‘Cricket for me was an Escape...’ says  Jamaican cricketer Chris Gayle

We have you covered and bring you the man himself; the epitome of calypso cricket in the recent years; The Universe Boss; The Gaylestorm, Christopher Henry Gayle!
West Indies batsman Chris Gayle. (File photo | PTI)
West Indies batsman Chris Gayle. (File photo | PTI)

For the first time in the history of cricket, the West Indies will not be a part of the Cricket World Cup… and, we’re missing the swagger and the music — the calypso that would magically begin to play in the background as players like Viv Richards, Brian Lara and Chris Gayle took the field. But fret not! We have you covered and bring you the man himself; the epitome of calypso cricket in the recent years; The Universe Boss; The Gaylestorm, Christopher Henry Gayle!

Chris is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most destructive batsmen to have played Twenty20 cricket. He also launched his music career in November 2020 with a dancehall music video, We Come Out To Party. In April 2021, Chris released a music video, Jamaica to India, in collaboration with the Indian rapper Emiway Bantai and more recently announced his latest album Tropical House — Cruises to Jamaica that has been sent to the Grammy Awards 2024 under the world music and reggae categories. Chris features in the song Gimme Your Love with singer Shav A on the album. The idea behind the album is to promote and familiarise India and Asia about Jamaican culture. We catch up with the formidable cricketer who has his sights set on the Grammys! 

You brought calypso to cricket, be it through your bowling or batting. Have you always enjoyed your cricket in this manner? Can you tell us about your early days in cricket?
I’ve always had this outlook on the game since I was introduced to the game at the Lucas Cricket Club in Kingston Jamaica. I came from a very poor background — being on the streets — so, cricket for me was an escape and I really enjoyed the game, so, I went from playing for fun to being a student of the game.

How did you come to be known as the biggest six-hitter in the world?
There were several neighbourhood teams when I was a teenager and I would play and earn a little money to help my family. I never used to like running at the crease, so, I started to try hitting sixes. I became known as the biggest six-hitter in the world when I set the record for most sixes in international cricket.

During our early days in RCB (Royal Challengers Bangalore), it was one big party, with you in the centre of it. Who were your buddies who partied the most with you?
Virat Kohli and I had some fun moments. Virat is so strong mentally and the game of cricket is 90 per cent mental. He was very motivational to me and his teammates because he led with his performance. 

What are India’s chances of winning the World Cup?
With India having the home-court advantage, a strong batting and bowling attack for the upcoming World Cup; I think they will definitely be finalists.

Shifting focus, have you always been into music, how did this album come about?
I was always a big fan of reggae and dance-hall music growing up and it was during the pandemic that I became active as an artiste, recording a song with UK-based artiste Stylo G. Since then, I started my own label Triple Century Records and built a studio in my house. I also released songs with Indian artistes Emiway Bantai and Arko. This album, Tropical House Cruises to Jamaica: The Asian Edition came about when a Jamaican Billboard executive producer Contractor Music approached me to headline an album for the Asian market featuring Grammy winner Lauryn Hill.

And how many songs are you a part of in the album?
As the headliner of the album, I have two songs on the album — the Choco Loco Remix with Camar Flava and Gimme Your Love with Shav A.

How did your foray into music begin?
I recorded my first song with UK-based artist Stylo G when he approached me to do a verse on a song with him. When I listened to myself on the song later, I was hooked!

We heard that this album might compete at the Grammys 2024. 
Yes, the album was entered into the Grammy Race 2024 in the category of Beat Reggae Album. In addition to the big names in reggae, the album has some good new artistes such as Kali Ranks, Lady Marga Mc and Inoah, as well as young Jamaican producers like Makonnen Blake Hannah.

Tell us about the song Gimme Your Love, how was it collaborating with Shav A?
The song Gimme Your Love is a love song with a young female singer named Shav A who is based in New York. 

You’ve been focusing a lot on being a global ambassador for Jamaican culture. With the popularity of this album and the marketing of it to Asia, I have been approached by the Jamaican Government to take on the role as cultural ambassador to India. This effort will be to open up tourism with India and help with the exposure of Jamaican culture to India.

— With inputs from Romal Laisram

Chris Gayle is so much more than just The Universe Boss as his fans adoringly call him. He’s also a cultural ambassador, a singer and a mentor as we discover in this exclusive tête-à-tête… By Edison Thomas

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