“A towering presence in the middle, one which intimidated opponents even before a ball was bowled.” Needless to say, the above description fits perfectly for a number of Caribbean legends. But the cliche “The list goes on” doesn’t hold merit here, that club is finite and exclusive.
There are a number of boxes to be ticked to be called a flag-bearer of the Caribbean legacy and one player in the last 18 years, who goes by the name Christopher Henry Gayle, took over the mantle of keeping the West Indies flag high and boy, he’s done a magnificent job. What is this Caribbean flair which so many people talk about with so much effervescence?
It represents a culture whose grassroots were laid by some immortals from the 1950s like Clyde Walcott, Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Everton Weekes, Sir Wesley Winfield Hall, Charlie Griffith and others.
When Charlie Griffith’s deadly bouncer hit Nari Contractor’s head, skipper Frank Worrell donated his blood that night and next day morning was on the field to lead the team. This story is still revered and reiterated in many parts of the cricketing world, singing praises to glorify how brutal and kind they can be.
A number of Windies players continued the physical intimidation in the next era under Clive Lloyd‘s captaincy, backed by an indomitable spirit to never give up. To glitter up this existing pneuma, Sir Vivian Richards personified the word swagger even before the newbie social media freaks coined that term.
Brian Lara carried the legacy of Windies being gritty, whilst the fast bowling legends Curtley Ambrose and Courtney Walsh ensured the Windies were still the “Kind giants”.
There are a number of attributes which combine to make their cricketing nation so beautiful. Grit, passion, perseverance, intimidation, swagger, crowd-pulling ability and most importantly, earning the love of millions beyond the boundaries of their homelands – this is what the West Indies cricket represents.
To those who still fail to understand what Chris Gayle did as a player, he carried the Caribbean beacon, protected it from adversities and kept it alive when most people around him had given up. He pretty much had all of those aforementioned attributes in him and that is what makes his career a very special chapter not just in Windies, but in cricket history.
A demigod of the shortest format
Gayle’s enormous contribution to T20 cricket’s meteoric rise is something we can talk about for an eternity and still miss out on many important moments. A lot of fans and experts would not think twice to say yes if I say Gayle is one of the biggest reasons why Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) is a huge club in this country.
Chris Gayle found no buyers in the 2011 IPL auction having represented the Kolkata Knight Riders for the first three seasons. Dirk Nannes’ injury propelled the Royal Challengers Bangalore to look for a replacement and the Universe Boss was brought in, which still remains one of the finest calls ever taken by the franchise. Incidentally, he played his first game for RCB against a club which left him (KKR) and even smashed a sensational hundred.
In the coming years, he went on to achieve a number of unthinkable records in the IPL which includes two Orange Caps, a whirlwind 175-run knock which till date is the highest individual score in T20 cricket and most importantly, he made the fans drive their way to stadiums. He is also the first person in history to touch the 10,000 run-mark in T20 history, a feat which he richly deserves to own.
His on and off affair with the national side did scar his reputation to a great extent, but he did a fantastic job wearing the maroon jersey. Chris Gayle recently surpassed Brian Lara to become their highest run-scorer in ODIs and is a mind-boggling club of players with two triple centuries in Test match cricket (Others are Sir Donald Bradman, Virender Sehwag and Brian Lara).
He achieved a lot of numbers during his stint which will be difficult to catch up with, but one facet of his game which will definitely be impossible to reach is his ability to connect with crowds. He is one of those few cricketers who got a standing ovation from Antigua to Adelaide, no matter which team he was playing for.
Among the other crowd favourites of this generation like Brendon McCullum, Adam Gilchrist and AB de Villiers, Gayle had an ability which the others didn’t. From hitting a herculean six to smashing a boundary, from picking a wicket to plucking a stunner out of thin air, forget the usuals, Gayle can put a smile on fans’ faces by just holding the ball in his hands for some seconds or by showing off some of his dance moves. He was a package like no other.
We cannot thank the great man enough for all those moments of joy and to say cricket will miss him would be the mother of all understatements. The Universe Boss, as he’s proclaimed, leaves a void behind which this sport will find difficult to fill.
Thank You for the memories, Chris!
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