Team manager of the Jamaica Tallawahs Andrew Richardson says that the decision of star batsman Chris Gayle to leave the team for the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots ahead of next season’s Caribbean Premier League (CPL) Twenty20 Cricket tournament is similar to basketball star Lebron James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010.
With question marks also surrounding the future of another top Tallawahs player, Andre Russell, Richardson noted that the defending CPL champions would be looking to add another big name to the squad with possible concerns about crowd support given the obvious void that will be left by Gayle’s departure.
It was announced yesterday said Gayle would be moving to the Patriots and Richardson says Gayle’s figures for the Tallawahs in his four seasons with the Jamaican franchise will make it hard for anyone to match his impact.
“It is a statistical fact that all Tallawahs matches that he made over 30 runs in, we have won,” Richardson says.
Despite recent controversies surrounding the power-hitting batsman, including making what were considered to be sexist comments, Richardson added that the Jamaican is still extremely important to any team he plays for, while noting that the towering player also brings a strong sense of leadership and ability to motivate players.
However, Richardson was quick to point out that the move means that other players now have to step up their performances without him.
“Chris is an asset wherever he goes. Whatever team he goes to, it is automatically strengthened. He does put a lot of pressure on the other guys around him to step up as well,” said Richardson.
“We know how dominant he is with the bat and he has been a leader from day one. I don’t know the role he’ll play in St Kitts. I don’t know if he’s going be the captain, I cannot comment on that, but he has made his decision. Chris is my friend, and I respect his decision,” he added.
Richardson noted that although the team will be promoting players from within, Gayle is expected to be replaced with what he described as “another marquee player”.
“Hopefully, we can do well in the draft, although the marquee players haven’t been made
available as yet,” Richardson said.
Fellow West Indies batsman Marlon Samuels is one name already eyed as a replacement as he is Jamaican and also considered a top player in the Twenty20 format of the game. He last represented the Patriots as their captain in the 2015 season.
Richardson said he cannot yet confirm if the team will make him an offer, as the board needs to first meet to make a decision about it. He also refused to mention other possible replacements.
The official said he was not yet sure if the move would affect turnout for games next season, especially as another of the team’s top players, AndrÈ Russell, faces a possible two-year ban for an anti-doping whereabouts violation. He said that he had not yet spoken to the board to see if that was also one of its concerns.
Gayle has won the CPL title twice with the Tallawahs. The first was in the opening season in 2013 and the second, last summer.
“I am a proud Jamaican and I loved representing the Tallawahs,” said Gayle yesterday. “I would like to thank the owners and management, who have been brilliant to work with; my team-mates, who always gave me 100 per cent support; and of course, the Jamaican fans who made Sabina Park such a special home ground for me.”
Gayle’s 9,777 Twenty20 runs in his career make him one of the biggest names in the format.