Six Machine. That’s the designation he has self-bestowed: I Don’t Like Cricket… I Love It is the title of Chris Gayle’s autobiography that reads like his batting — staccato, replete with action, and different. Gayle is different. A batsman who bats like none other, his shots touching the sky or scorching the turf, making a mockery of the coaching manual and setting benchmarks beyond even the extraordinary.
In the news for all reasons right and wrong, Gayle is a typical modern cricketer with an in-your-face attitude. He will destroy or perish but bat on his terms. Pressure makes no difference to his performance at the crease. The first ball goes into the orbit. That’s Gayle for you. He may also raise optimism among bowlers that his wicket could be round the corner but often it is the bowlers who come to grief.
Six Machine is a racy narrative packed with anecdotes that Gayle reveals for the first time. It is a peep into his difficult past, growing up with dreams and ambitions, and achieving them as he had visualised.
“I’m weird. I’m a weirdo,” the story begins honestly, and goes on to say “You think you know me? You don’t know me.” He then takes you on a delightful tour through the world of Gayle, the world of his cricket and his decimation of the very concept of attacking batsmanship. It is much more than what is universally assumed as stroke-making. Some describe it as an art. Gayle patents it with his tempestuous style — raining sixes and fours.
The opening chapter gives a glimpse of what lies in store. Sample this: “You think you know Chris Gayle. World Boss. The Six Machine. Destroyer of bowlers, demolisher of records, king of the party scene.” An appropriate self-appraisal by a man who takes pride in claiming that he only scores through sixes and doesn’t run. What of his partners then? Who runs their runs?
But this is Gayle, the self-proclaimed World Boss. He proudly announces, “I am complicated.” He is indeed, and you discover it this his journey unravels from page to page. “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 goes on parading his ‘popularity’ but he forgets that there is a Michael Holding, antithesis of Gayle, non-pretentious, also hugely popular, an achiever, also from Jamaica. And a fine role model!
But this is not about Gayle vs. the rest of Jamaicans. He is pompous, as his life story reveals. “I am the Six Machine. Twice as many T20 sixes as the next man. More international one-day centuries than Brian Lara, more Test matches than Ian Botham, more Test catches than Clive Lloyd…” He goes on and on… But Gayle forgets that batting is not just about hitting sixes in T20. It is about winning Test matches, constructing the team innings, showing responsibility at the crease.
But Gayle is delightfully honest, laidback yet commanding, controversial yet delivers, mean to the bowlers but kind to his friends. He writes about getting beatings from his mother. “Get hit with anything she grabs. Proper Licks,” he calls it. There are poignant bits when he remembers how his birthdays came and went, without cards or cakes. He loved Christmas because “you’re going to get a good meal”.
His formative years in neighbourhood cricket makes for exceptionally honest reading. His days at the Lucas Cricket Club in Kingston, where legends such as George Hadley and Frank Worrell once showcased their skills. Gayle recalls characters from his early days vividly and is hugely respectful to some of the big names of the game in the Caribbean.
But bragging big is what he does best, calling himself “the Tsar of T20, the boss of the boundary boards”. The story is full of such phrases. “What a beautiful ball! Beauty!” he raves on castling Saeed Anwar. “Nine mighty sixes, five thrash-dash fours, a hundred off just 50 balls.” That’s Gayle, hugely important on the field, awesomely sought-after off it. He talks of his first time. Of taking girls back to the room. There is a chapter on it, his escapades in Sri Lanka during the World T20 in 2012 when cops came knocking at his door. West Indies went on to win the Cup and Gayle shares the lovely details for his fans.
But there is a human side to the Gayle story when he visits the 11-year-old Bengaluru girl who ends up with a broken nose from a sixer he hit. “Feeling sad,” Gayle paid her a visit at the hospital, pampered her with gifts, and organised a posh seat for the young lady at the next game. He destroys the bowlers and calls it “giving them publicity”. True. He also berates himself for letting down a friend. He comes clean on his “Don’t Blush Baby” incident with Channel 10 reporter Mel McLaughlin in a chapter where he savages Andrew Flintoff, Chris Rogers and Ian Chappell.
Gayle is at his best when putting Chappell in his place for demanding a worldwide ban. “Ian Chappell, a man who was once convicted of unlawful assault in the West Indies for punching a cricket official. Ian Chappell, how can you ban the Universe Boss? You’d have to ban cricket itself,” Gayle hits the Aussie for a mighty six.
The Six Machine and his upgrade from a shack to a nine-bedroom, swimming-pool equipped mansion in the green hills above Kingston is a fascinating account of an astonishing batsman. Once, a sixer in one match was a privilege. Gayle has made it common, swatting the ball into the stands like a fly several times. At will literally. No one hits a six like Gayle. Two triple 100s in Tests, one double 100 in ODIs, two 100s in T20s. Gayle is the only one to achieve this.
His story is a cricket intrigue worth unravelling, page by page, a rollercoaster ride that is typical of his batting. “I don’t like cricket. I love it,” says the 36-year-old Gayle. You may not love Gayle but you may well end up liking him at the end of this excellent read.