West Indies Cricket. It was a day millions of cricket lovers all over the world were waiting for. West Indies opener Chris Gayle has always been loved for the way he goes about his slaughtering job in a casual way on the ground. But the opener seemed to have lost that Midas touch as runs dried up from his blade.
As runs were not coming, the West Indies Cricket Board had expressed its misgivings about having him in the team and even his fans were losing patience.
But Gayle never lost his smile. Before leaving for Canberra to take on Zimbabwe in the ICC World Cup, West Indies were in Christchurch, playing against Pakistan in a must-win game after their shock loss to Ireland in the opener. Gayle didn’t score too many but his presence meant a lot to the West Indies team. He was constantly there with the team during practice, cracking jokes, playing pranks and urging the boys to get going. West Indies won and the Man of the Match in that game, Andre Russell, spoke about the positive impact Gayle had on the entire West Indian team.
On Tuesday, much to delight of his teammates, Gayle smashed quite a few records on the way to his first double century in ODI.
“Chris is just an amazing guy you share the changing room with. Even when he’s not scoring, he’s not miserable, he’s not grumpy. He’s happy, he’s laughing, he’s cheering everyone on the field, and that’s what we want from a big guy like him,” Russell said.
Due to Gayle’s recent slump in form, sources close to the team management said the WICB would have been happy to leave the maverick opener out. But Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard had already been removed and it would have been difficult for WICB to have a team without Gayle and Darren Sammy, another player on the verge of being left out. “Right from the time the team landed in New Zealand for the World Cup campaign, Gayle, along with Sammy, played a very positive role with this bunch of boys. They have acted like true leaders despite having a young captain in the team,” the source added.
Even though Gayle has his backers in the team, WICB had openly criticized the champion left-hander after the game against Pakistan. WICB chairman Dave Cameron had re-tweeted a fan’s comment “Gayle goes… can’t buy runs… let’s give him a retirement package… can’t fail repeatedly and still front-up based on reputation.” Cameron was criticized by West Indies Players Association chief Dinanath Ramnarine for his “immature approach” and the chairman later deleted the tweet.
But the damage had been done. Gayle gave the impression after his super show in Canberra that he has kept a track of all the developments.
“I was under pressure to score runs, and I kept getting messages from Twitter and on my cell phone from fans. I have never known so many people wanting Chris Gayle to do so well,” he said after his knock that helped his team beat Zimbabwe and keep them afloat in the World Cup.
“I have never felt this kind of pressure, but in the end, I am sure I gave them something to talk about,” said Gayle.
“It was a bit slow at the start, not to mention the ball keeping low. I just tried to take the bull by the horns and hang in there and try and build an innings. A lot of time people don’t know what you are going through. I had some issues with injuries. I am also not getting any younger so age is definitely catching up on me. Overall I am really happy, and I just want to try and build on this as much as possible.”
I just want to try and build on this momentum and move ahead as we look towards the South Africa game,” Gayle said. Well, the World Cup has just begun for him.