On this week’s episode of ‘The Commentators’, Donald Oliver and Ricardo Chambers are discussing Chris Gayle like everybody has.

The Tallawahs management this week rejected Chris Gayle’s attack on them over his exit from the CPL franchise but the Jamaica-based entity is doomed to failure if the fans don’t buy their story.

Gayle labelled Assistant Coach Ramnaresh Sarwan a "snake", "vindictive" and "despicable" as he ripped into retired Guyana and West Indies batsman and the “politics” he said triggered his departure from the Tallawahs.

On the ropes after Gayle’s verbal blows, the Tallawahs issued a terse press release that was too tame to be taken seriously, then stiff jabs by Andre Russell and Sarwan’s Gayle rebuttal 24 hours later hurled the issue into more confusion.

The Tallawahs top brass says omitting Gayle from the Tallawahs 2020 CPL roster was made purely on business and cricketing reasoning but the “business” reasoning seems seriously flawed.

Sabina Park attendance is critical to the franchise’s commercial success and we’ve already seen how unattractive a Gayle-less Tallawahs is to Jamaican fans. Not to mention the possibility of a calculated match boycott in solidarity over any perceived disrespect of a local star, as we’ve seen before in Caribbean cricket.

In April 1992, Barbadians pointedly shunned the historic one-off Test at Kensington Oval against South Africa because an anticipated debut was not given to local boy Anderson Cummins, who at that time enjoyed probably a mere 5% of the immense popularity Chris Gayle commands in Jamaica.

Gayle was visibly hurt in his YouTube outburst as he lashed the Tallawahs and Sarwan.

It was, to me, an unprofessional display by a giant in modern-day cricket but the new age of communicating with fans probably made it easy for him to go that route. His rant though, not only badly tainted his ex-West Indies teammate Sarwan but also soiled Chris Gayle and cricket’s image.

The Jamaica Tallawahs were – based on Gayle’s account – hugely at fault for not communicating with him honestly that they weren’t interested in retaining him for the 2020 season and absolutely nothing in the Tallawahs’ press release refuted Gayle’s charge that CEO Jeff Miller and Owner Krish Persaud failed to inform him that he was not in their plans for the upcoming season.

Gayle, now 40 years old, felt betrayed by an organization that gave him their word and went back on it. Gayle made only a passing mention of this, but it’s also instructive that Miller chose to speak directly with Gayle instead of the standard route of going through his agent.

It is very easy for me to deduce that the Tallawahs’ request – according to Gayle – to take not one or two but three pay cuts, may have been a strategy to frustrate him away from the franchise since they were not brave enough to confront the big-hitting superstar-about releasing him from the deal.

I understood fully the Tallawahs being “disappointed” over the way Gayle went public and I agree with their position to “much rather have had these discussions in private” but that is under normal circumstances and clearly Gayle did not consider the circumstances normal. He felt he was dealing with a group that he could no longer trust.

Did this Jamaican franchise ever consider that Gayle would have needed time to pursue other options if he knew he wasn’t with them? It was on deadline day that Gayle said he was called, not by the Tallawahs, but by a CPL official who did not see his name on the list!

Because of Gayle’s monumental record as a T20 batting star and crowd puller, the St Lucia Zouks snapped him up immediately. Gayle could have been left out-of-contract for the 2020 season because of the Tallawahs’ non-communication.

I am not interested at this point in addressing Gayle’s scathing and toxic references to his “former” friend Sarwan, nor the rebuttal coming from the 39-year-old Guyanese that he had no part in “the decision or the decision-making process” in not retaining Gayle. A lot was said in the narrative from both men and at this stage, it’s one man’s word against the other. Both very wounded by actions of the other. Cricket lost in that exchange.

I became aware very early in my career as a broadcast journalist that while fans worship sporting heroes because of the unbridled joy they generate, these successful men and women on the field of play are human beings like us.

They have imperfections, character weaknesses and limitations that adoring fans will hastily gloss over in standing behind them in times of controversy.

The Jamaica Tallawahs may have been in a position regarding Gayle as some Big Bash and IPL franchises had reached, where his stocks had declined over time, so Gayle being at a crossroad in franchise T20 cricket is not new. He had not been a part of Australia’s Big Bash since 2016 and his IPL standing had been shaken ahead of the 2018 season.

Gayle’s career had been highlighted by some tremendous seasons with Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore, including 2012 when he topped the IPL’s batting charts with 733 runs at an awesome 61.80 average and 2013 when he averaged 59.0. But after two moderate seasons, 2016 and 2017, when he averaged a mere 22.7 and 22.2, RCB were no longer interested and he almost went unsold ahead of the 2018 IPL campaign.

The King’s XI Punjab bought him and he showed in 2019 he still had shots to fire with a 40.83 average.

As a privately owned franchise, The Jamaica Tallawahs has to make its own decisions. Under Chris Gayle’s leadership last year, the team played very poorly and finished last with eight defeats in their 10 games. He averaged a moderate 24.30 and his 243-run tally was No.2 on the Tallawahs batting list behind the New Zealander Glen Phillips (374).

By Gayle’s own admission, there was turmoil in the camp as referenced in his caustic YouTube address admitting that he “flipped” in a “very heated meeting” ahead of the last CPL game that “almost got physical”, clear signs there of a dysfunctional team setting. The scale of the clash with Gayle suggesting players were “making fun of the Universe Boss” and mocking him “in front of the younger players” could be interpreted as team damage that’s irreparable.

So, If the Jamaica Tallawahs managers believe that going forward without Gayle is a step toward rebuilding, it is their right, but it should have been done professionally, certainly more skillfully given what Gayle represents to Jamaican cricket fans.

The current world leader in T20 cricket Andre Russell has also jumped in, accusing the Tallawahs of poor communication while angrily announcing he is quitting the franchise after the upcoming season scheduled to start in August.

The CPL has been sold to the Caribbean public as an event with huge economic benefits potentially to the territories, but the truth is that team owners have been struggling over the years and the Tallawahs are heading for even tougher times.

This is not to suggest that the Tallawahs franchise cannot flourish without Gayle because he would have to go at some point, but Gayle’s absence has negatively affected CPL attendance at Sabina Park in the past and that effect would be escalated if the fan perception is that the T20 batting Phenom was disrespected by the Tallawahs owners and management.

T20 cricket will not go away like some purists of cricket have expected. It’s faster, more intense, and for the average watcher, all-a-round more entertaining.

The biggest proponent of this big-hitting genre of the game has been the West Indies’ very own Christopher Henry Gayle.

Gayle has been dominant, setting benchmarks in almost every aspect of batsmanship in the T20 game with heirs to the throne well off the pace.

To date, the big left-hander has been at this T20 game for 15 years.

In those 15 years, his contribution to the growth of the sport has been immense.

Along the way, he has played in 404 games, scored 13,296 runs, smashed 22 centuries, 82 half-centuries and boasts a healthy strike rate of 146.94.

There is nobody close to that kind of body of work and Gayle should be proud.

He’s lasted longer than many thought he would or could and he may have more big innings left in him.

In fact, his last outing for the Chattogram Challengers in the Bangladesh Premier League including a typically destructive 64.

But the truth is, the Universe Boss is ageing and while runs have still come they are few and far between.

I was one of the few who felt Gayle should have been allowed more Test cricket before that option was taken off the table.

I believed that Gayle’s late, but growing maturity, meant he would have been dominant in Test cricket, just as he has been over the last 15 years in T20s, but that horse has gone through the gate and alas, there is nothing more for Gayle to prove.

I learned with deep concern earlier this week that Gayle would be turning out for the St Lucia Zouks in the Hero Caribbean Premier League and while that means I will get to see him live whenever the CPL gets the go-ahead to start, I can’t help but feel I will be disappointed.

The Chris Gayle who I saw at the last CPL, while still a most-impressive cricketer, is nowhere near the man I had been seeing over the last 15 or so years.

There was still the worry for the opposition that he would get off and they would have hell to pay, but there seemed some unsaid secret. The whispers said, ‘yeah he’s dangerous, but he’s not likely to be today’.

I do not want to abide by that. I do not want to see a man I considered a hero in the wake of the retirement of absolute legends like Brian Charles Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, be reduced to being a mere mortal.

His T20 average of 38.20 is quite brilliant, but it used to be higher.

Bowlers are still afraid of him, but they used to be more scared.

Teams used to plan for him as the key to beating a team he played on, they still do but now bank on success.

There has been much talk of Gayle retiring since he seemed to suggest he would do just that after his last World Cup in 2019. It hasn’t happened and while I am glad to have seen some more of this most explosive of enigmas, I am also saddened because I wanted him to go out at the top of his game.

I did not want to see a day when an available Chris Gayle does not make a West Indies T20 side. He is too good a player for that. Yet that day has come.

Two seasons ago, I watched at Sabina Park as Oshane Thomas bowled a quick length ball that crashed into Gayle’s pads. It was the first ball of the evening and my hero, though he played for the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots at the time, was sent packing, beaten for pace.

Gayle is blessed with great hand-eye coordination, but Thomas’ delivery said to me, that is going.

There was a time it didn’t matter how quick you were. Gayle would find a way to hit you to all parts of the ground. That day is past.

Now there have been a number of athletes who have waited too long to call it a day for varying reasons.

For some, they needed those last few paychecks to guarantee their futures, while others just loved the game they had dedicated their whole lives to so much, that walking away was like kicking a heroin habit, nigh on impossible.

I believe Gayle falls into the latter of the two categories. Financial future already secure, I believe Gayle is playing on for the love of the game.

But maybe he should consider something else as well. Maybe he should consider his legacy and his health.

I’ve watched Gayle unable to train because of a nagging back problem. I saw him chase down a cricket ball at Sabina Park and not be able to come out to bat until much later in the innings.

His diminishing ability and health hurts his image but it also hurts his team. Already Gayle’s stocks around the world have plummeted and he is not so sought after anymore.

Before it gets to the stage where he is not wanted by anybody, I ask that my hero calls it a day.

I ask that Cricket West Indies (CWI), as soon as it is safe to do so, give the Universe Boss, a fitting send-off.

Like most sportspersons and fans, Hayden Walsh Jr. is anxious for action in his preferred sport to restart.

More particularly, Walsh Jr is relishing the opportunity to turn out for defending Hero Caribbean Premier League champions, the Barbados Tridents.

Walsh Jr was the leading wicket-taker for the Tridents, bagging 22 wickets on his way to helping the side lay claim to its second CPL win. More interesting than the success for Walsh Jr, though, is the experience of playing for the Barbados franchise and being led by West Indies Test captain, Jason Holder.

“I really enjoyed the Tridents setup last year with the whole coaching staff and the team and everyone just jelled together and even in the times where we looked as if we were going to go out quite miserably we still stuck together and fight it out to win the championship. So I think that was the most rewarding part of being part of the setup,” said Walsh Jr.

To boot, Walsh Jr was coached by the man who went on to lead the coaching staff of West Indies cricket in former West Indies opening batsman turned all-rounder, Phil Simmons.

“He’s like a father and I’d say he’s like a father-coach. He’s stern when he needs to be stern, he jokes around when it’s time to joke around and when things are not right he puts them into place, so it’s like when your parents or father sees things are out of place and they would put them in place. I think he has been a real father figure for all of us, even the big stars and stuff, so I really enjoy playing under him,” said Walsh Jr.

As of now, the CPL is still scheduled from August 19 to September 26 but that remaining so will depend on the spread of the Coronavirus up to that point.

COVID-19, the disease caused by the Coronavirus, has so far affected more than 1.6 million people worldwide and led to almost 96,000 deaths.

The Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) will once again work with Cricket West Indies (CWI) to ensure that the best young players from across the region will be in CPL squads during the tournament, as well as ensuring that these talented youngsters will be given game time.

The list of 20 players has been provided by CWI and includes five of the players who did so well for West Indies during the recent ICC Under 19 World Cup in South Africa. Kimani Melius, Jayden Seales, Ashmead Nedd, Nyeem Young and Kirk McKenzie are in with a chance to once again show what they are capable of, this time at the CPL.

There are also seven players on the list who appeared at last year’s CPL in these developmental spots – Amir Jangoo (Trinbago Knight Riders), Leniko Boucher (Barbados Tridents), Jeavor Royal, Roland Cato (St Lucia Zouks), Dominic Drakes (St Kitts & Nevis Patriots), Shamar Springer (Jamaica Tallawahs) and Keagan Simmons (Guyana Amazon Warriors). The teams can choose to retain these players, or they can draft or sign another player from the list.

There will be two spots in each squad set aside for these players, meaning there will be a minimum of 12 West Indies qualified players aged under 23 taking part in the CPL. Each team will have to field an emerging player a minimum of five times across the tournament, either one player making five appearances or five combined appearances between the two players. This means not only will they get the experience of training with the best players and coaches from across the Caribbean and from around the world, they will also be given the chance of playing in the CPL.

Michael Hall, CPL’s Tournament Operations Director, said: “The CPL takes its mandate of providing meaningful opportunities for the next generation of West Indies cricketers very seriously, and we are happy to have again collaborated with Cricket West Indies on the Emerging Players initiative. It is now up to the players to make the most of it.”

Jimmy Adams, CWI’s Director of Cricket said: “I am delighted that the Emerging Player program will continue into its second season, as it allows us to once again identify our best young talent and provide them with a program that will hasten their step up to the professional game.

“We have selected another talented group of young regional cricketers, out of which 12 players will be drafted into the CPL - two per franchise. This group will also have the benefit of participating in a specialized high-performance camp in Antigua prior to going off to the tournament. Later in the year, the program will again be using the Super 50 Cup to provide a competitive One-Day environment for the best young regional talent that would not otherwise get an opportunity within the franchise system.

“I am grateful to the CPL and the Franchise owners for their continued support to develop our young talent.”

 

The full list of players is as follows:

 

    Alick Athanaze (Windwards)

    Joshua Bishop (Barbados)

    Leniko Boucher* (Barbados)

    Keacy Carty (Leewards)

    Roland Cato* (Windwards)

    Joshua da Silva (Trinidad & Tobago)

    Dominic Drakes* (Barbados)

    Amir Jangoo* (Trinidad & Tobago)

    Nicholas Kirton (Barbados)

    Mikyle Louis * (Leewards)

    Kirk McKenzie (Jamaica)

    Kimani Melius (Windwards)

    Ashmead Nedd (Guyana)

    Jeavor Royal* (Jamaica)

    Jayden Seales (Trinidad & Tobago)

    Keagan Simmons* (Trinidad & Tobago)

    Kevin Sinclair (Guyana)

    Shamar Springer* (Barbados)

    Bhaskar Yadram (Guyana)

    Nyeem Young (Barbados)

 

*CWI Emerging Players from the 2019 CPL

West Indies Test captain, Jason Holder, believes the time is ripe for him to make his mark in the shortest form of the game he has risen to the top of in its more traditional form.

St Kitts & Nevis Patriots secured their 2019 Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) playoff spot in dramatic style as Dominic Drakes bowled Harry Gurney with the final ball of the night to seal a thrilling one-run victory over Barbados Tridents, who now face a winner-takes-all clash with St Lucia Zouks on Sunday after a dramatic batting collapse when victory appeared in their grasp. 

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