Chris Gayle, Six Machine: Full book review
You think you know Chris Gayle. You don’t.
He isn’t merely a beast, muscling monstrous maximums with a bat that reads Spartan.
Life started with a timid Gayle, a scrawny kid like many others in Jamaica, fascinated by the game but trussed by the circumstances.
The book is a colourful account of how his journey took him from the bylanes of Jamaica to a nine-bedroom villa, from milk and Nutribun to “anything you want, sir”. And it isn’t just a running narrative, it is a heartfelt account that highlights the big man’s simple heart amidst the razzmatazz and showboating.
Gayle shared a bed with four siblings, saw his birthdays go by without cake or card and longed for Christmas to come just because “you’re going to get a good meal’’. He goes on to boast about his luxuries, but gives a detailed account of the humble beginnings. “A birthday jus’ another day you hungry”.
Chris Gayle is not an uncomplicated character. When in his zone, you can see the sixes churning out of his bat. Yet, it isn’t cold slogging. He backs his instincts, but also calculates his approach. He bludgeons bowlers, but also reads them. Through the book, you get a peek into his view of the game, thoughtful, measured, yet brimming with confidence.
The self-proclaimed Tsar of T20 last played a Test in 2014, but you can see how much the format mattered to him. One of only three players to score a triple century twice (and he reminds that to you time and again), Gayle describes his Test bests in detail, his demystification of Ajantha Mendis en route 333, an ailing mother on the back of his mind as he compiled 317 against South Africa, resisting and persisting even as he fought a failing body and a loosening resolve to stay put.
You are hooked as he takes you to a ball by ball description of his exploits; launching sixes off a searing Brett Lee in the World T20 or “Zlatan-style” annihilation of a hapless Prasanth Parameswaran in the IPL, looting six fours out of a Matthew Hoggard over in a Test or whipping Shaun Pollock for maximums off his pads.
You think T20 is easy; the man will break it down for you. He finds it the most taxing, a “blast of electricity through the heart”, claiming IPL to be the hardest league in the world. He goes about in detail about the glamour, the aura and the impact of the format that has changed cricket completely. Chris Gayle has had a big part to play, and he doesn’t shy away from announcing that.
The book doesn’t fall short of amusing and entertaining with his Jamaican way of describing anecdotes from his childhood, like the way he used to get a bashing from his mother; “licks, proper licks”. His inability to remember teammates’ names, his love for Hennessy and the hatred for Red Label as well as the awed description of the Kingfisher mansion in Goa will bring a smile.
All this is sold with heavy dollops of pride and a self-indulgent slant, a narration which matches his batting style.
Hidden inside his “Gladiator mask” are his vulnerabilities, mental anguishes, and shortcomings. He poignantly remembers the loss of two of his best friends, Garrick Grant and Runako Morton. He acknowledges each hand that went up in raising the kid past the dry pitches at Lucas. His Gayle foundation for kids and the tears in his eyes when he visits a young girl injured by his six make the stories more endearing.
Like his batting, he doesn’t hold back in the book. He gives a blunt view of the things he likes or dislikes. He gives a flat response to all the allegations against him, clears all the controversies, but doesn’t stop short of causing new flutters, from his equation with Brian Lara, his loathing of Andre Nel, his displeasure at Ottis Gibson being the coach to his take on the colour prejudices in the years that led to international cricket, even his misdemeanours as a teenager.
Be it his alleged affair with Mrs. Allen Stanford, or clearing the air about his in-house strip club, Gayle turns down all allegations like he turned down a $3M contract in the ICL. The controversial Big Bash interview comes up too, and Andrew Flintoff, Chris Rogers, and Ian Chappell aren’t spared. His opinion is sure to rile up a few feathers, but an unmindful Gayle “has learned his lessons”.
He meanders along in parts and sometimes weaves in and out of his stories too fast, starting some accounts abruptly, but it hardly matters because you are already absorbed.
The fan in me is delighted, and the reader satisfied.