Chris Gayle is the new world order

Alec Swann Columnist

By , Alec Swann is a Roar Expert

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    Chris Gayle became the first player to reach 10,000 Twenty20 runs the other day as he spanked his way to 77 for Royal Challengers Bangalore in their 21-run defeat of Gujarat Lions in the Indian Premier League.

    Given the Jamaican has spent the last few years galavanting around the world appearing for all and sundry in any short-form tournament going, and taking into account his perfect suitability for such a format, this won’t have really registered as much of a surprise.

    He certainly won’t be the last to reach such a milestone and longevity, especially in an arena that resembles one great big treadmill, should be applauded.

    But does anybody actually care?

    Has domestic Twenty20 become the cricket of choice, relegating the once all-powerful international game to the margins?

    Is franchise versus franchise the new West Indies versus India?

    Does the almighty dollar now provide the biggest pull?

    All of the above would fail to gain 100 per cent answers either way but, considering all the evidence, the tide is certainly moving towards instant gratification over considered concentration.

    Melbourne Renegades batsman Chris Gayle

    Hardly an earth-shattering discovery you will agree and Gayle isn’t the only one putting all his eggs in this particular basket – come to think of it, the majority of T20 ‘specialists’ seem to be from the Caribbean – yet there is a danger of the senses being numbed by way too much of a good thing.

    Take a look at all of the domestic leagues around the world and it is the same international faces on your TV screen. Jamaica, Somerset, Melbourne, Durban, Delhi; spin your glove and take your pick.

    Not much variety, not much contrast and not much to get the juices flowing.

    The complete lack of identity created by such a trend among those doing the six hitting only adds to the feeling of exhibitionism.

    But is this what those doing the viewing want, or crave?

    To listen to the marketers speaking of brand and reach, you might be forgiven for thinking the actual sport is just a sideshow.

    It could be Gayle, or Kevin Pietersen or Kumar Sangakkara, If it’s a man, in coloured clothes, clouting the ball over an under-13s sized boundary then all is well with the world.

    Cynical? I’m afraid so but also fearful for the game I enjoy being beaten around without much thought.

    When an English Test player – Jonny Bairstow – is tested from county duty when he would’ve been allowed to play in the IPL had he been drafted, the worm really is turning. And this from the most conservative of countries where tradition has always usurped novelty.

    However, it could well be that this 40-year-old is the one in the wrong.

    People do care about attention-grabbing numbers.

    Spectators would rather watch a Twenty20 thrash rather than a Test match.

    West Indies' opener Chris Gayle

    Franchise versus franchise is indeed the new country versus country. And the dollar trumps the lure of an international cap and sweater.

    Sport isn’t played in 2017 the way it was in 1990 or, come to think of it, even in 2010. That, in all probability, is the crux of the matter and those who yearn for what once was are swimming against a strengthening current.

    It would be extremely foolish to write off years of history and development and jump in with both feet at the alter of the new kid on the block – five3-day, four-day and 50-over cricket still offer plenty although the latter’s voice is most definitely weakening year on year – but time really does wait for no-one.

    To dissent is all well and good yet the actual evidence points in only one direction and no brakes look like being applied.

    So while you might not like it, you better, if you haven’t already, get used to it.

    Alec Swann
    Alec Swann

    Alec Swann is a former Northants and Lancashire opener turned cricket writer. Outside of the joys of a Test match, Newcastle United and golf generally occupy his other sporting interests with a soft spot for the Newcastle Knights.

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