Trust Chris Gayle to create a new world record in sixes. On Tuesday, the West Indian opener became the first player in Test cricket to slam a six off the very first ball in a match.

Never mind that the opposition was Bangladesh, whose bowling line-up would hardly give sleepless nights to any batsman. The fact is that it took a good 135 years since the first ball was bowled in Test cricket for this record to be created.

And it is only appropriate that the man to do it was Gayle who has enthralled crowds across the world with his big hitting. Come to think of it, it is equally fitting that it comes from the bat of a West Indian. Over the decades since it first entered the Test arena in 1928, the Caribbean has produced cricketers whose exploits are still spoken of today.

Gayle’s southpaw counterpart, and also an opener, was only a ball behind in this incredible record. In December 1975, Roy Fredericks smashed the second ball of Dennis Lillee for a six en route to a memorable 169. And this was at Perth, considered to be the fastest cricket pitch in the world. Fredericks was unstoppable as he gave Lillee, Thomson and Gilmour the pasting of their lives. He reached his 100 in 71 balls and the Aussies did not know what hit them!

Think sixes and Garry Sobers’ assault for Nottinghamshire against Glamorgan in 1968 comes to mind. The world’s finest all-rounder smashed six of them in a Malcolm Nash over and one of these hits was actually described as a 12 as the ball sailed out of the ground. Sobers was a genius who could twist the course of any match. He believed cricket was meant to entertain people, never mind if a game was lost in the bargain!

Yet another Calypso king was former opener Gordon Greenidge who hit 13 sixes in a mind-boggling 273 not out while playing for DH Robins’ X1 in 1974. The West Indian was the scourge of bowlers and his unbeaten 214 on the last day of a Test match at Lord’s will still be remembered in the years to come. The English bowlers were decimated as the West Indies galloped to 344 and won the match.

There are a host of formidable names from these little islands whose big hitting have excited spectators over the years. The list includes Clyde Walcott, Everton Weekes, Seymour Nurse, Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd and the incomparable Viv Richards. West Indies cricket is no longer the formidable force it was till the mid-‘90s but the likes of Gayle remind us of the immense natural talent it has to offer.

Indian cricket, in comparison, may not have such an array of big-hitters but Kapil Dev was one of the most exciting cricketers in recent times. His aggressive 175 not out against Zimbabwe helped India win the match en route to a historic World Cup triumph in 1983. Likewise, hitting four sixes in a row in a Test match to avert a follow on could only be done by Kapil Dev (against England). He stands tall in the big-hitters list.

murali.gopalan@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 15, 2012)
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