Sun | May 24, 2020

Tanya Lee | Saluting “The Boss” Chris Gayle

Published:Friday | August 16, 2019 | 12:32 AMTanya Lee - Columnist -

So the One Day International (ODI) series between the West Indies and India has come and gone and unfortunately, the West Indies suffered yet another loss at the hands of India.

Sadly, the collective West Indies performance was forgettable, but within the loss over those ODIs, was something to smile about, something that had become all too familiar over the past two decades.

Christopher Henry Gayle provided enough fireworks in the first ODI, as he overtook the legendary Brian Lara to become the West Indies’ highest run-scorer in history. He now has a total 10, 480 runs over a record 301 One Day Internationals.

On the field, Gayle is known for high-quality entertainment and his accolades put him at the top of the pile. He is a massive sensation that is credited heavily for the success of the Indian Premier League, as no other batsman has given fans seven T20 centuries, or hit over 300 sixes.

As Gayle stepped onto the pitch for what was likely his final ODI this week, he reminded fans why they loved him to begin with, as he brandished a bat emblazoned “the boss” and a jersey numbered 301 to signify his record number of ODI appearances. He topped it off with a thrilling 71 runs from 41 deliveries, the team’s highest individual total. In doing so, I suppose he confirmed earning his spot on the team.

And certainly, there is more to Chris than his achievements with the bat. Gayle is a role model for his current team-mates. Young-batting sensation Shai Hope describes Chris as “a welcome presence in the dressing room”. When I asked Shai what was special about Gayle, he shared: “Chris is a real character; always keeping the atmosphere light, which helps to lift our spirits when we need it most.”

Hope also shared that Gayle has inspired him to “drown out the noise and just play cricket”. He added, “Regardless of his age, Chris can still hit the ball farther than most cricketers, effortlessly.”

And it is that effortless hitting of the ball that credits him with a feat that only Brian Lara has achieved for the West Indies. That of two triple Test centuries and a record six fours in one over! He introduced such remarkable flare to the traditional game!

But what has often gone unheralded and what is also part of Gayle’s legacy, is his effective brand of leadership throughout the years. I spoke with Dwayne Bravo, who played with Chris for 10 years from 2004 to 2014 and it is Chris’ leadership that he finds most noteworthy.

Bravo confirmed that as a player, he has been captained by the likes of Lara, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Darren Ganga, Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Daren Sammy, but of everyone, it is Chris that he says, “has the most natural ability to lead”. Bravo says, “The group of guys were in awe of his presence and he is the only captain that every single player admired and looked up to. Every single one. He is a fun-going person.”

Bravo shared that over the years, as their friendship developed, he became even more proud of Chris.

“As we got older and played longer together, I was just happy to see a fellow West Indian and a fellow friend with his achievements in cricket coming from Jamaica to dominate the world, not just as a T20 global superstar, but at the level where he dominated international cricket also as an opening batsman,” said Bravo.

“In his early stages, a lot of people questioned his technique and he just silenced them with his performance. I hope he continues to prove people wrong and continue to do great things for himself, for his country, for his fans, for the West Indies.”

As to his retirement, Bravo jokes, “He is the Universe Boss, congrats to him again and I wish he continues to play until he is 45 which is his international shirt number.”

That’s five years away as Chris celebrates his 40th birthday in September. We have no word yet on his retirement. For now, we raise our bats. A region is proud, and a nation salutes Chris Gayle. One love.