Cricket, lovely cricket

Tamara Scott-Williams

Sunday, October 14, 2012    

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NOTWITHSTANDING the motivational skills of the three British women that the Sri Lankan police arrested for "socialising" with Chris Gayle in his deluxe Cinnamon Grand hotel room, I think the efforts of our own prime minister went a far way in securing the West Indies crown as the new World Twenty20 champions last Sunday.

Her earlier intervention into the reinstatement of Gayle to the West Indies Cricket team has everything to do with the team's success, for he is an amazing player: tall, dark, handsome, cool and dynamic at the same time, and then there's this: he's a all-rounder lefty who holds the record for the highest innings in an International Twenty20, he's received five 'man of the match' awards; and he is one of only four players to have scored two triple centuries at Test level. Did I mention his terrific smile?

It is perhaps all of that success which has pushed him to be very loud in what is often called a "gentleman's game". Cricket may be a "gentleman's game", but it's a job to the actual players, and for Gayle, who was fined one-third of his match fee in 2007 for verbal assault of an opposing player, "It was business" when he raged against the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) in a dispute over sponsorship issues in 2005; and again in 2009 where he publicly criticised the WICB for the immense pressure they put the team under; and in 2011 when he accused team coach Ottis Gibson for wrecking the confidence of his team mate Ramnaresh Sarwan and blasted the WICB for their indifference to his (Gayle's) injuries.

Clearly, Gayle is not the only star player in the team, but he expresses the sentiments that many of his team mates are reluctant to say out loud.

"...I talk with my mouth and I talk with my bat," Gayle has said, and he has spoken on behalf of his team members, as any good captain would.

But by then, perhaps, the WICB had had enough, for he was punished and made ineligible for selection to the West Indies team, and in the year and more while he refused to withdraw his comments, he was benched and the West Indies suffered continued losses.

The matter of the near-death of West Indies cricket apparently ranked very low on the previous administration's list of priorities, but just one month after assuming the mantle, Prime Minister Simpson Miller, wearing her minister of sports hat, jumped into the fray and told the audience at the Jamaica Cricket Association Awards that Chris Gayle was being treated unfairly and that he deserved a place in the West Indies team.

"Justice delayed is justice denied, and we demand that a resolution be found as quickly as possible," she said about the impasse. "Cricket is too important to the people of Jamaica and the West Indies for this to be left down the wicket."

In response, the WICB, being either mysogynist or just plain rude, said it did not believe Simpson Miller had been properly briefed on the full information "pertaining to the matters on which she spoke", but nevertheless asked her "to use her good office to urge Mr Gayle to respond favourably in an effort to put this issue in the past".

And that she did. But not before she blasted their leadership and promised to raise at a Caricom meeting the matter of their gross insult of a Jamaican head of government, their ill-treatment of a high calibre Jamaican sportsman, and their abandonment of Jamaica as a venue for hosting Test matches.

Clearly sports is not immune to the vicissitudes of politics, and Mrs Simpson Miller is a political warrior. A junior minister might have been allowed to waffle under the WICB's crude behaviour and treatment of our star cricketer, but not the prime minister.

Three months later, Gayle was reinstated and he has brought excitement back to the game. "Thanks to our own prime minister," said Gayle at his homecoming press conference. It was one of the West Indies cricket team's proudest moments in history. And it was a proud moment for women too. We have a lot to thank the PM for.



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