The chief executive of the Jozi Stars franchise in South Africa rode to the defence of underfire Chris Gayle on Tuesday, describing the West Indian batsman as "sensitive". The 40-year-old Gayle waved goodbye to South Africa's Mzansi Super League on Monday with a stormy press conference in which he complained "I don't get respect". It marked the end of a pitiful campaign for the former West Indies captain whose Johannesburg-based team, the defending champions in the Twenty20 championship, have yet to win a game in the current campaign.
Gayle scored just 101 runs in six innings which included a blistering 54 off 27 deliveries in Monday's defeat by Tshwane Spartans.
Jono Leaf-Wright, chief executive of Central Gauteng Cricket and the franchise, defended Gayle in an interview with The Star newspaper.
"In Chris's head, he feels that when he doesn't perform, because there are such expectations, from the franchise, the fans, that he's the reason the team is not performing.
"I know Chris well, he seems like he's the big character, lots of bravado, the swag and all that stuff but he's actually a sensitive guy, and unfortunately, when he doesn't perform he really takes it to heart. He's certainly no burden on our side."
In his farewell press conference, Gayle had also taken a swipe at the way the Stars had performed, hinting at off-field problems.
"This is not a champion team," he complained. "That is not how defending champions should play."
Responding to Gayle's assertion that the spirit in the dressing room was not the same as it had been in their winning season, Leaf-Wright said it might have been a man-management issue.
"As manager last year I looked after Chris personally," said Leaf-Wright.
"Maybe he just hasn't had the same attention and TLC that maybe I gave him last year because of my relationship with him."
Gayle's poor form and lack of mobility in the field were highlighted by critics as the West Indian failed to live up to his billing as one of the competition's "marquee" players who are paid a reported 1.2-million rand (about $82,000) for a full season.
Gayle, who played most recently for the West Indies in an ODI series against India in August, has shown no signs of retiring from cricket but will not play again this year.
"It's important to take a break from the game as well," he said.
"The mental part is not an issue for me, it's more the physical side of things.
"Once I get the physical side of things right, I can still carry on for however long I want to play this game."