Chris Gayle has responded to the criticism he received from fellow cricketers following his sexist comments during a live interview in last season’s Big Bash League, with Andrew Flintoff, Chris Rogers and Ian Chappell all coming under fire in an extract from his new autobiography.
In January, Gayle was fined US$10,000 by his club, Melbourne Renegades, after propositioning Channel 10’s pitch-side reporter, Mel McLaughlin, during a mid-match piece to camera, in which he first asked McLaughlin out for a drink and then responded to her visible unease with the words, “Don’t blush, baby”.
Despite the controversy that ensued, Gayle remains unrepentant five months down the line. “Now T20 is different,” he writes, in a serialised extract of his book Six Machine, published in the Times. “It’s not Test cricket. It’s chilled and fun and let’s do things different. So when Mel asks me that question I stay in the T20 mind, and answer informal and fun. I meant it as a joke. I meant it as a little fun. I didn’t mean to be disrespectful and I didn’t mean it to be taken serious.”
Chris Gayle during his controversial boundary-line interview with Mel McLaughlin © Getty Images
As Gayle noted, Network Ten’s commentary team could be heard laughing on air after the incident. “But someone up above them clearly decided to step in, and a throwaway comment in a fun format escalates and blows up and within hours it has turned into a major international incident,” he wrote.
“Don’t hate me just because I’m not what you want me to be. Don’t hate me because I’m not who you are. I am me and I am honest. I stand by my friends and my friends stand by me.”
Among the most scathing critics of his actions was Rogers, the former Australia opening batsman who is also a team-mate of Gayle’s at Somerset. Speaking on an ABC radio show shortly after the incident, Rogers accused Gayle of setting a bad example for his younger team-mates, adding that his was a “pattern of behaviour … [that] you see over and over”.
In response, however, Gayle insinuated that Rogers was a hypocrite, and had acted more like “Roger Rabbit”.
“Chris Rogers, how can you claim that when it was you and me at the bar most nights?” he wrote, “I’m not a snitch, but I’ve heard from your own mouth what you’ve done. Next time you want to open your mouth, maybe chew on a carrot instead.”
As for Flintoff, who wrote on Twitter after the McLaughlin incident that Gayle had made himself look a bit of a “chop”, Gayle suggested – slightly bizarrely – that his criticisms were invalidated because of Flintoff’s own admission, in an interview last year, that he had once been run out in a Test match after taking Viagra.
“Freddie Flintstone, a young boy like you taking Viagra? Don’t lecture me,” wrote Gayle. “The only chop Freddie knows is when he used to bowl short to me and I would chop him past backward point for four.”
Chappell, who had called for Gayle to face a world-wide ban following his comments, also came in for a rebuke.
“Ian Chappell, calling for me to be banned worldwide. 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, who is due to play for Somerset again this season in the NatWest T20 Blast, had sparked another sexism row earlier this week when he asked a Times journalist, Charlotte Edwardes, a string of inappropriate questions, including how many black men she has “had” and whether she had ever engaged in a “t’eesome”, while also claiming he had “the biggest bat in the wooooorld”.
However, Somerset dismissed any suggestion that they will renege on their six-game deal with Gayle as a consequence of his comments.
“I was disappointed to read the article,” Guy Lavender, the Somerset chief executive, told the Observer. “But as I’ve said before, we found him to be fantastic the last time he was here, in terms of activities both on and off the pitch.
“It’s a shame, because it detracts from his cricketing ability. The fact is, what he has said is inappropriate. But we haven’t had an opportunity to discuss [it] with him. I’m sure we will. But I don’t see it as grounds not to have him playing for us this summer.”