cricket.

    In striking the ball with trademark flair in these six innings, Gayle has also put bums on seats. The turnout in the two Twenty20s against New Zealand in Florida was in stark contrast to the numbers that came to watch international cricket's American debut at the same venue in 2010. In two ODIs against the same opponents, played in Gayle's home of Jamaica, the crowds have been the largest they ever have been at Sabina Park for years. There is renewed interest in following West Indies, and Gayle has been the deciding factor.

    With the squad for the two Tests against New Zealand to be announced soon, Gayle's name must be one of the first penned when the selectors sit to make their call.