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Bad timing, Christopher Gayle

Tony Becca, Contributing Editor

The second Test of the two-match series between the West Indies and England is scheduled to move into its fourth and penultimate day today at the Riverside Stadium in Chester-le-Street, Durham, but based on the score at the end of the rain-ruined second day on Friday, based on England's easy victory in the first Test, it may well be over or on its way in the history books.

One thing is sure, however, with the home team on 302 for two on Friday, only rain or a miracle, a stunning collapse in their first innings followed by a pathetic display in the second innings by the home team, and a complete 180 degrees turn-around by the visitors, with the ball, in the field, and then with the bat, can save the West Indies, much more hand them victory.

My concern today, however, has nothing to do with the contest between two average teams: my concern has to do with the mutterings of the captain of the weaker of the two teams, the once-mighty West Indies.

As one who has always looked on sport as the best way for a man to express himself, the perfect avenue to do so - to be, for example, as aggressive, as defensive, or as artistic as he wants to, as one who always defends a man's right to say what he believes and what he wants to say, providing it does not offend anyone, and as one who believes that a man has a right to do whatever he wants to do. For example, to play or not to play, providing he does not, in a team sport, upset the rhythm of the team, I have no problem with what Christopher Gayle said a few days ago.

Prefers Twenty20

Asked by a representative of the Guardian newspaper in England if it is possible that he does not care for Test cricket and prefers Twenty 20 cricket, Gayle responded, according to the newspaper, "I wouldn't be sad if Test cricket eventually gave way to the Twenty20 version. I like Twenty20 cricket. I don't see myself playing Test cricket for any long period of time."

Asked about the captaincy of the West Indies team, Gayle responded, according to the newspaper, "to be honest with you, there's a possibility I might give it up - I will be giving it up shortly. I didn't want to be captain, I wanted some free time, but they actually insist, insist, insist, so I sad OK. It's definitely not something I am looking to hang on to. I need some free time. It's a lot of travelling. There's always something you have to do. You know, something extra. I am not that type of person. I can't take it too much, so soon I will be handing over this captaincy. I will soon finish with it."

Gayle went on to say that the chairman asked him to stay until they worked things out, and he said, "yes, but don't be long, though".

Twenty20 cricket, like one-day cricket before it, is exciting, it is good for the game, and no questioning that.

To me, however, Test cricket is the game. It is the test of all the skills of the game, and those who play, watch and administer the game should encourage the survival of all three forms of the game.

His right and his business

If, however, as he has said, and for whatever the reason, including the fact that his batting certainly is more at home to the one-day and the Twenty20 versions of the game, Gayle prefers the Twenty20 version of the game, that is his right and his business. If, however, as prestigious as the position may be, and although many have died dreaming of being the West Indies captain, Gayle does like to be or does not enjoy being the captain of the West Indies, that is also his right and his business.

There are a few things which Gayle should understand, however.

One, is that he is contracted to the West Indies Board and instead of turning up late, shortly before the Test match, he is obligated to report on time in order to prepare for duty.

Two, is that cricket is a team game, and the absence of one player, the tardiness of one player, can affect the performance of everyone.

Three, is that whether he wanted it or not, whether he enjoyed it or not, he is the captain of the team, he accepted it once, he accepted it twice, and the timing of his likes, his dislikes, and his plans for the future, on the eve of a Test, especially so going into a Test match after losing the one before, was poor.

It was, simply, bad timing.

As the captain of the team, Gayle should have been thinking about motivating the team, his team - a team that needed someone to follow.

Based on what he has said, Gayle, probably, or obviously, would not mind if he is removed, not so much as a member of the Test team, but more so as the captain of the team. If that happens, however, he could blame no one but himself.

Probably Gayle did not mean to say all that he said, probably he did not mean all that he said, and probably he said what he said because he was hurt after all the criticisms for arriving late for the first Test when all he was doing was playing some cricket and earning some money.

To say, afterwards and on another day, that he was speaking as an individual and not as the captain can only be an excuse. The captain of the West Indies cannot speak on matters pertaining to cricket as an individual. It is not as simple as taking off one hat and putting on another hat.

A tight spot

To say, afterwards and on another day, that he was misquoted, can also only be an excuse. That is one of the age-old attempts of getting out of a tight spot and I simply do not believe it.

Gayle, however, is not the only one guilty of treating West Indies cricket, and the captaincy, with disrespect. The board, to which Gayle is contracted, which pays him even when he is not on the field, is the one which begged Gayle to return as the captain when he had given it up earlier.

The board allowed Gayle to go to the IPL, it is the one which agreed to go to England in place of Sri Lanka after the West Indies players had signed to play in the IPL; it is the board which agreed to Gayle's request to stay with the IPL a little longer than was first agreed, and it is the board which, based on its history and but for president Julian Hunte's admission that Gayle's utterances were "unfortunate", will probably say nothing or do nothing about its captain's unfortunate remarks.

It is the responsibility of the board to operate not only in the interest of the players but also in the interest of West Indies cricket. The board has been lacking in this respect on too many occasions and for too long, and that is one reason for the many problems between the board and the players' association.

Poor performances

Despite their generally poor performances in recent years, the players are the heroes of the people who see each and everyone of them as one of them (the people), because of that, the board, the members of which the people see as belonging to 'them', sometimes, many times, tends to bend backwards to accommodate the players - to be nice to them, and because of that, sometimes, many times, things go wrong.

Hopefully, the board which agreed to the selection of Gayle as the West Indies captain, which also encouraged him to return when he wanted to give it up, and the board which agreed to him staying back in South Africa with the IPL simply because it did not wish to say no to the captain and one of the star players because of the possible repercussion from the people, will, in the future, without fear or favour, but with honesty, act in the interest of West Indies cricket.

Although the board could have and should have a say in it, Gayle, after claiming that he was misquoted, did say, on Wednesday, that he will not be giving up the captaincy of the West Indies team just yet, that he has a big part to play in West Indies cricket, and that sounds good.

Test of one's temperament

Whatever his thoughts on Twenty20 cricket, however, whether he still prefers it to Test cricket or not, he should, like his English counterpart Andrew Strauss, not only recognise Test cricket as the number one format of the game, but he should also appreciate that, among other things, to those who love the game, to those who play the game, to many who watch the game, to those who follow the fortunes of their favourite players and their teams whether in the stands, on television, or on the radio, it is the test, the true test, of one's temperament and of one's technique.

In other words, while Twenty20 is exciting and is more like the hit or miss American game of baseball, Test cricket, which at times can be dramatic, which at times can also be exciting, is cricket.

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