By George Deyal
How telling it is that a picture of unity is the picture that resonates most.
After the West Indies victory over India in the 5th ODI in Jamaica, Marlon Samuels, the once exiled batsman from the West Indies team, pounded fists with his batting partner Kieron Pollard, and ran toward the light, there was no stopping him. The green light in this case was former West Indies captain Christopher Gayle, dressed in a neon green outfit that could be seen from space, an out of this world get-up that only a man with such confidence and a distinct persona as Chris Gayle could wear and get away with.
Samuels found his friend at the boundary and Gayle reached out his hand over the railing with a huge smile on his face, Samuels reached for Gayle’s hands, and the West Indies and Chris Gayle were united together for a brief and poignant moment in joint celebration.
There are many ways to interpret this gesture.
The two men are friends. Samuels went into a deep depression after his ban from international cricket following a match-fixing scandal. Samuels’ career and life once filled with promise and possibility had hit a solid seemingly-impenetrable wall. He could not see his way to his future anymore; he had lost his dream and lost his way. Chris Gayle was the man who steadied him. The rock of many who find him unbreakable in their time of need, Gayle helped Samuels torelax, refocus and see the light at the end of his purgatory.
This is why Chris Gayle isstill the de facto leader on the team. Chris Gayle, for anyone who has ever met him knows, has this immeasurable quality, a sort of magnetism that leadership demands. The senior players look up to him, they trust him to guide them in the right direction, the way he did with Samuels and so many others, both on and off the field. The WICB perhaps believes his influence will extend to the younger players. Which begs the question, what’s so wrong with that?
Chris Gayle is perhaps the greatest asset the West Indies Cricket Board has but they don’t realise it and don’t understand how to use it. It is like giving a technically inept or less-inclined person a Smartphone or laptop to use. Though they may figure out the basics, they do not understand how to unlock the true abilities and resources of these indispensable assets and never get the benefits. If they cannot understand the man, how can they unlock and utilize his gifts to their true potential?
Chris Gayle himself is a master of the BlackBerry, tweeting to fans, engaging with them in a way that resonates with them. Indeed, everything about Chris Gayle resonates with fans everywhere. He is the coolest man in the game, the dancer, partier, big hitter and jokester but is also the leader, the man who inspires faith, the finisher with the game on the line, the man whose tattooed shoulders are big enough to handle it all and be everything to entire continents of fans.
About the approach of the WICB to Gayle, it would seem that they want to control this being, this larger than life man who dances like a freight train when he gets a wicket. Would it not be a better idea to have this man on your side, and unleash him against your competition on the field, like the “Gayle storm” that ravaged the IPL? The Royal Challengers of Bangalore certainly understand how to embrace him, to allow him to be himself and to let loose this ‘Act of God’ with a cricket bat and their blessing.
The West Indies anthem, “Rally ‘Round the West Indies”, is certainly in the hearts of the West Indian fans but they have not been rallying with their wallets and the stands remain three-quarters empty. This is just one of the WICB’s current problems. They inspire hate from their fan-base, curses from the passionate and quizzical looks from the cricket intellectuals who study the game while they drive their taxis, work at their desks, and tell their children stories about the West Indies legacy that is a rite of passage for being born here.
A battle forged byErnest Hilaire, the CEO of the WICB with Chris Gayle, is what this all has amounted to, and for that, the fans and the game are paying the price.It is therefore imperative that we ponder the alternative routes Hilaire could have taken. His way has been well documented in the media and is now referred to as “The Hilaire Rules” or “The Hilaire Doctrine”, the “do-as-I-say-or-else” style of managing.
This style justcannot work on Gayle. This is not a production line, and one size does not fit all, his suits are in fact tailored just for him. He is a unique person who in just being himself and doing the things he is capable of doing, has captured the imagination, love and respect of all cricket fanatics.
For anyone who saw Gayle perform in the IPL, one thing was obvious, give Gayle his freedom and he will give you the world.
Time and again Mr. Gayle has insisted that his bat shall do the talking on the field.When he does speak however, Chris Gayle speaks of one thing- he wants to play for the West Indies.
Couldn’t Ernest Hilaire perhaps attempt to understand this man Chris Gayle, and celebrate his talent, skills and unique persona? Could he not embrace Gayle like the fans embrace Gayle? Could Hilaire not use his own touted training and abilities to form a bond with Gayle?
The two men could guide this team together, unless Chris Gayle is the only team playerin this scenario? Perhaps this is the most likely conclusion to be drawn from the lack of effort on the WICB side to include Gayle, and yet exhibit such unexplainable fervor to dismiss him.
No fan is truly convinced that this effort was ever made by the CEO of the WICB, and that is a shame., because right now Chris Gayle exemplifies and embodies everything West Indies Cricket stands for, the pride of our past legends, their larger than life selves, they made the world pay attention, made them both fear us and celebrate us. The West Indies team does not seem to inspire such spirit in its friends or foes.
This is what the moment with Marlon Samuels and Chris Gayle means to West Indies cricket, that for one moment, the spirit of the team was together again with the team itself. And we were all in, rallying for the West Indies.