The curious case of Christopher Henry Gayle grows stranger by the day.
Here is a man who has two Test triple hundreds under his belt; his ability to scorch opposition bowlers with his big hitting has the best demoralised and he continues to take the West Indian domestic league, Regional Super 50, by storm.
Middlesex are yet another team that seeks to have the buccaneer in their midst. Gayle is perhaps the most successful free agent in the cricketing realm.
Following the exit of Brian Charles Lara, Gayle dons the mantle of "Entertainer" with typical Calypso swagger. However, he has no place in the current West Indian scheme of things.
His running feud with the West Indies Cricket Board is well documented. The West Indian Players Association (WIPA) rallied to his defence, but to no avail.
Gayle rubbed the high and mighty in the corridors of power the wrong way with his damning indictment of their high-handed ways. His displacement from the national side following disagreements with Dr. Ernest Hilaire of the WICB forced him to cast aside the kid gloves and slam the board’s idiosyncratic ways.
In a radio interview with KLAS Sports, Gayle said, "I wanted to get back on track as quickly as possible. I wanted to play and represent West Indies. This was my ultimate goal, since I did not have a contract, but I was forced into this decision (playing for RCB) because teams were picked, I was not informed about what was happening, and I did not know what the future would hold.
"The matches could be played, and other players do well, and I could still be sitting on the sidelines, so I had no other choice," he said.
Gayle continued, "I have served West Indies for many years, but I was disrespected a lot, and I have been playing under a lot of pressure. I can’t sleep properly. I need to get this off my chest.
"I want everybody to print what I said, I want to clear the air, and I want them to ease up. WICB...back up offa my back."
The WICB are in no mood to relent.
A retraction of his statements is a mandatory requirement for his reinstatement.
WICB director Clive Lloyd told ESPN, "First of all, it is disappointing that the matter has gone on for as long as it has.What we need now is closure and, to be fair, anyone of whom those comments were made would have a right to take umbrage.
"Withdrawing the comments would be the intelligent thing to do to get the issue resolved and have everyone move on," Lloyd said. "We need senior players to be in the setup to drive the progress forward and any team would love to entertain Gayle, but under the right circumstances."
What are the options open to Chris Gayle?
The first is that he continues his merry ways, plundering runs and purses in the IPL, the Champions League and the Big Bash Down Under. Let’s make hay while the sun shines, and everything else can take care of itself.
The second—less palatable—choice is to bite the bullet and retract his "offensive" statements concerning the running of West Indian cricket and the shoddy treatment meted out to him, accept Clive Lloyd’s offer at face value and buckle down to serve West Indian cricket for the best part of the next five years.
History, hopefully, will then be rewritten by a modern one-day great.
After all, doesn’t Virender Sehwag deserve competition worthy of his swift blade? Shouldn’t Indian fans have the opportunity to watch Chris Gayle parade his wares in the supreme form of the game?
Should petty politics drown out the cries of fans all over the world?
The third less obvious option—not so much to the man in the centre of the storm—is the penning of an autobiography that lays his soul bare to whosoever cares to learn more about the travails of a millionaire swashbuckler.
Shane Watson, Shoaib Akhtar and Imran Khan are among the latest to release their life stories. Gayle is well within his rights to follow suit.
Sure, there are commercial considerations at stake, but then every cricketer is a brand, isn’t he? Gotta milk it for all its worth.
However, biographies signal that one believes that one’s best performances are in the past—specifically in the case of sportsmen. Not always the case, but Gayle should hold off from pursuing any such endeavour, even as he attempts to set the record straight.
Fans would rather have him setting fresh ones.
If I were Gayle (but then, I’m not) , I’d bite the bullet and opt for the second alternative—if, as he claims, he is truly intent on turning out in West Indian colours.
Not because the current set of administrators are paragons of virtue; they could well be jokers (as Mohinder Amarnath once put it). But, simply because the man calling for understanding and restraint is a person of stature and repute and whose word caries a great deal of weight not just in West Indian cricketing circles but across the globe.
Can Clive Lloyd assure Gayle that there will be no witch hunts, no cold-shouldering, no schisms to disrupt players from giving their best on the field? West Indian cricket could well turn a corner—sooner rather than later.
Are Christopher Henry Gayle and Clive Lloyd up for their sternest test? Can a gentleman’s agreement suffice in what's evidently no longer a "gentleman’s game"?
Keep your fears to yourself, but share your inspiration with others.
—Robert Louis Stevenson
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