West Indies opening batsman Chris Gayle’s words have seemingly returned to haunt him.
Four years after stating he would not be sad if Test cricket died, the former regional captain and current skipper of the Jamaica Tallawahs in the Limacol Caribbean Premier League has expressed disappointment that he has been labelled a Twenty20 “mercenary” and that his performances in Test cricket over the years have been ignored.
“I have been giving my all for West Indies for 13 years now,” Gayle told The Indian Express. “So it’s sad when people just forget all that I’ve achieved for the Caribbean and use such derogatory terms. I have scored runs and won matches in Test cricket as well. There are other cricketers too who get bracketed in that category. It’s unfair but you can’t stop tongues from wagging.”
In 2009 while serving as West Indies captain Gayle turned up just two days before the first Test against England because of his commitments to the Indian Premier League. The remainder of the team had previously arrived in England. Gayle proceeded to make a duck and 28 in the first Test at Lord’s and West Indies were thrashed in the series. Gayle copped criticism for his late arrival by former West Indies captain Clive Lloyd and then English captain Andrew Strauss.
“I wouldn’t be so sad,” he said. “Some other players would be. Maybe Andrew Strauss would be sad. Maybe he will be sad if Test cricket dies and Twenty20 comes in. Because there is no way he can make the change. So tough luck. I have liked Twenty20 since it came in. I like it. Who doesn’t?” he said back then.
Gayle, who averages a respectable 42.45 from 97 Test matches, and has also registered 15 centuries, said that he was disappointed over the way things have been written about him during his sojourn around the world playing in different T20 tournaments and not much written when he was on West Indies duty. Gayle has easily been the West Indies best opening batsman since the retirement of opening greats Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes.
The muscular Jamaican stated that he enjoyed playing the shortest format of the name and no amount of hollering from the purists could stop the T20 format from becoming a force by itself in the game of cricket. Gayle said of the shortest format: “It’s the future and is growing bigger and bigger every day. Test cricket will survive, but you have to be realistic and accept things as they are.”
“You can come to the ground for two-and-a-half hours knowing that you will be enthralled for every minute you spend there. It’s become a serious business now. You have everyone from movie stars to celebrities coming in and trying to have their own piece of the pie,” he stated.
Gayle has attracted top dollar in several leagues across the world inclusive of Australia, India, South Africa, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, and touched upon the difficulties of acclimatising.
“I have been with (IPL franchise) Royal Challengers Bangalore for a few years now so that connect is there,” he said. “But it’s difficult to just go somewhere and feel the pulse of that city. I just go with an open mind.
“It’s not easy, landing up in a dressing room on short notice and having to get acclimatised immediately. I have been doing this year after year. And I have got used to the whole process. The secret is to not put pressure on yourself to fit into the ecosystem. The best way to make a mark is by winning matches for the team.
“The expectations are massive. They don’t just want runs or sixes from Chris Gayle but he has to entertain with bat, ball and in the field. Luckily, I love having fun and ensuring that the fans and everyone is getting their money’s worth.”
Gayle, who has has caught headlines during the CPL for his array of sunglasses, believes the tournament has a promising future.
“The CPL has a good look. So I needed one too. The IPL is obviously bigger than all other leagues put together. You have so many stars playing together. The CPL does have a long way to go but we’ll get there.”
Guyana Amazon Warriors and Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel meet in the first semi-final in Port-of-Spain tonight, while Gayle and his Jamaica Tallawahs face off against Barbados Tridents in the second one tomorrow.