Come to a world cricket event and certain things can be banked on. Such as Chris Gayle producing a hurricane for the West Indies; or Shahid Afridi, dreadfully inconsistent yet wonderfully effective when he comes off, inspiring Pakistan.

Take out New Zealand's opening night foot-tripping of the hosts in Nagpur, and the pair of perennial heavy-hitting entertainers have been the eyecatchers of the first four matches of the world T20.

In Gayle's case, he's the one reason why the West Indies might go deep in the tournament.

The problem for the 2012 champions is there's no chance the big left-hander will come off every day. If you could guarantee he would, they'd most likely be short odds favourites for the title.


In the course of clouting 11 sixes off England in Mumbai this week en route to his 48-ball 100 not out, Gayle sailed past Brendon McCullum's world mark of 91 fence-clearers. McCullum would have liked that record but they took him 71 games; Gayle was playing his 46th.

He may have had his reputation irreparably besmirched with his leering behaviour to a female Australian interviewer during this season's Big Bash League, but if the focus is solely his batting, this is his court, T20 is his game and he is king.

Where Gayle may take a few balls to set his sights - on the basis he doesn't take long to get his strike rate up to 100 and far beyond - Afridi doesn't bother with such niceties.

"Boom Boom" just booms away from the off. He combines power with a no-fear philosophy. At times it comes undone and he looks a chump.

Afridi rarely goes big in numbers, but this is a game when a crucially timed 40 off 16 balls can be just the ticket.

Throw in his brisk legspin - in fact his bowling is his better suit - and you have a matchwinner, which Pakistan will be counting on, especially tomorrow night.

They play India in Kolkata, and Eden Gardens is sure to be a whirl of noise and colour for a match which as ever is about far more than cricket.

Pakistan can push India to the precipice of elimination in their back yard. How good would that feel? Can Afridi be the man for the biggest of occasions outside the final? Can Gayle prevail? All this and much more await in what should be a fun fortnight.