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EDITORIAL: Gayle should’ve known better


EDITORIAL: Gayle should’ve known better

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THAT CHRIS GAYLE, a former West Indies cricket captain and T20 international superstar in Australia, finds himself in the eye of a hurricane  shouldn’t come as a surprise.

For the 36-year-old Jamaican, who has scored almost 40 international centuries  and was the first cricketer to hit a ton in every format of the game, has had more than his fair share of controversies in 20- plus years of competing at the highest global level.

For example, he has openly criticised the West Indies Cricket Board, his employer, and was reprimanded; fined 30 per cent of a match fee for a verbal exchanges with Australian batsman Michael Clarke in a match in India in 2006; and was quoted in 2009 as saying he “wouldn’t be so sad” if Test cricket was superseded by T20. Just as bad, he was disrespectful to Ottis Gibson when the latter was the West Indies cricket coach.

His latest misstep came on January 4 during an interview with Australia’s Network 10 commentator Mel McLaughlin after a Big Bash League game. He seemingly invited the female presenter to go out with him for a drink.

Here’s how Gayle put it to McLaughlin: “I wanted to come and have an interview with you as well. That’s the reason why I’m here . . .  to see your eyes for the first time. Hopefully, we win this game and we can have a drink after. Don’t blush baby.”

Naturally, the floodgates of criticism were flung open immediately and in most cases deservedly so. Stated simply, his comments were inappropriate and sexist. As a professional who has played the wonderful game in almost every corner of the cricketing world, Gayle should have known better. Making his interest in the woman known during the interview was disrespectful. After all, she was doing her job as a professional and wasn’t there looking for a man.

Too often prominent sports personalities and powerful men go too far in their dealings with women. They believe their popularity and status give them a right to disrespect females who, like men, are doing a job in a professional manner. Clearly, the (Australian) $10 000 fine imposed on Gayle for his transgression and arrogance was the appropriate punishment. That he quickly apologised to the presenter, insisting he was joking, was an indication that he understood the gravity of the offence and that he had crossed the line. In short, the punishment fit the offence, if you will.

But what was over the top, beyond reason, was a call by former Australian captain Ian Chappell for Gayle to be forced out of international cricket. If the West Indian had manhandled the journalist, used vulgar language, or touched his private parts, then Chappell’s demand should be considered. The West Indian did none of those unacceptable things.

But there is a larger issue here. It is one of gender equality. Female journalists have fought long and hard to be taken seriously in what’s a male-dominated profession and every action must be taken to ensure that they are given the respect and the access to players that their male counterparts take for granted.

If any good comes out of this sad episode it would be that the young West Indies cricketers learn from Gayle’s misconduct. Complimenting a male or female journalist is one thing – asking them out for a drink and doing so during an interview is another. Calling a professional “baby”, “sweetheart” or “darling” is wrong. She is not your darling. If you want to compliment her, then praise her work, not her piercing eyes.

Perhaps the Gayle incident would put the offenders on notice that enough is enough.