David Leggat on sport
David Leggat is a Herald sport writer

David Leggat: Change in the wind as Gayle blows it

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Gayle is among cricket's great modern entertainers. Photo / Getty Images
Gayle is among cricket's great modern entertainers. Photo / Getty Images

Bay Oval at Mt Maunganui was sold out twice this week, a large proportion of cricket watchers being families.

The setting was a picture; the mood festive; the results to their liking, save a small group of enthusiastic Sri Lankans.

This is more about Thursday's T20 match. There were 7845 people in, and enthusiastic.

One mother of two sons, not a regular attendee, was delighted by what she saw. Not so much the cricket in the middle, but the sights alongside her in the crowd.

Youngsters, 10 and thereabouts, were glued to the action. Whenever a New Zealand fielder hove into view down on the nearby boundary, off they ran down the bank in search of autographs.

"That was Ross Taylor ... he's Trent Boult," came the excited babble upon their return.

And the point of this? Maybe the older - or shall we say traditional - fans of the game have got it all wrong. There's an alternative view of T20.

Slap dash, hit and miss, a dumbing down of the game to the point where 14 in six balls can be infinitely more valuable than 35 in 39 balls. I kind of get that, but not really.

Think now of the focus groups so beloved of businesses seeking to improve sales and product.

Put a group of, say, eight young fans in a circle and ask which form of the game they would leap at watching.

Now put your last dollar on the shortest version coming out top in most, if not all, responses.

It will never be for everyone. But indisputably it has its place, and its demographic, as Bay Oval showed.

The lights were shining in the young eyes. Their heroes were in the new brown and beige.

Then again, there have always been heroes, but you need to be careful what you wish for, as the Chris Gayle imbroglio this week has shown.

Gayle is among cricket's great modern entertainers. He was fined A$10,000 ($10,608) for his performance in front of a microphone with television interviewer Mel McLaughlin.

Gayle thinks he's funny - he's installed a stripper pole in his house, what a hoot! - and the fans laugh along until they realise it's not that hilarious after all.

Cricket Australia put on its stern face - remember they've endorsed all these "witty" boundary exchanges - and marked Gayle's card: no more Big Bash League. He might find other gates in the T20 international circuit clanging shut too.

Sport loves its characters, those who march to their own tune, don't necessarily follow all the rules and that's fine.

You don't want to get too po-faced about it, but for years Gayle has swaggered along to his own beat.

That he grossly overstepped the mark on this occasion is a given.

The sniggering commentators changed their tune quick smart too after a call from the boss minutes later. Until that call, it had become blokes united in a nudge, nudge dose of male bonding.

Give yourself five years and tap McLaughlin's name into your search engine and see what comes up as first reference. Nice work Chris.

- NZ Herald

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