Chris Gayle: Hitting across the line, or colouring only between them?

There hasn’t been much support for Chris Gayle here at the Almanac. So as the carnival closes on this summer’s Big Bash, I’d like to try and bring these pages a little more into line with what the ordinary cricket fan is thinking.

Though still early in its evolution, we query what the Big Bash is existentially. It’s not cricket in its purest form. Some say it’s a workplace. Chris Gayle says he’s come here to entertain.

And what kind of shoe shuffle are the BBL organisers aiming for? One that deems fireworks and cheerleaders as fitting accompaniments to the old leather on willow. Cameras play visual games on the big screen between overs. Clips of our backyard-cricket bungles are shown between balls. We love the mixture of mayhem. It’s freewheeling fun, filling the void left behind by the end of Hey Hey It’s Saturday.

Can we throw anything a little risqué into the cabaret? Let’s try ‘Kiss Cam’. Focus the BBL cameras on fans in the crowd and encourage them to kiss the person next to them. The Channel 10 commentary team can join the fun. They offered a joke about the ‘over use’ of his groin as Gayle bends over showing some discomfort during his innings in Hobart. With all this and the summer sea breeze coming in off the Derwent River, Gayle could be excused for believing he might be somewhere near Jamaica’s Montego Bay, where beach goers don’t get uptight about too much.

Gayle, probably still high on adrenalin after just smashing a game changing 41 of 15, is paired with Mel McLaughlin for a live, sideline interview. Mel’s hair and make-up artist (the unnamed enigma in this story) doesn’t realise that, by doing her job so well on Mel’s eyes, she may have contributed to the end of the BBL, if not all civilisation as we know it. For in the middle of the interview, Chris compliments Mel on her eyes.

Some say Gayle’s banter crossed the line of propriety. Of course, in cricket, it can be dangerous to play across the line. But you won’t win in the Big Bash if you play it safe for 20 overs. In Test cricket, you take a risk playing away from your body when there are slips in place. T20 has no slips, but it’s still cricket’s ingenious risk and reward venture, artificially magnified, especially for television. To win, you must sometimes swing across the line of the stumps. Gayle rides the risks better than nearly anyone alive.

Let’s remember, it’s live TV, unscripted and unpredictable, which is precisely why we bother to watch.

The main criticism I’ve heard of Gayle is that he was showing disrespect. Yet if a ball player doesn’t want to be interviewed by a reporter, then he’ll be tight lipped, abrupt and curt before walking away. That’s disrespect, and the media broadcaster has to consider sending a different reporter next time. Instead, Gayle’s words flow freely. His mood is light. He’s personable, if only a bit too much so. Since when, in Australian culture, has wanting to have a joke with someone been an indication of disrespect?

Unfortunately, the delivery has slipped out of his hand. It just wasn’t funny; more awkward. But everything in life is a risk, especially attempts at humour. In this instance, it didn’t work. So we apologise, we move on.

‘Apology accepted, let’s move on.’ Those were Mel’s words. Unfortunately, we didn’t. The Renegades tried to appease the eruption of righteousness with a magnanimous $10,000 fine, which didn’t really please anyone. It more likely exacerbated things.

Admitting to a code violation gave fuel to those who already didn’t like Gayle. They said it wasn’t enough. $10,000 was not even Gayle’s milk money. But the hefty sum reminded the less litigious amongst us what a fine place Australia is (despite there being no law against giving someone a compliment).

The contradictions led to Chris Henry Gayle appearing bigger than the game itself, which is what everyone was trying to avoid.

Don’t think that those of us supporting Gayle don’t like seeing women in sport, please. We got up early to watch the Matildas in Canada; we get there early to cheer for the Women’s BBL; we don’t boo Adam Goodes.

We love sport and just want to live and let live.

It seems the world can be divided into two groups: those who revel in exuberant splashes of colour, versus those who prefer life being coloured only strictly between the lines. Chris Gayle belongs to the first group; Australia has far too many people in the second group.

I hope the Renegades chat to Gayle about renewing his contract for the next BBL. I’d much rather see Chris Gayle than Chris Rogers at the top of the batting order. They know his phone number: 02 66 6626 6416. Oh, hang on, that’s his 12-ball innings, it just looks like a phone number.

What is the grand purpose of the BBL? It’s evolving. But if the Renegades state publicly that their primary interest lies in straight bat batting and falling into line with the PC police, while neglecting to sign one the biggest hitters in T20 rankings over an overblown, minor indiscretion, then many of their fan base will drift in their allegiance over to the Stars.

And they know it.

About Michael Viljoen

Michael was born in the Nelson Mandela Bay area, the same as Siya Kolisi, the successful World Cup winning Springbok captain, but was raised in Melbourne with a love for Australian Rules. He has worked as a linguist in Africa with Wycliffe Bible Translators Australia, where he wrote a booklet on the history of Cameroon's Indomitable Lions, which was translated into several Cameroonian languages.


  1. No trouble with life being colourful, Michael. Do have trouble with people that repeatedly sexually harass women in their workplace. As much as you may try to paint it as a mere slip of the tongue, a compliment clumsily delivered, every other female cricket journo has confirmed he does this all the time and it is unwelcome. And, yes, there is a law against that. It is called the 1984 Sexual Discrimination Act.

    All for apology (no matter how disingenuous) accepted and fine being delivered to move on but why does the Almanac community need to come to the mainstream? One of the great strengths of the Almanac community is its orthodoxies are often different from the mainstream. And in this case there is absolutely no reason for the twain to meet. Gayle has left the country now, unlikely to return to T20, let’s move on.

  2. Dr Goatboat says

    Let’s face it, he just a blow- in…

  3. Michael – if the Gayle comments to Mel Mc were a one-off “misjudgement/mis-spoke” – I would agree with you. Who among us hasn’t opened our mouth and put our foot in it?
    My objection to Gayle is as a serial offender in relation to rampant sexism and objectification of women. The bloke has form – and lots of it. The Mel comments were the more obvious tip of a very large iceberg.
    My feeling is that Clive Lloyd and Richie Richardson don’t want him back in test cricket, because he has been such a selfish role model for the young West Indian players.

  4. Michael Viljoen says

    Yes, I also like that the Almanac is capable of providing an independent voice, perhaps different from either the crowd or the mainstream media. However, in this case there wasn’t anyone here offering an alternative view to the received wisdom of the intelligentsia.

    You may be right, in that those in power may not be extending their welcome to Gayle next time. But my question is whether that would be serving the wishes of the bulk or core of cricket fans.

    It’s hard to comment on the gritty details of Gayle’s private life or his one-on-ones with reporters when I wasn’t there. Similarly I don’t know about the machinations of West Indian politics. I’m more happy commenting on what I saw.

    Last Monday, when his team were fighting ‘backs to the wall’, needing 10 runs an over, with every other journalist in the nation willing him to fail, Gayle came out and struck the fastest 50 in Big Bash League history. The record keeper took note, if no one else wants to remember.

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thank you Michael,IMO you absolutely nailed it with common sense and after being with a renegades player since this ridiculously over blown minor incident there is a chance he will return ( a chance)
    I hope he does

  6. the ghost of old tom joad says

    “It’s hard to comment on the gritty details of Gayle’s private life or his one-on-ones with reporters when I wasn’t there … I’m more happy commenting on what I saw.”

    I’m happy to take the word of the multiple complainants, for surely, Chris Gayle is not the victim of a conspiracy. Also, just narrowing it down to what you saw smacks of not being interested in getting the whole picture. And why wouldn’t you want the whole picture?

  7. Ben Footner says

    In a few short words Chris Gayle reduced Mel from professional sports journalist to sex object in front of a national TV audience. There is nothing acceptable about that.

    I’m all for a bit of harmless flirting if it’s mutual and consenting and both parties are up for the laugh.

    What upgraded this to a more predatory and degrading level was that his initial advance was clearly not welcomed by Mel and yet he chose to pursue the subject quite relentlessly. He backed her into a corner on national TV and made her feel incredibly uncomfortable. It was bloody obvious she wasn’t into it, but he just didn’t stop.

    The now famous “Don’t blush baby” line in particular basically reduced her persona to that of a mindless bimbo who couldn’t control her urges in the face of his Caribbean splendour. She had every right to be fucking filthy about the whole thing IMO, and it makes me sad for my 4 year old daughter to see that so many men out there still don’t get the meaning of the word misogyny.

  8. Trucker Slim says

    At the risk of entering this merry go round of an argument that appears to be going nowhere, I would like to point out Michael V inconsistencies in your own position.

    In response to a comment by David you say, “It’s hard to comment on the gritty details … I’m more happy commenting on what I saw”. Then one paragraph later you observe, “with every other journalist in the nation willing him to fail”.

    Why do you resist attending to the debate of CG’s apparent ongoing indiscretions yet so easily generalise and over-simplify the view, intelligence and analytical capability of journalists (not just sport or even cricket writers)? Such inconsistencies and simplistic arguments devalue what I read as a reasonable shot by you at trying to sort through the layers of difficult meanings that are tied to this incident.

    There was a point Stan Grant made in his incredible speech on racism that I think can be used in this context as well. He says that It is not merely what is said but how it is received.

    Picking up from an idea presented to me by a good friend, Damien, when discussing this matter, I think Big Bash and its supporters have to decide whether it is a 21 century version of Wrestling (and in doing so they can take the entertainment level to overdrive) or whether it wants to be seen as a legitimate sport. By trying to be both thing it confuses itself and those watching as to the relationship between audience and entertainers and the context within which everything goes on.

    In a legitimate sport context the CG comments were without question inappropriate and demeaning. If it was an entertainment billed in the manner of WWE Let’s Rumble wrestling (which it actually feels more like than cricket) then every interview would be expected to be that cartoonish and stupid. Different players would adopt different characters and costumes and maybe even masks! Perhaps then Mr Gayle might try to seduce Ricky Ponting while interviewing him … Why not?

    While Big Bash tries to claim legitimacy it has a responsibility to demonstrate integrity and credibility just as much as any other legitimate sport. In the particular instance CG did not uphold the integrity of a cricketer or even a reasonable person.


  9. Michael Viljoen says

    You ask, am I trying to avoid the total picture on Chris Gayle? Maybe I am guilty of that. Maybe I’m trying to avoid the obsession for putting labels on people: ‘culprit’, ‘villain’, ‘misogynist’, whatever. Does everyone have to be so neatly pigeon holed? I prefer to think of people as individuals, each a mixture of good and bad. If our touring cricket teams had to pass the moral test close to that of a Presbyterian minister, I think we’d have VIs or VIIs rather than national XIs.

    Trucker Slim,
    I did hear Stan Grant and Rita Panahi discussing racism. It was strong stuff.

    If you say I’m generalising about journalists wishing Gayle to fail, you’re right. I’m generalising. I’m guessing, I don’t know what most of them were thinking.

    But it was unprecedented how strongly quite a number went after Gayle in the days after the Hobart game, both on radio and in print. The critics were so vehement that It got to the point of Gayle having to hire defamation lawyers before people realised perhaps they were going at him a bit too hard. So it’s not unreasonable to suggest that many journos were not wishing his success last Monday.

    Of course, not all went so hard. I heard Rita Panahi, when asked on TV the day after the Hobart game, said she thought an apology should suffice rather than a sanction.

  10. Michael Viljoen says

    T20 World Cup 2016, West Indies’ opening game v England, March 16.
    C. Gayle, 100 not out, 11 sixes & 5 fours, carrying his bat.
    Fastest 100 in WT20 history (47 balls).
    Man of the Match: Chris Gayle.

  11. Michael Viljoen says

    Cricket Australia boss, James Sutherland, (Friday April 22) said: “I think you’re on a slippery slope if you start making judgements on players who could or shouldn’t be playing in the Big Bash League or in our domestic competitions.” (I.e. the decision will be left up to each individual club as to whom they pick in their teams.)

    Renegades Chairman Jason Dunstall (April, 2016) said the team were open to all options in their recruitment process, including Gayle, and that position has not changed. “You’d like to think there’s a place for everybody. The excitement he can generate is extraordinary,” “What we want is the best players in the world at the BBL.”

    After the West Indies teams, both men and women, won the 2016 T20 World Cup, Gayle wrote on an Instagram post (announcing the birth of his daughter, April 21, 2016)
    “We would like to welcome the arrival of our beautiful daughter ‘Blush’ to this world 2 hours ago. Thank God,”

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