Colombo: Former West Indies captain Chris Gayle, who rarely gives interviews, spoke to The Telegraph for around 30 minutes at the P. Sara Oval on Thursday evening. The 33-year-old took all the questions till such time that teammates and support staff boarded the bus for the ride back to their hotel.
The following are excerpts
Q A heavy demand is always placed on you... You’re expected to be the West Indies’ saviour. Does that put you under pressure?
A Not really... The expectations have been there for quite some years, so it’s not something new for me... Now, it’s natural for me not to worry about it. I also expect the others to play their part. I have confidence in the guys.
So, what’s your approach?
I keep it as simple as possible, don’t overdo things. I can’t take to the crease thinking I’ll be smashing all over the park from the first ball. It doesn’t work like that and I can’t take things for granted. Bottom line is to play smart cricket and, indeed, to respect the individual who is bowling.
You returned to the West Indies squad after being out for more than a year. What’s it like now?
It felt good to be back after 15 months... When I wasn’t playing for the West Indies, I was contributing a lot around the world to the other teams (in domestic competitions)... The runs I scored for the other teams are the runs I could have scored for the West Indies... I missed out on a lot in terms of statistics.
Is that a regret?
Definitely... I’m looking for opportunities to try and make up. One has to take things as they come, but one does occasionally look back in life. I guess that’s natural.
Some called you a mercenary, when you weren’t playing for the West Indies, but turning out in the IPL and in the KFC Big Bash. Did that hurt?
I don’t wish to go down that road.
But was the ‘mercenary’ label warranted?
I know what I stand for, I know the issues which were involved, but people are entitled to form their opinion... Today, looking back won’t be beneficial, so I’d rather look ahead.
[Gayle missed 16 Tests, 24 ODIs and seven T20 Internationals between March 2011 and June 2012.]
As we speak, what’s your priority?
To help the West Indies win the World Twenty20. We have a great chance and are high on self-belief.
You’re a good friend of top athletes Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake...
Yeah... Usain and I keep communicating through BBM... We’ve played a few sport together... I loved the way they sprinted in the London Olympics... We were in the middle of a Test series at home (against New Zealand), otherwise I would have been cheering for them in person.
Have you invited Blake to play for the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB)?
(Laughs) I’d love to have him in RCB... I’d also love to have Usain... Both are big fans of cricket.
But are they good cricketers?
They are... They are... They can handle themselves (on a cricket field) and will never put themselves in an awkward position. They’re passionate about cricket and passionate about the IPL... Right now, Blake is more into the game than Usain, but even he can do the job.
What were your emotions when Jamaican athletes set the track ablaze in London?
Felt very proud... Usain, Blake and the other athletes have put Jamaica and the entire Caribbean on the global stage... Those were emotional days across Jamaica and across the Caribbean.
How is Bolt, a superstar, as a person?
Great guy to know, great guy to have around. He has no airs about him... Usain’s great.
You’re a role model for many. Who did you look up to?
No one batsman... Initially, I was more into other sport, like soccer, so I didn’t grow up idolising anyone batsman. Later, like everybody in the Caribbean, I did watch Brian Lara and he quickly became my favourite.
Since you’ve mentioned soccer, are you passionate about a team?
Man United maan... Among soccer players, it’s Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s amazing.
Were you a striker or a medio?
Everything... A complete soccer player! Call me versatile.
It’s widely held that you aren’t fond of Test cricket...
That’s not correct... I’ve played 93 Tests and have two triple hundreds, so it’s not a fair comment. Hopefully, I’ll be playing for a few more years and will get to the landmark of 100 Tests.
Is there a future for the 50-over ODIs?
I think so. Because of T20, batsmen have the potential to get more runs in the ODIs, just like the ODIs helped batsmen score more and score quickly in Test cricket. The ODIs have made Test cricket more aggressive, I expect T20 to have much the same impact on the 50-over game.
What would you tell a room full of young batsmen?
That the sky is the limit... Put your mind to what you want out of life... Never let anybody tell you that you can’t be an achiever. Go and get what you want. As I’ve said, the sky’s the limit.
The last one... Once you’re through with the game, how would you like to be remembered?
A person with no regrets... A happy, joyful person... Somebody fond of colours, bright colours... Somebody who didn’t make life too difficult... Easy to talk to... I’ve had an open life and I’ve been open-minded about others.