We are used to the big-hitting and entertaining knocks from this Spartan of a cricketer, but has our beloved son of modern day cricket become too motivated by the commercial aspect of the sport? When last has this towering figure of a cricketer contributed a century, even a half-century to the regional team? In the shortest version of the game, T20 Internationals, his last century was for the West Indies against South Africa in Johannesburg. On the 11th of September, 2007, he registered 117 runs off 57 balls, featuring 10 6’s and 7 4’s. Meanwhile in 2013 alone for the Royal Challengers Bangalore, he hammered his way to 175* off 66 balls featuring 17 6’s and 13 4’s. Before his knock for the RCB on April 23, he recorded 114 runs off 51 balls, featuring 12 6’s and 5 4’s for the Dhaka Gladiators on the 15th of February. At Gros Islet, on January 19, he powered his way to 122* off 61 balls featuring 12 6’s and 5 4’s for Jamaica against Guyana.
In his 50 Over Career, his most recent postings have been 109 runs off 100 balls against Sri Lanka at Sabina Park, during the most recent Tri-Nation Series of which the West Indies have been apart. It was on that day that he posted his 21st One-Day century and became the 6th leading centurion in One-Day cricket, behind leaders Sachin Tendulkar (49), Ricky Ponting (30) and Sanath Jayasuriya (28). On the list of ODI centurions, Gayle falls just behind Sourav Gangouly (22), ranks just above Saeed Anwar (20) and is right on-par with Herschelle Gibbs (21). The West Indies have won twelve games out of 21 when Gayle has posted hundreds and they have lost the remaining nine games despite Chris Gayle recording hundreds. With that score, Gayle registered his first score of fifty or more in fifteen innings. Prior to the Tri-Nation series including India and Sri Lanka, his previous century was 125 runs off 107 balls versus New Zealand at Sabina Park, Kingston on July 7, 2012. Gayle destroyed New Zealand’s listless bowling to reach his 20th ODI hundred, a new West Indian record as he went past the great Brian Lara’s tally. It was also his 5th fifty-plus score in six innings since his international exile. Mr. Gayle’s 19th One-Day century came in 2008 against New Zealand but this time at McClean Park, Napier. He plummeted the Tasmanian attack for 135 runs off 129 balls including 5 6’s and 9 4’s. It is a rarity these days for West Indies to enter a series as overwhelming favourites but although the regional team struggles against tougher opponents; it hasn’t taken them long to show how much of a gulf exists between them and New Zealand.
Pertaining to his Test Career, the Spartan of Rollington Town, has a tally of 15 centuries. Technically it is 17, counting the Triple Century against Sri Lanka in the Galle International Stadium as three. In that exceptional performance he recorded 333 runs off 437 balls after playing 653 minutes. His outstanding knock featured 9 6’s and 34 4’s with a strike rate of 76.20, until he was eventually bowled by Ajantha Mendis. That Test match between Sri Lanka and the West Indies in November 2010, resulted in a draw. Following that professional display, after a 19-month absence, Chris Gayle’s next Test cricket century was registered at the Sir Viv Richards Stadium in North Sound, Antigua. Gayle recorded an opening stand of 150 runs off 206 balls, encompassing 4 6’s and 17 4’s. The West Indies won that Test match by 9 wickets. His most recent Test Cricket century was in March 2013 against Zimbabwe; whose bowling attack was no match for the opener, who posted 101 runs off 145 balls, containing 4 6’s and 12 4’s with a strike rate of 69.65. Zimbabwe posted a first innings score of 175 all out in 60.5 overs and 141 in the second, all out for just 42.2 overs. The regional team won by an innings and 65 runs. With this being said, there should be no doubt about this man’s talismanic role in the West Indies team, especially since the departure of the great Brain Charles Lara.
Gayle was immediately appointed West Indies captain after Brian Lara’s untimely retirement from the game in early 2007. Of Course, his tenure as captain has not been absent controversy. In 2009, during a tour of England, he was quoted as saying ‘He did not want to captain the West Indies any more given the pressures involved, and that he wouldn’t be so “sad” if Test Cricket was superseded by Twenty20 cricket in the future.’ These comments sparked outrage from former West Indies heavyweights Sir Viv Richards and Garfield Sobers. Gayle later commented that his statement had been quoted out of context, according to Julian Hunte, President of the West Indies Cricket Board. In an interview with Mike Atherton at the conclusion of the West Indies defeat in their tour of England, Gayle stated that he was not going to resign the captaincy. In October 2010, the WICB replaced Chris Gayle and appointed Darren Sammy as West Indies captain. In April 2011 Gayle again criticised the West Indies Cricket Board and regional coach Ottis Gibson, resulting in a 19 month absence from the team. The WICB even went as far as to label the Jamaican, a ‘Don’ and accuse him of ‘Donmanship’ in the team and the team dressing room. On 6 April 2012, Gayle and the WICB reached an understanding which paved the way for the former West Indies captain to return to the regional team.
Chris Gayle is known for his characteristic hitting, imposing physique, and timing. He attributes the latter to being very thin when young, and having a heavy bat. He is known for appearing very calm as the bowler approaches. “Tall and imposing at the crease, he loves to carve through the covers off either foot, and has the ability to decimate the figures of even the thriftiest of opening bowlers” recorded Wisden and ESPNCricInfo. He is not ‘big’ on footwork but possesses numerous records that reflect his batting style, including record Twenty20 strike-rates and high scores. Gayle has proven his worth with the ball also and can be defined as a well-rounded cricketer. Who wouldn’t want such a dominant player on their team? Yet he has been left out of yet another tour, this time due to injury. After leading the Jamaica Tallawahs to victory in the inaugural Caribbean Premier League T20 tournament, one would think that exclusion from any side, for this man is suspect. After all, he has most definitely proven his worth and has participated in cricketing leagues across the world. With the number of T20 records he holds, he has certainly become a main attraction for Premier League faithfuls and investors in the shortest version of the game. He even said “Remember me as an entertainer.” He recently shot a television commercial in India depicting him as an upcoming singing superstar. Added to that, he became only the third high-profile Jamaican athlete to establish a restaurant enterprise, with the recent opening of the Triple Century Sports Bar & Grill, after the likes of Courtney ‘Cuddy’ Walsh and Usain St. Leo Bolt. Given all the bantering between himself and his nay-sayers, namely the WICB, Gayle has managed to do brilliantly for himself and none can deny his genuine passion for the lovely game. I know that his best is yet to emerge and he surely has much more in the ‘tank’. But has Christopher Henry Gayle become a commercial cricketer? Well if he has, I can’t say I blame him. What say you?