Port of Spain, Trinidad: West Indies batsman Chris Gayle has expressed dismay at the perception that he gives his best for Twenty20 as a freelancer across the globe and is referred to as a "mercenary" against the backdrop of a surge in cash-rich T20 league even as the primacy of Test cricket is struggling to be preserved.
Gayle, 33, has played T20s for clubs in India, Australia, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and at home in the inaugural Caribbean Premier League but was miffed when asked about his preference for the shortest format of the game. "I have been giving my all for West Indies for 13 years now," he told the Indian Express. "So it's sad when people just forget all that I've achieved for the Caribbean and use such derogatory terms. I have scored runs and won matches in Test cricket as well. There are other cricketers too who get bracketed in that category. It's unfair but you can't stop tongues from wagging.
"It's [T20] the future and is growing bigger and bigger every day. Test cricket will survive, but you have to be realistic and accept things as they are," added Gayle, an unabashed fan of the T20 format. "You can come to the ground for two-and-a-half hours knowing that you will be enthralled for every minute you spend there. It's become a serious business now. You have everyone from movie stars to celebrities coming in and trying to have their own piece of the pie."
His comments may receive flak considering it was Gayle himself who in 2009, after landing in England just two days before a Test match due to his involvement in the IPL, told a reporter that he would not be said if Test cricket died out and Twenty20 took over as the prime format of the game.
On his experience of playing for clubs in several countries, Gayle said it was as easy as it may appear to look. "I have been with (IPL franchise) Royal Challengers Bangalore for a few years now so that connect is there," he said. "But it's difficult to just go somewhere and feel the pulse of that city. I just go with an open mind. It's not easy, landing up in a dressing room on short notice and having to get acclimatised immediately. I have been doing this year after year. And I have got used to the whole process. The secret is to not put pressure on yourself to fit into the ecosystem. The best way to make a mark is by winning matches for the team.
"The expectations are massive. They don't just want runs or sixes from Chris Gayle but he has to entertain with bat, ball and in the field. Luckily, I love having fun and ensuring that the fans and everyone is getting their money's worth."