‘Gayle as great as Lara’ - Jamaican star hailed as West Indies legend after securing ODI runs record
Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) CEO Courtney Francis hailed firebrand Windies batsman Chris Gayle as a legendary figure in international cricket, likening his status to that of Trinidad and Tobago’s record-setting, Hall of Fame batting great Brian Lara.
Gayle, who came into the second one-day international (ODI) of the three-match series against India at the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad on 10,396 runs – nine off Lara’s total, surpassed the Trinidadian’s tally of 10,405 after he posted 11 runs from 24 balls to lift his overall tally to 10,408.
The Jamaican, in the process, became the West Indian with the most runs in one-day internationals.
Lara, considered by many to be one of the greatest batsmen of all time, having helped himself to batting records in all formats of the game, took 299 ODI games to achieve his landmark, while Gayle took one game more to reach his tally.
Francis noted the Jamaican’s achievement in ODI runs scored and games played, were similar to the great Trinidadian, and that both players should be talked about in the same breath.
“It has been significant, people have always been saying that Lara is a legend, and for him (Gayle) to have achieve a similar milestone with just one match difference speaks to the magnitude of his contribution to our cricket and our culture. I congratulate him, I am happy for him. Playing 300 ODIs is no easy feat, and we commend him and thank him for his contribution,” Francis told The Gleaner.
“He has to be ranked at the top. Runs make cricket and if he is the top (West Indies) run-getter, he must be revered. He is the highest runs scorer for West Indies, so that means he is our top ODI player as it relates to scoring runs, and it’s the same thing for Jamaica. He is our best ODI cricketer by far,” Francis continued.
With Gayle due to retire, Francis said it will be difficult to replace the towering batsman, both on and off the field.
“We appreciate the life of his career. We at the JCA and Lucas benefit as well because when he plays the various limited-over leagues, we get back productive incentive. We are hoping youngsters can emulate him in short order, not necessarily someone from Jamaica, but from the region. Someone who can have a stellar career and help bring back our cricket to be competitive. Teams fear West Indies when Chris is playing, so that (marquee player) will restore some confidence. If we don’t do that in short order, we are not going to have that global appeal we normally have,” he noted.
“People like Chris, you get them once a lifetime, he comes with so much cricket qualities. But it’s not just his performance, it’s his personality. He will engage the crowd, that’s his personality, and that goes with experience and how you make yourself into a brand.
“His outspokenness is an attribute we also enjoy, his honesty to the sport is outstanding and he is not afraid to talk out and let his bat speak for him. Also, a lot of (regional) players speak highly of him because he assist them not only on the field, but off the field. So he has a great influence on players and people respect him, not just for Jamaica, but West Indies and the limited over teams he represented around the globe. He is a real global figure and I don’t think he can be replaced, though we need to find someone relatively quickly so our cricket will be able to continue to compete globally,” said Francis.
Meanwhile, Errol Moodie, president of Gayle’s boyhood club, Lucas, agreed that Gayle is up there with the best West Indies batsmen and that Lucas intends to honour him when he’s available.
‘He has achieved much’
“Chris was a member of Lucas even before he went to high school. That’s where he learned cricket, that’s where he played cricket. He has achieved much and the club is happy. He is one of our own, who has endured a lot of persecution and has achieved much for West Indies cricket,” said Moodie.
“He has done much for Jamaican cricket and I believe he would have achieved more in Test cricket if he had spend more time playing Test, instead of T20s. But he is right up there with them (great). He’s a great player, but Chris relies on power and Lara on the classic cuts and drives. But their achievements are equally good for West Indies. So I want to express congratulations to him on the behalf of Lucas,” Moodie underlined.
Lara himself sent congratulations to Gayle through social media, tweeting, “Congratulations @henrygayle most runs by a West Indian in ODI cricket #muchdeserved #cricketforlife #MenInMaroon #ItsOurGame”.