I was not surprised when I read recently of Chris Gayle’s remarks about Test cricket. My opinion of the West Indian captain had already been forever coloured by his appearance in Simon Hughes’ book, ‘Morning Everyone’. Hughes describes how Gayle was seated next to former Sussex captain John Barclay at an MCC-hosted dinner at Arundel Castle before the first Test of 2004. Barclay, trying manfully to make conversation, told Gayle how much he had enjoyed a recent trip to Jamaica, and how fascinated he had been by the island’s capital, Kingston. Gayle’s response? ‘Get much pussy, man?’
It just about sums up the short-sighted, ignorant and lazy attitude that has bedevilled West Indian cricket over the last ten years. Gayle’s dismissal of the longer form of the game (and his assertion that he never really wanted to captain the national team and is looking forward to giving it up) fits into a pattern that has included embarrassing thrashings, the never-ending Digicel / Cable and Wireless saga, Sir Allen Stanford, and matches abandoned after ten balls. It makes the defeat of England over the winter even more remarkable.
The most ironic thing of all is that Gayle only commands his big-money IPL contract because of his performances in Test matches. Test cricket is where he has made his name. It is the years he has spent blazing away at the top of the Test order (including that mammoth triple hundred at St John’s) that have enabled Gayle to follow the money. The difference between Gayle and Kevin Pietersen is that Pietersen is clever enough to realise that without a Test career there is nothing.
As the much anticipated, well-scheduled one-day series between England and the West Indies finally gets under way at Bristol today, Gayle will be in his element. But he will soon be reminded that West Indian cricket-lovers are not happy. They know that commitment and success in Tests is what really matters. Everything else is icing on an increasingly over-rich cake.