Chris Gayle is probably the coolest cricketer on the planet. Whether blazing away while batting or bowling his deceptively innocuous off-breaks or mooching languidly at slip, he conveys the impression that none of this matters. Occasionally he breaks into a smile and on one famous occasion he scowled, but he does not do that not often. He just looks, well, cool.
This persona will be severely tested in Antigua next Saturday evening and Gayle knows it. The prospect of $1 million a man, the largest prize in team sport, may just see an unprecedented bead of sweat appearing on his top lip. "You're correct, it will be different for me," he said. "It does test your cool when you're under pressure, there is no two ways about it. But I think the best way will be not to think about the money but about the cricket."
Gayle probably knows this will be impossible, since the only reason for the existence of the Stanford Super Series is the pot of dollar bills at the end of it, in the match next Saturday between England and the Stanford Superstars. If it is mind-boggling for the England team, it is positively life-changing for some of the home side, comprising West Indians.
Although there are established internationals in the squad – Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan – there are five players uncapped in any form of the game, four more with only a brief acquaintance. Who has heard of Travis Dowlin, Lennox Cush, Lionel Baker, Chad Hampson?
By next Sunday, if all goes according to Gayle's plan, one or more of them might be heroes across the Caribbean and richer than they can have ever expected. "Yeah, it's true," said Gayle, down the phone line from Antigua, where his squad have trained for several weeks. "It's more interesting than some matches because of the money and we'll have to keep our nerve, because that's what you have to do in Twenty20. But I'll be playing like I always do, no change there at all."
This means that he will attempt to hit the leather off the ball in every circumstance while looking hip without trying. But he has somehow to instil confidence and belief into his players, who, make no mistake, England will be seeking to undermine.
Gayle has been a revelation as captain. Before he assumed the role, almost by accident in England last year, the cool was synonymous with rebellion. But the players immediately warmed to him. It was obvious that they saw something in his character which meant they were happy to be led by him.
One of those hopelessly unscientific but unerringly accurate surveys appeared in the programme for the one-day series. One of the questions to players was: Who is the coolest cricketer? Gayle won by a mile, with four of the England squad and 10 of the West Indians choosing him – including Gayle himself.
"As captain I do stay more focused," he said. "I'm enjoying it most of the time but I couldn't do it without the support of the players. I still want to be captain of West Indies, but this is a different set-up in the StanfordSeries. I don't see any problem with the match and it could be good for cricket in the Caribbean. The money will help cricket at large. We can win but England are favourites. I will tell the boys not to think about the money because that will come if we play well, and we can play well."
England will not underestimate him. In Bombay two years ago, West Indies beat Australia in a gripping Champions Trophy match by 10 runs. This was partly because Gayle, from slip, constantly sledged Michael Clarke. It got under the skin of the other batsman, Adam Gilchrist, who was upset, lost concentration and was run out backing up. This showed it mattered to Gayle all right. Just as the prospect of a million will matter next weekend.
It will do his street cred no harm at all, though he played down suggestions that victory would make him the second most famous Jamaican after Usain Bolt. "No, he's known all over the world," said Gayle. "This will make a difference, but I'm not Usain." But they clearly went to the same cool school, and it should help in the Antiguan cauldron next Saturday.
Chris Gayle was speaking to promote Sky Sports' exclusively live and high definition coverage of the Stanford Super seriesReuse content