MELBOURNE – West Indies opening batsman Chris Gayle continued to be the focus of attention in Australia today with former Australian captain Ian Chappell advocating his worldwide ban from domestic Twenty20 franchise tournaments.
Chappell suggested that banning Gayle, who has earned millions from Twenty20 tournaments in South Africa, India, England, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Australia and the Caribbean, would send a message of “zero tolerance” to other players. The left-hander’s public overtures to a female reporter during the week that sparked divided international opinion was described by Chappell as “totally inappropriate behaviour”.
Chappell, who is a highly respected cricket commentator and writer, described Gayle as a repeat offender and suggested he was beyond help at this stage and thus the punishment would be a deterrent for other possible offenders.
“I wouldn’t have a problem if Cricket Australia said to the clubs, ‘he’s never to be contracted again in this country’,” Chappell said in Sydney today.
“And I also wouldn’t have a problem if Cricket Australia said to the ICC, ‘what we’re doing should be worldwide’.
“You’d have to talk to the individual countries then … but I wouldn’t have a problem if it was tabled at an ICC meeting that Cricket Australia said, ‘this is what we’re doing and we would recommend that everybody else do the same’.”
“How are you going to stop it otherwise?”
Though Gayle has apologised for any offence and said his approach to reporter Mel McLaughlin was a “simple joke”, Chappell said the Twenty20 star was “past help probably now”.
“If it was a one-off thing, yeah, slap him with a $10,000 fine and say ‘mate, don’t do it again’. But every woman I spoke to [about Gayle] who’s working at the cricket, you got the same answer from. They were quite adamant about it.”
Other Australian cricketers have weighed into Gayle with former Test player Shane Watson saying his behaviour was not surprising. He said he had known Gayle for a long time and he was renowned for such conduct. Watson suggested Gayle might need to accept his tendency for inappropriate behaviour and lack of “respect” towards a female journalist could mean he won’t ever be welcome back in the Big Bash League.
“In the end, people love the entertainment part of cricket, but there is also respect and that is also part of playing the game – on and off the field – in the right spirit.
“So, in the end, there is obviously people making the decisions either way but it’s not just what you bring on the field, it is what you bring off the field as well which is as important. The people who know Chris Gayle well know those are the sort of things that he can do at times – and at an inappropriate time – and obviously it gets him into a fair bit of trouble. I know Chris Gayle fairly well so that sort of thing is expected,” Watson said.
Another former Australian player, opener Chris Rogers, was scathing in his assessment of Gayle and described him as a “bad influence” on their younger teammates when they played together for the Sydney Thunder during the BBL’s inaugural season
“I was very wary of the role he was setting for the younger guys, and I spoke to them quite a bit about it. ‘Do you think this is good behaviour? Would you do this kind of thing?’” he said. “And all of them, all the young guys to give them credit were like ‘No, we don’t think this is right’.
“This is a pattern of behaviour. If you know the guy, you see it over and over.”
Watson did not flinch when asked if he was in the same boat as Rogers when it came to Gayle. “Yes,” he said. “I have played against Chris for a long time, since I started really, and that behaviour is fairly expected.”
Sydney Sixers’ batsman and former Test opener Ed Cowan said today that Gayle was the exception in cricket, describing the incident out of the “norm” for Australian cricketers.
“I’m sure most people would agree that he’s an outlier when it comes to how he goes about his business on the field and off the field,” said Cowan.
“The guys I play with are incredibly respectful to everyone that they work with professionally and I think that’s the general standard. It was a disappointing incident but I think it’s not the norm for an Australian cricketer to behave like that.”
But some Australians have been supportive of Gayle who is expected to open for the Melbourne Renegades on Saturday, when they host Melbourne Stars at Etihad Stadium.
Stand-in Melbourne Renegades skipper Cameron White said Gayle was in a “good place” ahead of the clash.
“Speaking to him and looking at his body language, I think he’s in a good place so hopefully what’s happened this week won’t affect his cricket too much,” White said.
White, who has taken over the captaincy from Aaron Finch – who is absent on one-day international duty – said the team had spent the day yesterday playing lawn bowls and Gayle had been in “good spirits”.
The former Australian representative couldn’t see any reason why Gayle should be prevented from suiting up again.
“Yes, why not?” White said. “The Renegades and Cricket Australia have had their say, the incident has happened and Chris has apologised so now it’s matter of concentrating on the game tomorrow night and hopefully Chris can play a big part in winning that game.”