It was in the way tales of cricketers from the Caribbean were narrated indulgently all these years. In how all the bling and partytalk and flamboyance sat so easily with pacy bowling and imperious batting that became central to conversations on West Indian cricket. And sunny beaches and rum and women got seamlessly hyphenated to paint a supposedly idyllic picture. Till TV presenter Mel McLaughlin used whatever was left of her poise to definitively say “I am not blushing” to Chris Gayle, who appeared to be propositioning the female journalist during a sideline interview of the Big Bash League, the image of a cricketer going about this flirty gig was hardly ever frowned upon.
Not that the cricketer’s apology carried even a semblance of comprehension that he had said something inappropriate. “If she felt bad, I am sorry,” can hardly count as remorse. But even factoring in Gayle’s personality that’s stopped raising eyebrows, this was a line brazenly crossed, on air. Yet Gayle’s remark was even described as “smooth” by the broadcaster before it was pulled down on Twitter. There were jokes on the stunt even before Gayle cracked an off-colour one of his own — that he was merely joking. As apologies go, it was lame. But it is because of the complicity of cricket’s fans and commentators in turning a blind eye to known offenders that it has taken years for someone to draw the line and call an international star out on his insolence. The acceptance of “flamboyance” among international cricketers is so commonplace that the description of “boring” has come to be stinging.
The Jamaican’s lifestyle is the crux of the image he’s built himself over the years. While it would be nobody’s business to call him out on what he does off the field, standing by the dugout while a match is on and attempting a not-particularly clever line with a woman journalist is not civil or classy, any place, any day.