West Indies news March 14, 2014

Gayle hurt by 'mercenary' tag

Chris Gayle has criticised those who are labelling cricketers as T20 mercenaries. He believes that it is an unfair term to players and degrades their standing in the game, warning that harming players' reputations with such labels was "distasteful and unwarranted".

"I've had that said about me in the past and it's hurtful, by my own fans in the Caribbean and some by others. But they need to know that it's always a cricketer's dream to wear his international colours. That term 'mercenary' will hurt cricket," he said. "These same mercenaries are the ones who are representing all the countries in the World T20s who everyone will be supporting so why use that word?"

Gayle's dispute with the WICB took him out the international frame in the past and he understood why the criticism came as he plied his trade in T20 tournaments globally, but he maintained that it was always his aim to return for West Indies.

"I had bills to pay and all cricketers have the same. We still do," he said. "T20 is a good way of earning extra income to secure your future and your family's. Many people don't get that. I'm more comfortable financial-wise now and I'm looking to play West Indies cricket for a few more years."

"All I wanted to do was come back and play for the West Indies. When I wasn't in the team, I had to play T20s to pay the bills and look at what happened in 2012. We won the World T20 and so many players like myself, [Dwayne] Bravo and Sunil Narine gained from our IPL experiences. We have more West Indies players in the IPL now and it's great for [Krishmar] Santokie and Jason Holder to get this experience. And make a living."

Gayle's view was backed by former West Indies opener Desmond Haynes who coached Barbados Tridents in last year's Caribbean Premier League. "You know how hard it was for players like us back in the day to make money off cricket? We had to travel the world on tour and play away from our family for so long," he said. "Relationships, marriages and parenthood struggled. Some of us couldn't see our newborns for a year. But we had to do it. Now, some players can make what we did in a lifetime in just one or two T20 tournaments."

Gayle, now 34, has targeted at least another couple of years at Test level - fitness permitting - and insists his drive to represent West Indies remains strong but added "the T20 label keeps sticking to me" before drawing again on the case of his friend Kevin Pietersen.

"You look at someone like KP," he added. "He could have made money for years now playing T20s but he stuck with England. It's national pride. Now, maybe he will be going out there and be playing more T20s and making big money but no one believes us when players like us say we always want to play for our country first and foremost.

"The game has changed and there's a lot of cricket being played so T20s do clash with tours and such but we can iron and fix this out. Maybe it's all about proper T20 windows, who knows? But I'm sure if England called KP up now he'd jump at the chance to play for his country. That's across the board for players like us. We always would."

Renaldo Matadeen is a sportswriter and social media manager for ESPN Caribbean. He tweets here