Cricket: Players In Focus: Alastair Cook, Martin Guptill and Chris Gayle


Chris Gayle playing for the Sydney Thunder, Jan 2013 (photo mine)

Chris Gayle playing for the Sydney Thunder, Jan 2013 (photo mine)

Sports teams need leaders.  Whether it be a captain, or an experienced head, someone on the field needs to be able to take charge and encourage.

England captain Alastair Cook, New Zealand opener Martin Guptill and West Indian whirlwind Chris Gayle continue to light up stadiums around the world with powerful performances, and are three such players who are not only leaders for their team, but also their country.

Cook

Since taking over the test captaincy from Andrew Strauss in August of 2012, Cook immediately established himself as a captain who could also be tasked to perform at the top of the order.

Cook is a superb cover driver of the ball, and also has a mean pull shot.  He destroyed the Australian squad during the 2010-2011 Ashes, amassing 766 runs at an astonishing average of 127.66.  It was the series that brought Cook’s profile up from solid opener to the complete batsman.

That same series also saw the technique of the left-hand opener find much more strength in front foot shots, previously often dismissed playing around his front pad.

There is an air of incredible consistency during the last two years for Cook, especially in the test arena.  Admirably settling into the captaincy, Alastair has proved more than capable of leading England of late – and more often than not the Poms have produced the results.

With the two upcoming Ashes series in 2013, expectations are mounting for Cook to lead his troops to victory.  A whole host of experienced players – Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell in particular – plus the likes of Joe Root and Nick Compton have set England up with a big pool of talent to choose from.

At the top of the order, Cook is incredibly composed facing the new ball.  The influence that he can impart on an innings shows with his confident yet unspectacular style.

His leadership, combined with his batting and very good slip fielding skills, make him the perfect person to lead England to Ashes victory.

Guptill

When Guptill is on song, the rest of the New Zealand squad seems to follow in the openers footsteps.  Having just two toes on his left foot has not stopped the New Zealand opener from tearing bowling attacks around the world apart.

A majestic 189 not out against England just prior to the Champions Trophy was a master class of strokeplay, endurance and crafting shots.  Just four years into a career (Guptill is now 26) and Guptill has proved he can build an innings; he now just needs to be consistent.

It took time before Guptill found the zone, playing with several clubs, including English county side Derbyshire, where the hard hitter scored two centuries in the one day competition, and 537 runs in the County Championship.

Stamping his name into the history books with a blistering 101 not out in a Twenty20 international, Guptill has won many fans around the world, in particular for his dexterity wielding the willow.  Timing is everything when playing the big shots, and Guptill has got that down pat.

New Zealand cricket has also begun to lift its results in recent months, and while Guptill has not been involved in all the success, his impact on the big games has certainly been turning heads.

Gayle

The West Indian dynamo can turn the game on its head quickly.  He is also capable of putting a ball some thirty rows back – or out of the park if he so desires.

Records fall like flies when Gayle is batting.  Two of his biggest achievements include hitting the first ball of a 2012 test match for six, and two triple centuries in the five day game.

Gayle is incredibly strong and very good square of the wicket.  While he is a hit-and-miss type player, if he finds the middle, everyone ducks for cover.

Gayle is a delight to watch on field; he is so incredibly relaxed.  Like a panther ready to pounce on anything that comes his way, the Twenty20 format is his home; the Indian Premier League has seen many a six, hundred and lost ball from the bat of Gayle.

He is a handy off-spin bowler as well.  72 test match wickets, including two five wicket hauls, means that the “Gayleforce” is not to be taken lightly with the ball in hand.

However, it is his batting prowess that the cricketing world is in awe of.  Watching some of his towering sixes at the MCG during the Big Bash League earlier this year was a sight to behold.

For a period of time Gayle had a dispute with the West Indian cricket board over pay rates, and the squad dearly missed his services.  He came back in 2012 and immediately was back to his best.

Gayle can also dig deep and find a way to keep his wicket, making an unbeaten 165 against Australia in 2009.

Summary

Cook has the biggest challenge of the three in the immediate future, taking on the Australians at home.  Guptill continues to impress with his technique, and Gayle is still getting crowds worked up with excitement.

The impact that these three batsmen can have on a game is immense.  From the sublime cover driving of Cook, to the square cut of Guptill, and sheer power of Gayle, a game can turn in the space of a few balls from the bats of these three players.

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