‘It’s Been A Long Journey For The US To Get A Big Ticket Cricket Event’

‘It’s Been A Long Journey For The US To Get A Big Ticket Cricket Event’, Chris Gayle lit up the Empire State Building earlier this week. It was part of the trophy tour to promote the T20 World Cup in its newest home, the United States of America.

In a rather lively chat, the former West Indian icon and T20 pioneer opens up about his visit to the iconic tower in New York, bringing cricket to the US, the importance of the World Cup for the Caribbean, and his legacy as a cricketer. Like always, and like only he can, he did also go all Chris Gayle about it.

'It's Been A Long Journey For The US To Get A Big Ticket Cricket Event'

EXCERPTS:

The fact that there you are in New York, lighting 

Yeah, it’s part of the trophy tour, spreading the message and awareness for the T20 World Cup here in the United States. We know how long the cricket fans have been waiting to see a big event here in the USA. And for us to create some new fans. Bring the baseball, the ice hockey, and the NBA fans over to cricket.

That will be huge. The biggest game in the World Cup will be here too, at the Nassau County International Stadium, India v Pakistan. We are all looking forward to that. We all know what that brings to the World Cup as well. Exciting times ahead from June 1 to June 29.

Somewhere the Universe Boss and the Empire State Building, there’s some connection there isn’t there. Nobody noticed it yet but I’m glad it’s happened.

I’m Glad You Are Aware Of That, You Know. (Laughs)

You make that statement so well and it’s so true. You watch the movie King Kong and the Empire State Building, but King Kong has nothing on the Universe Boss. I went one step higher than King Kong on the Empire State Building.

But I didn’t jump though. (Laughter).

Nah boy, but it’s huge man being on the Empire State. Surrounded by a lot of stars, being up there, showcasing the World Cup and the great players who will be playing in it, and their talent. Be up there with Ali Khan (US cricketer). And it was my first time here too, so even more special.

And King Kong never lit up that building either. In many ways, you are like the Empire State Building of T20 cricket, aren’t you? You’ve been there for nearly a decade. And now that you have sort of retired, not sure Chris Gayle will ever retire, are you in a position to acknowledge your legacy as a T20 pioneer?

You know to be honest, I haven’t got to the point where I’ll sit back and analyse my career. One day I’ll give myself the chance to look back at what I’ve done as a cricketer. One of these days I will look back at all the damage that the Universe Boss has done in a good way in the cricket world. We have some upcoming stars now and it’s their time to shine.

Even if you haven’t got to a place where you want to acknowledge your legacy, the fact is that you’ve played such a huge role in putting T20 cricket on the map, literally in some cases, in a way nobody had done before.

Absolutely. That goes without saying. One of a kind you know. The one and only Universe Boss. Agree with you but sometimes an individual doesn’t want to take that sort of credit and own up to it, yes I’ve done that and I’ve done this. But you know what, I’m going to own it right now. (Laughs)

I Revamped The Sport of Cricket. And I’m Talking About All Formats.

Yeah, and that’s the point, right? People speak of Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar as being guys who managed to rule over all three formats. But you’re also one of them, right? Over 100 Tests, and two triple tons, and the runs you scored in Test cricket as Chris Gayle before becoming the Universe Boss…

Those guys you mentioned, Sachin and Virat, are the only two guys with over 50 ODI centuries. I don’t even have the words to describe them. And to be put in the same category as them is special. Very unique, the one and only Virat Kohli is still going and still going very strong. Still has a lot of years left in him to play all formats.

We’ll see what calls he makes for himself and Indian cricket as well. Sachin was the original trendsetter, with over 100 international centuries, which is remarkable as well. And like you said, the Universe Boss has brought entertainment and spice to all formats. I’ve got a triple there.

The fact that cricket is coming to the US. It’s been a market that cricket has tried breaking into for a while. And you’ve spent quite a bit of time there overall. Do you think they’re ready?

I Think They’re Ready. They Can’t Miss An Opportunity

I think they’re ready. They can’t miss an opportunity like this for sure. They’ve also built a stadium in Dallas. This one is in Nassau. And Fort Lauderdale, which we’re all accustomed to. We’ve played a lot of international cricket there. Hopefully, the pitch can be even a bit better there, and spend a little time preparing it properly.

We don’t know what the wickets will be like in the new stadiums. They’ll be drop-in and we have some expert curators to take care of that. It’s been a long journey for the US to get a big-ticket cricket event. A lot of people keep going, “What is cricket? What is cricket?” and we do the same with, “What is baseball? What is baseball?”

Hopefully, we can have a bit of a collaboration. I saw a bit of it in Canada as well. So it can happen. A lot of non-cricket fans here will get a chance to have a look at live cricket and bring more new people in. I’m sure they’ll invite a few stars and celebrities as well as they do courtside in the NBA or at the Super Bowl. We should invite some proper people as well. Those who are visible and make an impression.

Well, that’s up to me. I’d have to be the one to invite her. She’s my friend. I’ll invite her. Surely she’ll come once I’m here. It’s my responsibility.

I’m also hearing that you’ve developed this new love for baseball and want to start hitting a few home runs. (Laughs) It’s been good fun for me right now. I’ve been part of the Blue Jays in Toronto. Was fun just hitting a few balls out of the park is nothing new to me. Just a different ball, white baseball. I introduced cricket to them and let them hit a cricket ball. It was different. And they started loving it. Loved being in the cage, hitting some home runs. Yeah, that’s rich.

Among the many things you’ve done in cricket, you’ve also played a big role in spreading the sport. Yes, you’ve played in all the big leagues, but you were also among the first to go around the world and play in some leagues, which were obscure to start with. How important do you think is it for your sport that big-ticket cricket can spread around the world, even if not every country has a national team of renown?

It’s truly good. When I get the time to play in any tournament, I’ve made it a point to do that. I’ve played in a few, yes. (Laughs)

It’s wonderful to play in some of those leagues you mention, share dressing rooms with cricketers who I wouldn’t have otherwise, and get close to them. And the reactions you get from them at times are unbelievable. It’s like they can’t focus on the cricket and are just happy to be in the same dressing room with the likes of Chris Gayle, and other legends. When they get close to legends, it’s a wow factor for them. And even in the Legends leagues, you see the same. It’s about spreading the game all over. Uplift our game, like football. I’m not talking soccer like in the States, original football.

We speak a lot about cricket going to the US. This is also a big World Cup for the Caribbean. We haven’t seen a major men’s world event there since the 2010 World T20.

Absolutely. A lot of focus will be on the Caribbean and the West Indies team. After what happened in the men’s 50-over World Cup, which we didn’t even make it to. This is the perfect opportunity for the West Indies to showcase what they’re capable of in the shorter formats. Two-time champions, don’t forget. Give the people in the Caribbean something to cheer about. We have a very good squad and we can do well. Go all the way into the knockouts, then into the final, and lift the trophy. That will be something phenomenal for Caribbean fans globally. We have a lot to play for. We have to play our A game, and we have the players to do that.

But Bot Having Games In Jamaica, Your Homeland

Oh yeah. We have so many legends of cricket who’ve come from Jamaica and still live in Jamaica. No games there is very disappointing. We’d have loved to see a few games there. But it’s already what it is. The Caribbean needs an overall revamp. It’s taken a dip. With this T20 World Cup, it can uplift the game of cricket and gain some more interest from the people. If we don’t, then we have ourselves to blame. We have to win back the fans within the Caribbean.

As someone who has won two World Cups in the past, how do you rate this current team? There are so many who are stars around the world of league cricket but how big a tournament could it be for someone like Nicholas Pooran?

Nicholas Pooran has grown and matured in the last two years. He’s been dominant in the T20 format across so many leagues. He’s going to be the key player for the West Indies, batting in the top 3 hopefully. He needs to express himself. It’s good to have the likes of Andre Russell back in international cricket. We know how explosive he can be. I’m not sure about which two openers they’ll use but we have captain Rovman Powell in the middle as well. So much depth in our batting and bowling department, we have good fast bowlers too. Good headache to have for our selectors, to get the best XI on the park. To play consistent cricket and keep that core together. And good to have a coach in Daren Sammy, who knows a thing or two about winning T20 World Cups as captain.

Two-time champion Daren Sammy. In the last couple of T20I series, the track record has been very good for West Indies. They have won quite a few series. That should give him and the team a lot of confidence going into this big event. It’s very good. They’ve been playing as a unit. They’ve got experience there as well. Winning a World Cup is not alien to them, and Sammy knows all about it. Speaking of positives, there hasn’t been a bigger positive for West Indies cricket or one like Shamar Joseph.

Yeah, what a Test win that was in Brisbane. What a match-winning performance from young Joseph. Fantastic young player and had such a remarkable story behind him before he played international cricket as well. Based on where he’s coming from. Hopefully, he’ll be included in the T20 World Cup squad. We’ve got Alzarri Joseph as well. Two rapid fast bowlers are such a good thing to have in T20 cricket. Continue to do good things for the West Indies.

Just on that Gabba Test, to see the likes of Brian Lara, Ian Bishop, and Carl Hooper being so emotional in the end there. What was your reaction like?

It was probably around 2 or 3 am my time in Jamaica. I was watching it live. I’m not a cricket watcher generally. But I was glued to the TV at home. To see the past players and what it means for them. We’ve been going to that place for so many years, we’d never had that sort of a victory against the mighty Australian team who are so dominant at home. Picking up 6 wickets was fantastic, with an injured toe as well. The youngster just changed the Test around. And a life-changing performance for him too. It felt like the West Indies won the series.

We’ve spoken about everyone else. What’s the Universe Boss going to be doing during the World Cup? I mean I’ll be at a few of the games live. Hopefully, West Indies will be in the final and go on to win the trophy. And then I will have an after-party with him. I have other things to do as well. Hopefully, I’ll be there to watch the India-Pakistan game live in Nassau as well. I’ll be around and I’m just a phone call away just in case anything is needed of me.

Empire State Building Done Eiffel Tower Next?

(Laughter) Burj Khalifa. And then I’ll jump over to the Ambani House, the tallest house in the world. I’ll be in India for the IPL doing some studio work.

Surprised to not see you at the Ambani wedding on that note

Oh, they just couldn’t afford me. Yeah, they’re billionaires but they couldn’t afford the Universe Boss. They couldn’t source it. I told them to take Rihaana in place of me. (Laughs)

By abdurrauf2930

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