Gayle the mercenary

2014-12-05 00:00

WEST Indian Chris Gayle must be world cricket’s biggest enigma.

He has played more than 100 Test matches, draws the crowds in the shorter format of the game and is one of only four players — Donald Bradman, ­Virender Sehwag and Brian Lara — to score two Test triple hundreds.

His size, strength and superb eye ­enables him to adopt a stand and deliver attitude at the crease and it’s fair to say, not too many of his shots and how he executes them would be found in a cricket coaching manual.

When he first started playing Test cricket for the West Indies, that dour Yorkshireman and English ego hunter Geoff Boycott passed comments along the line of Gayle’s lack of footwork, poor shot selection and the inevitable ­conclusion of his (Boycott’s) mom being able to perform better in the middle.

More than 7 000 Test runs later, Gayle has proven Geoffrey wrong, yet these days, it’s worth asking if Test cricket ­really means that much to players, ­particularly Gayle.

With the advent of T20 cricket, many players have shifted their focus to the ­crusade for that extra dollar, the lure of big cash powerful enough to take preference over the traditional, longer format of the game.

Many players still refer to Test cricket as the ultimate contest between bat and ball and rightly so, as the annals of the game record and acclaim feats done in white clothing, with the red ball, above all others.

But Gayle seems to have become a cricket mercenary, the Indiana Jones of the game as he goes on more than just one last crusade to find another treasure trove of lovely lolly.

Look him up on the Internet and the list of major teams he has played for reads longer than many an accomplished cricketer’s achievements.

His style of play has made him a T20 commodity and he has represented the Dhaka Gladiators, Jamaica Tallawahs, Kolkota Knight Riders, Matabeleland Tuskers, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Stanford Superstars and Sydney Thunder in this format.

On South African soil, he seems more picky when it comes to his welfare, twice “signing” for the Dolphins in the ­domestic T20 competition and never hitting a ball and this time around, miracle of miracles, actually playing a game or two for the Lions.

What he is being paid is undisclosed, but it seems he has reached a spot where he can call his own tune, deciding when he should make an appearance or cite injury as a concern when playing becomes too tiresome, knowing there is another treasure box waiting for him elsewhere.

After a great start for the Lions, he has failed of late and yes, no surprises, cried foul in a few games, unable to play.

With the West Indian tour to our land starting this month, he has already pulled out of the three-match Test series, citing a back injury.

He never showed up on the recent India tour, which was cut short, and although he has forfeited his Test spot, he has made himself available for the Lions in their Ram Slam T20 Challenge play-off against the Knights on Sunday. This to secure a spot in the final against the ­Cobras.

It doesn’t add up, yet there is always a case for the defence. This time, the back injury has been conveniently used to seal the deal by indicating that Test cricket, which involves long stays at the crease, will place too much strain on the body, while a few overs at the crease bashing away in T20 cricket won’t be such a ­hindrance.

There could be some substance in that but, with all the recent pay disputes rocking West Indies cricket, it’s clear to see that representing your country in the purest form of the game is not worth the attention given to a state, provincial or island franchise wanting someone who can hit a cricket ball hard to put bums on seats.

Less work means more pay in today’s world and having knocked up a century of Test caps and piles of runs, it’s just too much effort to stand in the hot ­African sun for five days. After all, ­sunstroke could be the result and ­coupled with a back problem … one shudders at the thought.

Far better for the Gayle force to rig up ship, set his sails and see where the wind takes him for the next boost to his bank account.

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