There are not too many people who make me feel like a tiny speck from Lilliput suddenly confronted by a colossal Gulliver—after all, at 5’9”, I’m nicely placed to see the world at an eye level. But this one man did, several feet ahead of me, and more than a couple of inches wider too.
Standing next to him meant getting eclipsed completely. Behind him, left no chance whatsoever. To add realism to my supposed imagination, this man spoke in a language that was completely alien to me. I had requested him to repeat himself repeatedly, but that hadn’t helped either. While I failed to understand a single word that came out of his mouth, surprisingly he understood me perfectly. This was not good. His personality was intimidating enough; I didn’t need a language barrier to make matters worse.
‘Who Daaat They?’ he repeated with a straight face for the umpteenth time, the point at which I hopelessly gave up. I said my byes and headed towards the door, for our one-sided conversation wasn’t going anywhere. The moment I turned my back towards him, I heard him bursting into a monstrous laugh. Obviously, that was good enough to make me realize that I had just been made a ‘bakra’ by the man from the land of Bob Marley. Yes, this was my first interaction with one of the most ferocious hitters of the cricket ball the world has ever seen—Chris Gayle. It was his first day with the Kolkata Knight Riders and he had welcomed one and sundry in the same manner, even Sourav Ganguly wasn’t spared, I was told. Not surprisingly, “Who Daat They?” didn’t mean a thing—it was Gayle’s way of breaking the ice!
And that’s what’s most fascinating about the man—would you believe that Gayle, who rarely smiles while batting and takes immense pleasure in murdering the bowlers, could actually have a funny bone? In fact, in his case, it isn’t just one bone, but the whole DNA. He would have arm-wrestling competitions with the smallest guy in the team and lose for fun, take leg pulling to an unbelievable level (challenged Ponting for a 100 meter dash claiming to beat him by 50 meters) and ask silly questions in serious team meetings (can I bowl left handed and bat right-handed if situation demands?). He firmly believed that cricket is just a sport and hence should be treated like one. Most people, especially the support staff, are guilty of taking cricket too seriously and Gayle took it upon himself to lighten the mood. I have no doubt in saying that Gayle is the funniest man I’ve come across in my two decade long cricket career.
Yet, one must not take his happy-go-lucky attitude for casual approach on the field. There’s an extremely serious cricketer inside that façade. I distinctly remember him sitting in the team dugout completely distraught after he got dismissed in a game against Deccan Chargers in South Africa. He was batting well and had hit a couple of big ones before holding out in the deep. His dismissal triggered a collapse of sorts and Gayle couldn’t forgive himself for starting the decline. He didn’t take his pads off till the 15th over and sat like a monk till our innings got over. A lot of people believe that since he’s blessed with the ability to clear the fence with ease, he doesn’t spend enough time in the nets to hone his skills. Incorrect, once again! He’s extremely particular about his preparation and rarely leaves a stone unturned to ensure success.
For these reasons his consistency in a format that spells inconsistency doesn’t surprise me one bit. Most players, who are as successful as Gayle, get way too involved in the process and forget the very reason of playing the sport, which is to enjoy the journey, both on and off the field. Though it’s impossible to emulate his cricketing skills, a lot of us would do well to take a leaf out his book with regards to loosening up a bit off the field.
This article was first printed here
This entry was posted on Friday, April 20th, 2012 at 8:01 am
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.