Chris Gayle wasn’t always born to score big runs. In his ODI debut, he managed a score of 1. In losing his wicket to part-timer Robin Singh, the Jamaican’s maiden effort lent perfect tonality to 1999- a year synonymous to West Indies’ spiral decline. However, in his Test debut, a year later, Gayle struck six fluent boundaries against Zimbabwe.
As ironical as it sounds, Gayle’s tally in international cricket- 2 triple hundreds, over 18,000 international runs (collected from 425 first-class appearances), 39 first-class centuries (including 22 ODI tons) and somewhere in excess of 10,500 runs from freelancing T20 duties stands in stark contrast to his initial scores when he broke on the big stage.
As fans, you might wonder is it the same bloke whose maiden Test game saw scores of 0 and 33, and whose ODI debut against India fetched him a solitary run?
But the Gayle story isn’t about runs scored. Or, just about the sixes hit with a faint movement of those burly muscles. In fact, Gayle’s an inspiration. These 5 relatively less highlighted facts about the Jamaican mark a journey often understated, unrestricted by those big-hitting achievements.
1. Chris Gayle has battled a heart condition
It’s November 2005 and the West Indies were in Australia. In a month, humiliation follows, and a familiar West Indies story. Although, it’s the last time for Lara in Down Under and a series where he overtakes Alan Border’s Test record of 11,174 Test runs in front of Border, the West Indies have found a new problem, a grave one.
Gayle, who has made a fighting 33 at Brisbane and a fluent 56, days later at Hobart, fails to participate at Adelaide. It turns out while fielding in the earlier Test, he begins to get dizzy, finally faints and, is taken out to a medical facility whereupon intense diagnosis; it appears that the tall West Indian has developed a heart condition.
But in the years that followed, in fact in the immediate future of Gayle’s hospitalization, the carefree leftie makes a pact to live life to the fullest; each day at a time. Today- we are seeing media reporting Chris Gayle resuming Test duties- something he confesses to having missed out on big. It’s also a format where he’s struck 15 centuries thus far and notched up over 100 Tests.
2. Gayle’s inspiration in life isn’t who you think it is
You have seen him dance freely on the field. You’ve registered those ‘Gangnam’ dance moves as well. But do you know who gave the mighty ‘Six Hitting Machine’ those early lessons in the field?
Neither was it a celebrated coach or a famous ex-cricketer. Rather, Gayle was taught how to bat and develop his batting by his primary school teacher, Mrs. June Hamilton.
The lad might be ruling the cricketing galaxy today but his feet are firmly etched on the ground. In 2014, at the wake of playing what was his 100th Test, Gayle invited his teacher to witness his major Test landmark. Full marks, right?
3. Gayle’s been playing for the last three years with a sore back
You read that right. Mighty Henry Gayle isn’t the fastest runner between the wickets. Somewhere between his triple hundreds- 317 versus S.A. in 2005 and, 333 versus Sri Lanka in 2010 and the excess of playing across all cricketing formats- especially in the wake of T20s meteoric rise (circa 2007 onward) have contributed to Gayle developing back issues.
Moreover, it doesn’t help that he stands at a mighty 1.88 meters. Yet, we’ve seen how Henry Gayle has demolished the likes of Lee to Murali, Akhtar to Anderson and, Malinga to Broad and continues to do so at 38.
4. Gayle has a big fan in a contemporary cricketer who hails him as his mentor
Recently, in July 2017, when India, post devouring the West Indies in West Indies, albeit in the absence of Windies’ senior contenders- met with a seemingly B-grade side for a one-off T20, one man broke loose.
It wasn’t Chris Gayle, who was left stranded at the other end.
Evin Lewis, in compiling a mind-blowing unbeaten hundred, struck 125 of the 191 that India had set for his side. In striking 12 sixes, Lewis mauled India at a scoring rate of 201.
Last year, it was that man again. Although, against the same opposition. In Fort Lauderdale, USA, Lewis threw India out of the park in a match-winning hundred.
When asked recently who he credits for having sculpted his batting- Lewis revealed a familiar name: Chris Gayle. The duo opens the innings today and given Gayle’s will to continue playing for a while, we might as well see some fireworks around the corner.
5. Poverty, an almost enviable sense of self-confidence and the will to celebrate with his opponents
West Indies might have won two World T20 titles, the win against England, inarguably being the more famous headline material. But the only team that managed to upset the biggies of T20 was a lowly Afghanistan.
Against a rather sedate looking opposition, Gayle failed to get going. But in the aftermath, when one expected sagging shoulders and pale faces of the tall man to face the cameras, one spotted a cheery Gayle, dancing and congratulating the winners. How cool is that? Ever seen a modern cricketer accept defeat so gracefully?
But then not everyone’s a Christopher Henry Gayle right, who often slept during the day to sneak out of nights but also played out, long when the opportunity came in hometown Jamaica, eating pint-sized meals, sleeping in a house with a thinly looking tin roof.
Happy Birthday Chris. Let the Gayle storm continue…