Cricket's first global superstar?


Dustin Silgardo writes in Man's World that the Indian cricket fan has had his trysts with the likes of Wasim Akram, Shane Warne and Brian Lara, but none of them was submerged in the country's culture as Chris Gayle.

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These days, when I tell young kids that I often meet cricketers, they don’t ask for Sachin Tendulkar’s autograph, or for a picture of Rahul Dravid; they ask me, “How huge is Chris Gayle up close?” When a picture of Gayle lounging on a balcony in a beanie cup is posted on his Facebook fan page, comments of “big up” and “cool” are interspersed with “bindaas boss” and “mast lag raha hai”. The man endorses Kannada movies, and inspires caricature competitions and figurines. In Bangladesh, fans wait in the hotel lobby to meet Gayle. In Australia, kids wear trademark Gayle goggles in the stands. Gayle is, in a sense, cricket’s first global superstar, not just admired in several different countries, but actually loved as one of their own by the people of each of the cities he represents.

What makes Gayle’s immense popularity in the subcontinent particularly interesting is how far out of the standard mould of quiet, well-behaved, diplomatic, insipid sports star we are used to in this part of the world. When talking about Gayle’s unique persona, cricket journalists like to retell a tale about when Gayle was at a tour match in Arundel, in England. The story goes that Gayle was sitting next to former MCC president and old Etonian John Barclay. Barclay was speaking about his first-class career and telling stories of how beautiful the Caribbean was when he visited it as captain of England’s Young Cricketers team. After Barclay was done with his eloquent reminiscing, Gayle looked at him and asked, “You get much pussy?”

That is the kind of story that makes Chris Gayle not just a batting phenomenon but a complete novelty in the cricketing world. The man’s Twitter profile says, “World Boss/ Chris Lion”; he celebrates by doing the Gangnam-style dance on the field; he dances to Bollywood music at IPL parties; he’s started a record label with his brother Vanclive ‘Father Bulla’ Paris, because “as a sportsman I am always in the streets and I love the music. Also, mi just wanna support Bulla thing”; he tweets the news that the West Indies bus is being stoned by fans in Mirpur after the team thrashed Bangladesh in a World Cup group game, and follows it with the exclamation, “Kiss teeth!”; he flirts with the RCB cheerleaders on Sidhartha Mallya’s chat show.

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