Chris Gayle wants to clear his name, defamation trial hears

Fairfax Media wanted to "destroy" West Indies cricketer Chris Gayle by publishing allegations of "very serious sexual impropriety" about him, his barrister has told the NSW Supreme Court on the first day of his defamation trial against the publisher.

Bruce McClintock, SC, acting for Gayle, told a four-person jury on Monday that Fairfax mastheads The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times had published "quite foul" and "quite wrong" allegations that he exposed himself to a woman in a dressing room in Sydney in 2015.

Chris Gayle arrives at court on Monday.  Photo: AAP

Chris Gayle arrives at court on Monday. Photo: AAP

He said it was a "work of fiction" and Fairfax journalists had acted dishonestly and maliciously "to harm my client and damage his reputation".

Gayle is suing Fairfax Media over a series of articles published between January 6 and January 9 last year, which he says falsely claimed he "exposed his genitals to" and "indecently propositioned" a female massage therapist in the West Indies team dressing room during the 2015 Cricket World Cup.

Fairfax Media is defending the stories on two bases, including that the allegations are true.

Dressed in a dark suit and blue shirt, Gayle appeared briefly in the witness box on Monday.

He said "No I didn't" when asked by his barrister if he exposed himself to the woman. He added later, "It never happened."

Gayle said he would expect any man who did so in that context to be punished.

"It's the most hurtful thing I've actually come across in my entire life," Gayle said of the "heartbreaking" allegations.

"This is one case I have to fight. I want to clear my name."

He said be believed the allegations had "ruined" him.

"You actually have a daughter, don't you?" Mr McClintock said.

"Yes I do," Gayle replied.

Gayle told the court he "love[s] massages" and they were important because he was not particularly flexible.

"It's important to me to be loose at all times," he said.

He said the massage therapist at the heart of the stories, Leanne Russell, had "massaged me before" but he did not find her services satisfactory.

"She wasn't a good masseuse. She wasn't good for me, I should say," Gayle said.

Asked about an email circulated to all West Indies cricketers about unspecified events that made Ms Russell feel uncomfortable, Gayle said he did not believe it referred to him.

Mr McClintock foreshadowed that Gayle's friend and teammate Dwayne Smith would give evidence he was present in the dressing room in Drummoyne in Sydney's inner west at the time of the alleged incident in February 2015 and it "didn't happen".

Mr McClintock said Fairfax had made "no attempt" to contact Smith before publishing the allegations.

"They intended to blacken his name," Mr McClintock said.

"They want to destroy him."

Gayle's defamation case reunites the leading defamation barristers who appeared in former treasurer Joe Hockey's case against Fairfax.

Melbourne barrister Matthew Collins, QC, who appeared for Rebel Wilson in her successful case against Bauer Media and opposite Mr McClintock for Fairfax in the Hockey case, is once again acting for the publisher.

Fairfax Media says the allegations against Gayle are substantially true. It has also pleaded qualified privilege, a defence requiring a publisher to show the articles were of public interest and it acted reasonably.

The court heard the articles were published shortly after Gayle made headlines by inviting sports reporter Mel McLaughlin, then at Network Ten, to "have a drink" after a Big Bash game and saying "Don't blush baby!" during a live interview.

Mr McClintock told the jury the conversation was "a bit of banter" and "some people might have thought it was inappropriate".

He said Gayle's comments had "become something that might be called a meme or a trope" but it was "not particularly relevant" except for the fact that the massage therapist at the centre of the stories "opportunistically" spoke to Fairfax in the wake of that controversy.

Dr Collins, for Fairfax, suggested to Gayle that he had noticed McLaughlin looked uncomfortable during the interview, which was played for the jury in court.

"No," Gayle replied.

Gayle agreed he was criticised publicly for the interview. But when asked if the criticism was that the comments were sexist, Gayle replied: "What is sexist?"

After Dr Collins explained the term, Gayle replied: "No."

Gayle also agreed he had expressed the view that "Australia needs to lighten up" after he was criticised for the interview.

Asked if he had "sought to cultivate a public reputation as a bit of a bad boy", Gayle said he would describe himself as a "weirdo".

But he later agreed he had made an advertisement for a brand of condoms that included the line "I'm a bad boy with women".

Justice Lucy McCallum said, after objections from Mr McClintock, that it was unclear that the question was relevant.

Gayle denied he had said to Ms Russell before a massage in 2013, "Do you want to come touch me up baby".

Asked whether he exposed himself to Ms Russell in 2015 by pulling his towel "up and down" so that his penis was "partially exposed", Gayle said: "That never happened."

Dr Collins asked Gayle if he went out of his way to stop speaking to Ms Russell after the email was circulated to all West Indies cricketers about incidents that had made her feel uncomfortable.

"We're not friends like that anyway," Gayle said.

A jury of three women and one man was empaneled in the trial shortly before midday.

Justice McCallum said she excused two prospective jurors after they told her they were "fans of cricket" and of Gayle.

The hearing continues.

This story Chris Gayle wants to clear his name, defamation trial hears first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.