Just the way he is

Just the way he is

Lead review

Just the way he is

With Chris Gayle, what you see is what you get. And his autobiography — aptly named Six Machine - I don’t like cricket… I Love It — is everything that you would expect it to be. It’s a racy, evocative and pompous narrative of a life of a cricketer who is unapologetic, unabashed and unpretentious.

The self-styled ‘World Baaass’ begins by stating in his prologue, “I am going to enjoy life endlessly” as he recovers from a heart surgery in a Melbourne hospital during West Indies’s tour Down Under in 2005-06. “Whenever I get better”, Gayle tells himself, “I am going to do everything to the fullest. No waiting, no hedging, no compromises, no apologies. Night won’t stop me, dawn won’t stop me. Wherever I go, I am going to have fun.”

And boy, hasn’t he been true to his word!

With his opening chapter itself, Gayle leaves nothing to the imagination as to what the book is going to be all about — it’s all about himself. He brags and brags through the book, but never once do you feel he is going overboard — some people can carry it off, and Gayle does so with the ease with which he clears the rope. “You think you know Chris Gayle. World Boss. The Six Machine. Destroyer of bowlers, demolisher of records, king of the party scene…” is just one instance in a book that’s replete with boastful remarks interspersed with an honest analysis of the man himself by the man himself.

Gayle, who once hit a six off the first ball in a Test, tells you in a similar in-your-face fashion: “I’m weird, I’m a weirdo. You think you know me? You don’t know me.” These lines set the tone for a book which is the proverbial rags-to-riches story. The globe-trotting and lavish-spending Gayle’s poverty-ridden childhood tales are poignant. The man — who now owns a nine-bedroom, swimming pool-equipped mansion with a strip joint to boast at the basement — reveals how he and his five siblings squeezed into one small bedroom of a shack while growing up; how rice and peas were a luxury, how Christmas was a big deal because it meant a good meal on his plate; how birthdays were just another day without cards and cake, and how eagerly he waited for the Nutribun (a protein-filled bread) distributed in his school.

As the name of the book suggests, Gayle admits that he likes scoring only through sixes and doesn’t like running. For someone who has made a name for himself through the swiftest format of the game, Gayle is almost clumsy when it comes to running between the wickets. He dedicates a chapter on his obsession for hitting sixes and the joy he derives from depositing the ball into orbit… “Any day of my life I would be happy being in Kingston or Bangalore, hitting sixes, watching the ball fly. Just beautiful,” he tells you.

Gayle isn’t just about sixes and T20 cricket, though. He is one of only four batsmen in the world to have two triple Test hundreds. He does gloat about his unbeaten 175 against Pune Warriors in the 2013 IPL, but you do get a sense that the two triple hundreds in Tests are more special to him.

The chapters dealing with his association with the local club Lucas CC in Kingston, his first role model and primary school teacher Miss Hamilton, who “could bat and bowl as well as any man”, make for interesting reading. Gayle does talk about camaraderie at Lucas and later in the West Indies team, but it appears that his only true friendships are the ones he has lost. From his opening partner Leon Garrick, who is in the US now looking for a job, to Garrick Grant, who got crushed under the wheels of a bus while bailing off, to Runako Morton, the talented but temperamental West Indian batsman who died in a car crash in 2012.

The one with Morton is particularly heartbreaking. Before his death, Morton asks for some monetary help from Gayle, who forgets to wire the money after promising to do so. He remembers about his commitment only when he gets the news of Morton’s death in the middle of the night in South Africa. “I have just failed him… The hurt takes over, and breathes on me once again,” writes Gayle as he receives the news.

Gayle is complicated and controversial at the same time and he takes a certain pride in announcing that. He says he is shy with girls around him but then goes on to declare, “Girls love me. I love the girls. I’m a hot boy. This is how we do it in Jamaica, up front and honest. No pretending or stalling. And with the girls I’m good — serious good…” He even shares with you his expertise on how to win over girls. He also clarifies his “Don’t Blush Baby” remarks to Channel 10 reporter Mel McLaughlin, and tears into Andrew Flintoff, Chris Rogers and Ian Chappell for their criticism of the incident.

“You think you know me for my cricket. You might also think you know me for the girls… Let me handle this,” he insists. And he does so quite successfully.