Chris Gayle: the making of a master batsman
CHRIS Gayle remembers his first Test match well. He smiles when reminded about the 33 runs he scored against Zimbabwe in Trinidad and Tobago 14 years ago.
Now, 6,900 runs later, as he gets ready for his 100th Test, Gayle is calm, proud of his achievements and is looking forward to enjoying the milestone.
Describing it as an honour and privilege, he's excited about reaching a century of Tests at home in the ongoing first Test against New Zealand at Sabina Park in Kingston.
"To actually be here among your friends and family and your home fans, to watch you play on an occasion like this, it's fantastic," said Gayle.
"A lot of people would love to see Chris Gayle get a big one on his 100th Test match, but I'm just going to play according to the situation", he explained. "What is to be will be," the Digicel ambassador reasoned.
He plans to give 100 per cent as he always does. Even though the milestone is his, he is thinking team. "What would be fantastic, is actually to win the Test match and that would be something even more to talk about."
The former West Indies captain said, "I'm looking forward to it and going to enjoy it."
A career decorated by 15 Test centuries has many batting highlights. Yet the soft-spoken Gayle does have a favourite. It's his 333 against Sri Lanka, November 2010. "When I got the 100, I said, this is the first time getting a 100 against Sri Lanka. I've been struggling against this side", he recalled, "and so I wanted to make it big."
"So I was actually happy to get to 333."
Next in the pecking order is his 317 against South Africa in the 2005 home series.
Another memorable moment came in November 2012 in a Test series against Bangladesh. The home side opened the bowling attack with a spinner. "I thought it was a bluff", he said. "I said I'm going to put the pressure on him from ball one. The field was actually in so I went for it and that was it, really, but I didn't know it was history."
It was. No one in the history of the game had ever hit a six from the first ball in a Test.
He loves Test cricket and speaks about it passionately. "The game of Test cricket is like life off the field. You test your character out there. You test your strength, your mental strength and your body as well," he said with a gleam in his eye.
"Just like life, things might be going good for you, but you're going to have that time when you need to pick yourself up and with no one to help," he said as he likened the game to life generally. "So you've got to be the person out there to lift yourself,"
It's a little known fact that his batting average is higher in Tests than in any of the game's shorter forms.
Gayle reflects he was once much like the youngsters who will come to Sabina Park to watch his historic 100th Test. "When Brian Lara got a double against Australia, I was in the mound, the party stand. I didn't think I was going to play with those guys. In maybe a year or so, I'm sharing the same dressing room."
"So for the kids out there, trust me, you never know what the future holds for you," he offered.
Chris is happy to be able to give back to the sport. Earlier in the week, he opened a cricket academy at Lucas Cricket Club where his own career began.
"As a child, I didn't get those sorts of things", he remembered. "I'm happy to use these academies to guide kids, guide them accordingly," he said.
He's thankful to everyone who helped him along the way to his milestone.