Let me say it loud and clear, un-e-qui-vo-cal-ly, with no water in my mouth: as far as representative West Indies senior team cricket is concerned, Chris Gayle is not yet quite ancient history. He is nonetheless history! Make no mistake about that.
And Dwayne ‘DJ’ Bravo can recommend Gayle’s recall until his whole face turns maroon, nothing he says will change that.
Before you jump to any erroneous conclusions about how much I am against Bravo—or Gayle—check the record. You will find, I assure you without fear of successful contradiction, that, since Brian Lara’s premature withdrawal from the competitive arena in 2007, nobody in cricket commentary has heaped more praise on any West Indian cricketer than I have of Bravo the Elder.
I admit that, in football, the Scareless One’s lauding of DJW indisputably leaves me some considerable distance behind
But still, don’t go there.
During his long heyday, Gayle on his day was capable of destroying any attack. He so bossed the universe that I have never heard any objection raised to his self-awarded Universe Boss moniker. No other player in the game has to his credit individual scores of 300-plus in a Test match, 200-plus in an ODI and 100-plus in a T20I.
But hey, does anyone who saw him in last year’s World Cup dare dispute that the hard-hitting left-handed opener’s heyday is now synonymous with yesterday?
I think Bravo needs to tell us if, for the rich annual cross-country race coming up at the end of the year, he would seriously have us take out of the garage where we have parked it up the old Rolls Royce that now has some 800,000 miles on it. Or would he prefer to see us go with either the new Audi or Range Rover we only drove out of the showroom last year?
Why do I say so? Hear the older Bravo, back in WI colours this week, discussing the unretired but recently overlooked Jamaican multiple-record-holder who often goes by the same initials as Usain Bolt:
“(…) Gayle is the next real batting icon of the Caribbean that all the players look up to. (…).
“I’m looking forward to playing with him once again in the maroon. That will be good to see the Universe Boss (…) on the field again along with [Andre] Russell and [Sunil] Narine, all these players who we all wanted to play.”
True? Perhaps. But doesn’t that tell-tale ‘wanted’ raise a red flag? And what, besides, has any of that got to do with selection for the T20 World Cup in Australia in October/November? Absolutely nothing, say I! It’s all just sentimental twaddle, pure and unadulterated.
The potentially persuasive argument in favour of recalling Gayle for the defence of the World Cup rests, I submit, on a formidable white ball record: 25 centuries and 54 fifties in almost 10,500 ODI runs from 301 matches and two centuries and 13 fifties in just over 1,600 T20I runs in 54 innings. Top that!
Also in the mix is Gayle’s impressive list of firsts, no less unforgettable than some of the gargantuan maximums (Oops! Contamination from the TV6 sportscast) with which his innings have been dotted.
But Bravo himself indirectly concedes, I think, that there is a powerful counter-argument.
“Obviously he is on the other side of 40,” he ends, “so it is just a matter of managing him properly and picking different series to play him.”
And run the risk, he never says, of another breakdown in Australia in October/November.
Whether UB is retired or unretired, I reckon reasonable people would agree with me. It would be better to tell the white ball Rolls Royce thanks for his yeoman service to West Indies cricket and focus our energies on the new fleet. Young, strong, healthy talents like Brandon King and Sunil Ambris may never boss the universe. But they might, I suggest they be told, make their own mark if they work hard enough.
At 25 and 26 respectively at the moment, both can, I imagine, be around to serve West Indies cricket long after the Universe Boss gets to 45 and begins, perhaps, to contemplate final, definitive, point-of-no-return retirement.
Even Rolls Royces, after all, are eventually pulled out of service.
Of course, there is another solid reason why Gayle’s recall is a luxury the current WI can ill-afford. Bravo alludes to it but only makes the point obliquely. Recent history reveals that the current regional side’s Achilles heel is not the batting. (That’s right, isn’t it, Player-of-the-Series against Ireland Evin Lewis, Shai Hope, Nicholas Pooran and, when we are lucky, Shimron Hetmyer?) It’s emphatically the bowling, to be precise, the death bowling.
“Recently that is where West Indies did falter,” said Bravo. “If you look at the 50-overs World Cup, if you look at the series in India, both in T20s and in ODIs, we lack a really, really proper death-overs specialist.
“(…) this is my motivation also to try and work with current bowlers. There’s [Sheldon] Cottrell, there’s Keemo Paul, there’s Alzarri Joseph, there’s Oshane Thomas, there’s Kesrick Williams. Collectively, all of us have to get better, myself included.
“But with the experience that I have, I can get them to understand the importance of certain deliveries and when to bowl certain deliveries and work on a better finishing game plan.”
That’s as far as he goes. Tellingly, he does not add: “So can Gayle.”
So DJB is whipping a dead horse. I know that can provide an outlet for pent-up frustrations but we’ve been rid of Dave Cameron for almost a year now. Enough is enough.
So, in closing, let me toss into this salad two public comments the former ODI captain made not long ago while still in forced—self-inflicted or self-imposed?—retirement.
“I was dropped while I was fit,” he told the world in December 2017. “I don’t think now, at 34, it would make any sense coming back.”
And in an October 2018 media release, he would add this: “I must accept that for me to preserve my longevity as a professional cricketer. I must do as others before have done, leave the international arena for the next generation of players.”
He was not yet 40. Still is not. Good for you but not good UB, DJB? Just asking.
And with that, wishing the Universe Boss well in his future endeavours and Bravo well on his return to the team, I rest my case.