Dubai The giant figure is as awe-inspiring as one finds him on the crease, but Chris Gayle speaks ever so softly during an interview. “Thank you for getting me to Dubai, it’s been a while since I have been here,” the most destructive batsman in contemporary cricket said in response to my customary welcome line.
Clad in a casual T-shirt, bermudas and with his shades on, the Jamaican seemed to embodying the Caribbean spirit onto the lounge of Park Hyatt Hotel — where he is staying on a personal visit lined up with a number of commercial commitments. The deadpan demeanour easily breaks into an obliging smile while meeting fans or photographers even as he was settling down for an exclusive interview with Gulf News.
The last year and-a-half had been an eventful one for Gayle, during which he ‘came back’ to mainstream cricket again after a self-imposed exile due to his differences with the establishment and is enjoying every bit of it. At 34 years, Gayle is very much a professional cricketer who has been there and done that (he was the national team’s captain between 2007 and 2010 and has already spent 13 years in international cricket), but still sounds motivated enough to deliver in all formats of the game.
In a wide-ranging interview during, Gayle fielded questions on a range of issues, from his ‘comeback’ to international cricket to activities of his foundation. Following are the excerpts:
GULF NEWS: The team will certainly be depending heavily on you during the short tour of India next month. How are you looking forward to it? CHRIS GAYLE: Yes, I am really looking forward to the two Test matches. We have had a good break but it will be worktime again when we regroup together and do the rebuilding stuff. Personally speaking, I have never played a Test match in India and hope it can give me a good start to the season.
The two-Test series will also see Sachin Tendulkar playing his 200th Test match. Having played enough cricket against him, What’s your comment on the master batsman reaching the landmark?
It’s a great achievement to play 200 Test matches. I have played 97 and I can tell you the toll it takes on the body. The man has scored so many runs over such a long period of time and still has a tremendous work ethic ... he’s an absolute masterclass.
Hopefully, we will try to get him out as early as possible but his fans will not be happy. Overall, I hope it should be a good series.
It’s been nearly one and-a-half years since you have made a comeback in the West Indies team after the issues with the cricket board. How does it feel to be contributing to the national cause again?
I must say the comeback has been good so far. We have won six consecutive Test matches and hopefully, can make it seven in a row by winning the first one against India. I feel I still have a lot to offer to West Indies cricket in all formats of the game. I have been through the world and been around with the team for 12-13 years now, but I am still feeling good and hopefully can continue for some more time. I still want to score the double and triple hundreds ...
I was fortunate enough to be present at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo last year when your team won the T20 World Cup and you seemed to be completely over the moon. Was it only celebration or out of a sense of restoring some pride for the country?
It’s been a big moment for us really as we had not won something in a while. It was a fantastic experience and hopefully, we can defend the title next year. There is, however, a long way to go and lot of cricket to be played before that.
In a recent interview, Brian Lara said as an elder statesman of the West Indies team, you should now a mentoring role in the dressing room ...
We have quite a few youngsters at the moment but at the same time but I feel it’s better if they learn quickly rather than having somebody mentor them. Yes, I am always available for discussion and any advice if needed. We all communicate well, there is always a buzz in the dressing room and the team is doing well.
As I said, winning six Test matches on the way is a big improvement for us and we are now looking forward to seal the seventh one in India.
You have been really a talismanic figure in the Indian Premier League (IPL) with the memories of that brutal 175 last season still fresh in our memory. How has been the IPL journey for you?
It’s not only been good for me but for all international cricketers. There have been quite a few West Indian cricketers who have played a big role in the IPL and have been fine entertainers like (Kieron) Pollard, (Dwayne) Bravo and Sunil Narine. Kieron Cooper came in recently and also grabbed the opportunity with both hands. I am happy for the guys and it’s been financially rewarding for them as well.
Everybody is looking forward to the next season and hopefully, it will continue in the same vein.
The inaugural Caribbean Premier League T20 has also been a big success. Do you think it can emulate the IPL some day?
Definitely. I think this had been the best organised league after the IPL. It’s a wonderful experience, lot of people did not know what to expect but everything fell into place. The turnout was fantastic and the quality of cricket was good.
While the young fans are overwhelmed at your dominance of the T20 game, one gets a feeling that you often haven’t got your due as a Test batsman of the highest order?
I want to do more in all formats, there is no doubt about it. However, People tend to remember you more for what you have done recently while what
you have done in the past is often forgotten. Its’ no big deal for me but when I walk away from the game, I can look back with pride as an entertainer in all formats.
I know what I have done, I don’t need anybody to tell me about it. I have done lot of great things in all formats.
Your shirt number 333 in T20 is said to be a reminder of one of your triple centuries. Is that a kind of style statement?
Yes, it was my second triple hundred, while the first one was against South Africa. I was not in the best of form and I wanted to score a century against Sri Lanka as I did not have a hundred against them. I started aggressively and once I got to three figures, I wanted to make it a big one. It was a moment of pride for me.
How is your Chris Gayle Foundation doing?
It’s a new initiative through which we have opened an academy in England and Spartan has played a part in clothing of the youngsters. Back home,
I grew up playing for the Lucas Cricket Club and I want to build budding cricketers from this system.
What is usual piece of advice to any kid wanting to be a batsman?
They have to play their own way and not follow anybody. The bottom line is you have to enjoy the game but one has to be disciplined and put in a lot of hard work to reach a level. Always remember, anything is possible if you are willing to work hard for it.
Gayle in international cricket
Format Mts Inns NO Runs HS Ave SR 100 50
Tests 97 170 9 6836 333 42.45 59.77 15 34
ODIs 254 249 17 8743 153* 37.68 84.24 21 45
T20Is 34 33 3 999 117 33.30 143.32 1 10
IPL 59 58 10 2512 175* 52.33 160.20 4 16
-Compiled by Mohandas Menon