Thursday’s (July 4) game against Afghanistan marked the ‘final’ World Cup appearance for part-time cricketer and full-time entertainer Christopher Henry Gayle. The 39-year-old got out for seven in that final game to culminate a rather disappointing 2019 ICC World Cup in which he managed just two half centuries despite playing all nine league games.
The southpaw from Jamaica came into the World Cup in brilliant form, as the second highest run scorer for Punjab in the Indian T20 league. Unfortunately, he never let go of that franchise mindset of playing the game, prioritizing entertainment over results. While the likes of Rohit Sharma and David Warner have been competing hard to be the top scorers of the competition, Gayle’s priorities seen to be a different tangent — getting the loudest cheer from the half sloshed English crowd for a lacklustre dive or showing his gym trainer he’s still capable of doing push-ups.
Playing for the country should be the ultimate moment of pride for a professional cricketer, especially if it is in a World Cup. All the more when you’re the senior player in the side with guys like Nicholas Pooran and Shai Hope looking up to you for inspiration and advice. It’s got to mean more than a giving a coy interview saying it was a disappointment to miss out on the top four.
Over the past couple of years, Gayle has been more effective as an Instagram marketer, promoting the ‘Universe Boss’ brand with flashy shoes and oversized bat strikers to drive the advertising home. The 39-year-old added his classic aviator shades to that collection when he decided to bowl without even once removing those shades in the game against England. He’s been a prudent future thinker, always staying two steps ahead of the curb by playing for the post retirement career as a social media influencer while still in the game.
Finally, coming onto the cricketing aspect — the West Indian is a massive liability on the field and while running between the wickets. Shuttling from fielding at short third-man to slip, covering a total radius of 5 meters on the ground. Apart from overdramatic dives to rouse an alcohol infused crowd and sluggish running to chase balls from the boundary lines, the Universe Boss has been a dud on the field.
And this is not a problem of age, it is a problem of commitment and fitness. MS Dhoni is just a little more than a year younger than the southpaw, but he remains one of the yardsticks of fitness when it comes to the global game. Playing too much of franchise-based cricket has possibly made Gayle a little complacent towards the gentleman’s game, taking to the field to have a good time and entertain the spectators.
The opener is a gamble with the bat as well, taking 15-20 balls generally to just assess the pitch conditions before he starts playing any shots. Gayle averages a meagre 30.25 for the World Cup, with three scores below 25.
With young players like Sunil Ambris, Chandrapaul Hemraj, Kieron Powell in the pipeline, the ‘retirement’ of Gayle could be one of the best things to happen to Windies cricket. His occasional flurries with the bat cannot be understated, but with a younger and more dynamic player, West Indies can always be assured of a better fielder. A fielder who will play with his undivided passion for the country without prioritizing the sales of his patented merchandise.
Feature image courtesy: AFP Photo/ Dibyangshu Sarkar