#Chris Gayle is a man of few words… on the record, at least. However, when the sexy young West Indies cricketer speaks off the record… that’s a very different story. Suffice it to say the smooth-talking Jamaican batsman with a boyish laugh expressive of his twenty years has ‘nuff’ talk and a wicked sense of humour. This article however, is all strictly on the record, and Gayle is the type who tends to keep his cards close to his chest. Still this journalist managed to get him to open up a little bit.
This was no easy task. Gayle claims to be quiet and shy and not really one for talking much and while my tape recorder was on, this was certainly the case. Gayle admitted to me that’s he’s a very private person. This reserve is tinged with caution. When questioned about what he considers to be his weakness in #cricket, he paused then asked:
“Should I say that? If I say my weakness, then people going to know it… and will get me out.”
The conversation turned to his personal cricketing goals and I asked him whether he had ambitions with regards to that magic number-375. Again Gayle was tentative, only offering non-commitally:
“You could say that.”
He was equally evasive when asked about his feelings about the end-of—year tour of Australia. The Steve Waugh-led team is only one victory away from equaling the West Indies fifteen-year record of eleven consecutive test victories. Their shot at history will come against our guys later this year and the Australians are chomping at the bit. This tour will hence carry even more significance and drama than the usual Aussie/Windies duels. Yet Gayle was unemotional about this nerve-racking prospect, merely saying calmly:
“Well, I don’t know yet if I’ll be selected.”
This guarded attitude carries over into more personal topics … on the record at least. Yet I did manage to get it out of him that he has had a lady in his life for a year now- a long-distance love who’s based in Miami. Sorry girls, you’re out of luck! So what is it that she has that helped her snag the gorgeous Gayle? Presumably she’s caring and the type of woman who will come and look him up and “sit and talk about certain things” when he’s down. That’s what he said he looks for in a lady, anyway. That was also all the romantic information I could get him to offer … on the record. Well, he did say he was shy.
The place he really seems to let his guard down is on the cricket field. Once he’s in the middle, Chris is rarely on the defensive and usually on the attack. He described himself as a “strokeplayer” and certainly various commentators have noted that Gayle likes to feel bat on ball. His Busta Cup figures pay testament to that view. With an average of 56.63, Gayle was named the Busta Cup’s Most Valuable Player. Gayle dominated the regional bowling attacks with supreme confidence, which he possesses in no short supply. Self-assuredness is his trademark, and though he is currently the youngest member of the West Indies team, he doesn’t let this faze him at all. The stylish left-hander has worked his way up through the ranks, playing on the Jamaican under-19 team that captured the Nortel championship in 1998, the West Indies Under-19 team, the Jamaican senior side and the West Indies A team before making his international debut for the West Indies last year in the DMC Cup in Toronto shortly before his twentieth birthday. He’s also played for Excelsior High School, alma mater of the indefatigable Courtney Walsh and he was instrumental in Lucas Cricket Club’s victory in Jamaica’s domestic tournament. No wonder he’s confident. Part of this confidence also comes from being part of a cricket-mad family. He grew up with five brothers and one sister in Duhaney Park, Kingston, and all of his brothers play cricket. Three play at the Under-19 level and one at the Under-15 level in Jamaica. Gayle modestly claimed that the most talented one of the lot didn’t play.
With such a family, it was only natural that cricket would always have been his first-choice sport. Christopher was always determined to play cricket for the West Indies team. He declared he was always certain that he would make it on to the team. When I asked how was it that he was so sure of this, he spoke as if it was very obvious:
“That was my dream, that was my goal… I set a goal.”
When asked if he would describe himself as determined, he replied firmly:
“Very much. I’m a determined person.”
Being such a focused person, he has little tolerance for what he describes as “negative talking”, and can’t stand, it when people are too quick with the criticism. Maybe this is because in recent times, much doubt has been cast on the ability of the younger batsmen to be world class. Not only that, but insularity reared its ugly head earlier in the tour with people openly questioning the proliferation of Jamaicans on the West Indies side. To the latter group of naysayers, Gayle simply had this to say:
“Check the records,” referring of course to Jamaica’s recent showing in the regional cricket season where they won both the Red Stripe Bowl and the Busta Cup. With reference to those who doubt the potential of the new wave of West Indian batsmen, he said that the younger players simply need to get the chance to prove themselves. Gayle has been proving the detractors wrong so far, with encouraging performances with both bat and ball in the Cable and Wireless Series. He rates as his best moment his debut test match in Trinidad where he turned in an admirable all-round performance, scoring 33 in the first innings, and taking 3/25 in the Zimbabwean first innings to help the West Indies to a memorable victory. Though the crowd was minimal, he still felt some butterflies in his stomach at first, but he quickly got over it. He explained:
“It’s a natural thing. Once I’m playing in any game at all, I’m always nervous at the start.”
Conversely, his worst moment thus far also came in that first test match, when he suffered the humiliation of getting out for a first-ball duck.
However, Chris has put that behind him and is looking to just enjoy himself, both on and off the cricket field. Off the field, he unwinds by watching t.v., listening to reggae and hip-hop and nightclubbing.
On the field, Gayle is reveling in that winning feeling (at the time of this interview, the team still had a 100% winning record under Jimmy Adams’ captaincy) and hopes to be a part of that for as long as possible.
We discussed many, many other things, but those are all off the record and anyway this is a family newspaper! You’ll just have to take my word for it when I say that Chris Gayle is an enigma who keeps one on one’s toes. He presents as much of an intriguing challenge with his quick wit as he does with the willow… and that’s for the record.