Thanks for your service, rest now Mr Gayle

By April 22, 2020
Chris Gayle Chris Gayle

T20 cricket will not go away like some purists of cricket have expected. It’s faster, more intense, and for the average watcher, all-a-round more entertaining.

The biggest proponent of this big-hitting genre of the game has been the West Indies’ very own Christopher Henry Gayle.

Gayle has been dominant, setting benchmarks in almost every aspect of batsmanship in the T20 game with heirs to the throne well off the pace.

To date, the big left-hander has been at this T20 game for 15 years.

In those 15 years, his contribution to the growth of the sport has been immense.

Along the way, he has played in 404 games, scored 13,296 runs, smashed 22 centuries, 82 half-centuries and boasts a healthy strike rate of 146.94.

There is nobody close to that kind of body of work and Gayle should be proud.

He’s lasted longer than many thought he would or could and he may have more big innings left in him.

In fact, his last outing for the Chattogram Challengers in the Bangladesh Premier League including a typically destructive 64.

But the truth is, the Universe Boss is ageing and while runs have still come they are few and far between.

I was one of the few who felt Gayle should have been allowed more Test cricket before that option was taken off the table.

I believed that Gayle’s late, but growing maturity, meant he would have been dominant in Test cricket, just as he has been over the last 15 years in T20s, but that horse has gone through the gate and alas, there is nothing more for Gayle to prove.

I learned with deep concern earlier this week that Gayle would be turning out for the St Lucia Zouks in the Hero Caribbean Premier League and while that means I will get to see him live whenever the CPL gets the go-ahead to start, I can’t help but feel I will be disappointed.

The Chris Gayle who I saw at the last CPL, while still a most-impressive cricketer, is nowhere near the man I had been seeing over the last 15 or so years.

There was still the worry for the opposition that he would get off and they would have hell to pay, but there seemed some unsaid secret. The whispers said, ‘yeah he’s dangerous, but he’s not likely to be today’.

I do not want to abide by that. I do not want to see a man I considered a hero in the wake of the retirement of absolute legends like Brian Charles Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, be reduced to being a mere mortal.

His T20 average of 38.20 is quite brilliant, but it used to be higher.

Bowlers are still afraid of him, but they used to be more scared.

Teams used to plan for him as the key to beating a team he played on, they still do but now bank on success.

There has been much talk of Gayle retiring since he seemed to suggest he would do just that after his last World Cup in 2019. It hasn’t happened and while I am glad to have seen some more of this most explosive of enigmas, I am also saddened because I wanted him to go out at the top of his game.

I did not want to see a day when an available Chris Gayle does not make a West Indies T20 side. He is too good a player for that. Yet that day has come.

Two seasons ago, I watched at Sabina Park as Oshane Thomas bowled a quick length ball that crashed into Gayle’s pads. It was the first ball of the evening and my hero, though he played for the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots at the time, was sent packing, beaten for pace.

Gayle is blessed with great hand-eye coordination, but Thomas’ delivery said to me, that is going.

There was a time it didn’t matter how quick you were. Gayle would find a way to hit you to all parts of the ground. That day is past.

Now there have been a number of athletes who have waited too long to call it a day for varying reasons.

For some, they needed those last few paychecks to guarantee their futures, while others just loved the game they had dedicated their whole lives to so much, that walking away was like kicking a heroin habit, nigh on impossible.

I believe Gayle falls into the latter of the two categories. Financial future already secure, I believe Gayle is playing on for the love of the game.

But maybe he should consider something else as well. Maybe he should consider his legacy and his health.

I’ve watched Gayle unable to train because of a nagging back problem. I saw him chase down a cricket ball at Sabina Park and not be able to come out to bat until much later in the innings.

His diminishing ability and health hurts his image but it also hurts his team. Already Gayle’s stocks around the world have plummeted and he is not so sought after anymore.

Before it gets to the stage where he is not wanted by anybody, I ask that my hero calls it a day.

I ask that Cricket West Indies (CWI), as soon as it is safe to do so, give the Universe Boss, a fitting send-off.

Paul-Andre Walker

Paul-Andre is the Managing Editor at SportsMax.tv. He comes to the role with almost 20 years of experience as journalist. That experience includes all facets of media. He began as a sports Journalist in 2001, quickly moving into radio, where he was an editor before becoming a news editor and then an entertainment editor with one of the biggest media houses in the Caribbean.

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