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Chris Gayle vs Brendon McCullum: Who is the greatest T20 batsman ever?

A statistical comparison of Chris Gayle's & Brendon McCullum's T20 careers. McCullum would play his final international series in February.

Who’s better one amongst these two T20 stalwarts?

There are two batsmen in the world who almost every T20 franchise is after. One is Chris Gayle and the other is Brendon McCullum. Though brought up in the pre-T20 era, their batting style was found to be custom made for the T20 format when the youngest format descended into the cricketing world.

There is a lot in common between the two stalwarts barring the fact they bat with two different hands. They both flip technique the bird and hit balls to the parts of the grounds which the coaching manuals would not ask you to. Power is an inveterate part of their batting and they can both demoralize bowlers and banish them into oblivion.

As it is the case with most sports, the time is ripe to set the stage for an argument on who the better of the two batsmen is. Thus, this article aims to dissect the T20 careers of these two monstrous felons.

Why AB de Villiers and MS Dhoni have been ignored

Being two of the highest paid cricketers in the Indian Premiere League, it is natural that such a question is asked. In contrast to McCullum and Gayle, both AB de Villiers and Dhoni have batted lower in T20s. Though de Villiers now opens the innings for South Africa, for the most part of his career he has batted lower.

In a format as short as T20, batsmen who have the opportunity to bat longer have the predilection to score more. This is evident from the fact that the list of century scorers in T20 Internationals is dominated entirely by top-order batsmen. Hence, a batsman coming in the middle order or lower can only, at the most, play impactful cameos. This is supposed to be the reason behind the promotion of AB de Villiers to open the innings in T20Is for South Africa.

The South African averages a paltry 22.88 in T20Is while the Indian captain averages 33.29, much of which is due to his 22 not outs in 49 innings. As AB de Villiers continues to open the batting, he, in the future, might be co-opted into the debates of this sort, but for the time being he has to miss out.

Player

Inns

Runs

Average

Strike Rate

Highest Score

100s

50s

6s

Brendon McCullum

70

2140

35.66

136.21

123

2

13

91

Chris Gayle

43

1406

35.15

142.59

117

1

13

87


The international careers of McCullum and Chris Gayle

The captain of New Zealand is the leading run scorer in T20Is and he averages 35.66 which is a notch above that of Chris Gayle. As conspicuous from the numbers, there is hardly anything to choose between both these batsmen as far as international matches are concerned.

However, if matches against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and other Associate nations are ignored (Bangladesh has been left out since their rise in world cricket has been very recent), McCullum’s average drops to 31.07 while Gayle’s average ratchets up to 37.02. Though both batsmen are known for their weakness against spin bowling, their scoring across the world doesn’t suggest any such inadequacies, more due to the fact that the pitches for T20I are batsmen friendly.

A holistic view would lay bare the datum that both McCullum and Gayle have comparable records at the International level with neither taking a significant advantage over the other. But where Gayle stands above McCullum is in his performance against the top seven teams in T20Is. Yet, whether it could be considered as a factor to elevate Gayle over McCullum is mooted since Gayle’s performance versus Bangladesh is way below par as he averages only 18 against them in comparison to Brendon’s 179.

In T20 matches as a whole

Player

Inns

Runs

Average

Strike Rate

Highest Score

100

50s

6s

Brendon McCullum

216

6311

32.53

137.25

158*

7

31

290

Chris Gayle

230

8623

43.77

149.65

175*

16

54

618


The Jamaican clearly has a better record than McCullum as he has struck at a far better average and rate. Chris Gayle has also notched up more than twice the amount of centuries as he New Zealander and the number of sixes hit makes Gayle seem like a towering monster against a spooky midget.

It is obvious is that Gayle is the more toured of both and hence it is imperative to strike off the records in leagues where the quality is expected to be low. Hence, if all records except in leagues belonging to India, South Africa and Australia are ignored, Gayle’s average takes a dip to 39.02 while Brendon’s average stays relatively the same at 32.17.

The West Indian has also contributed significantly to his team score with him scoring 24.23% of his team’s total on an average in each match. The contribution increases to 26.7% in matches won. In contrast, McCullum has only contributed 18.8% to his team score on an average, but his contribution throttles to 26.91% in match victories. The almost 8% increase in contribution in match-wins, as opposed to Gayle's almost 2% materially, makes McCullum a better match winner. Howbeit, Gayle has been contributing consistently irrespective of the results, which makes a better batsman overall.

In an empirical point of view, McCullum has been more committed towards his national side while Gayle’s passion for leagues is no secret. The ailing back of McCullum doesn’t help him either. On the other hand, Chris Gayle has had his struggles against certain bowlers who managed to get the better of him such as Nuwan Kulasekara and Lasith Malinga, but his domination over every other bowler makes him a better T20 batsman.

As stats show Gayle emerges a clear winner as a batsman but given the captaincy and fielding value McCullum brings into a team would make franchises throw almost the same value on the Kiwi captain as on the West Indian.

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