May 1, 2020

Is Time Wi Respect WI Players

When you talk about cricket’s all-time greats, it’s not long before you start rambling off a long list of West Indian names from yesteryear.

If names like Hall, Constantine, Headley, Weekes, Walcott, Worrell, Ramadhin, Valentine, Gibbs, Kallicharan, Murray, Roberts & Croft aren’t mentioned, then surely you’d here names like Griffiths, Rowe, Stollmeyer, Sobers, Garner, Holding, Kanhai, Marshall, Lloyd, Gomes, Dujon, Richards, or Greenidge & Haynes (it would be a travesty to utter one name and not the other in the same Breath.)

The fact that the younger audience reading this are dumbfounded that they didn’t see the likes of Hooper, Richardson, Walsh, Ambrose, Chanderpaul, Bravo (take your pick which one), Pollard, Gayle, or the “Prince of Port of Spain’s,” Brian Lara mentioned, only solidifies my point.

But why, in a region that has produced some of the finest to ever grace the cricketing field, do their governing agencies treat their “royals” with such disdain? The latest example involves franchise cricket, but the pattern of West Indian executive cricketing bodies maltreating their tried and tested veterans, remains the same.

Earlier this week, the Jamaican Tallawahs of the Caribbean Premier League, released arguably the greatest asset the modern day cricketing world has ever possessed… Chris Gayle. When in comes to the shortest format of the game, the proud Jamaican and self proclaimed “Universe Boss” is simply in a class by himself… literally! He is the only batsman to have scored more than 10,000 runs in T20 cricket. Considering that Gayle is less than 100 runs shy of 15,000 total first-class runs in this format, shows you how far the gap between him and everyone else is. By the way, as of the date this article was written, one player currently sits on exactly 10,000 runs. And, if you guessed that this person was another tall, powerful, six hitting machine from the Caribbean, you wouldn’t be wrong. For those of you who are still unsure who it is, I’ll give you a hint… he comes from the land of steel pan and soca, and his name rhymes with “Pollard”!

Back to Gayle. Why would the Caribbean franchise depart with the hard hitting, crowd pleasing, menacing opener, not to mention a son of the soil, in the twighlight of his illustrious career? One would tend to think that a viable reason is that perhaps the player simply isn’t very good anymore, or maybe he has no interest in representing his native land. However, a closer look into the matter, reveals quite the opposite in Gayle’s circumstance. In fact, Gayle was willing to take a pay cut to be able to retire in the gold, green and black colours of his beloved homeland. With regards to the notion of Gayle just not being able to make the grade anymore, his stats certainly argue otherwise.

Now, amittedly past his prime, his name still strikes fear into world-class, opening bowlers around the globe. His 122 not out in 54 balls for Vancouver Knights less than a year ago made him the first person to smash 1000 boundaries in the 20 over format. “Well, that is a Canadian league and the teams aren’t as good,” you say? Then how about his world record for sixes hit in a 5 match ODI series? Last year, the big left-hander smashed 39 maximums to go along with 424 runs in just 4 innings, at an average over 100 and a strike rate over 130. If he could take the formidable bowling attack of the World Cup Champions apart, then surely he could find a spot in first xi for the Reggae kings of the Caribbean.

The fact of the matter is that the Tallawahs brass have chosen to part with a home-grown product that is a proven match winner and from Gayle’s reaction, it’s quite probable there is more to the story.

When it comes to cricket politics, the normally tight lipped Gayle took to social media recently to discuss his “sacking.” In a three part youtube video response, Gayle takes some harsh shots at a couple members of the Tallawahs organization, including calling assistant coach and former teammate Ramnaresh Sarwan a “snake.” Jeff Miller, the CEO for the Tallawahs, is also heavily criticized as Gayle now believes that Miller knew all along be wasn’t going to be retained, yet still pestered Gayle about taking a pay cut, even after Gayle agreed to lower his playing salary twice. In the videos, one still gets the feeling, however, that there is much more he could have revealed, but, atypical of his flamboyant batting style, Gayle chose to restrain himself… at least somewhat.

We must remember too, that there are at least two sides to every story, and Gayle has certainly made more than a few controversial statements in the past. The Jamaica Tallawahs did finish at the bottom of the tables in the 2019 edition of the CPL, suggesting some changes were imminent. In this case, one might say that Gayle was wrong to expose the franchise’s “dirty laundry” and tarnish the character of some plausibly “good” people. Without being in Gayle’s shoes, you may find it difficult to argue against that sort of statement.

Whatever angle you look at this from, it still is, unfortunately, an all too familiar script that West Indian cricket fans have grown accustomed to throughout the years. Whether it be Brian Lara’s sudden retirement in 2007 as the WICB made it clear to him that they were heading in a new direction (despite him wanting to end his career after an upcoming tour of England), or Shivnarine Chanderpaul being blindsided and, as he says, “forced to retire,” (despite being less than 100 runs shy of eclipsing Lara’s all-time West Indian record of 11, 953 Test Match runs) , or Chris Gayle’s dismissal from the Jamaica Tallawahs, it’s just another example of how “WI” have certainly fallen short when it comes to honouring our own cricket legends with final farewells and tributes. Some who are on this list, just happen to be some of the greatest cricket players who ever played the game.

Triston DeCosta,

Below is the first of Chris Gayle’s three videos uploaded to YouTube, in response to him being “given the axe” by the Jamaica Tallawahs.



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