(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) –West Indies opener Chris Gayle has never lacked self-confidence and, at 39 years-old and having just announced he will retire from ODI cricket at the end of this summer’s World Cup, he doesn’t sound like he is going to suddenly convert to modesty any time soon.
Gayle will return to West Indies colours for the five match series against England which begins in Barbados on Wednesday having decided that his career at the elite level is coming to an end. It is a career, spanning more than 400 international matches and including 40 hundreds for West Indies, which he has expressed himself, with typical exuberance, quite satisfied with.
“You’re looking at a great man,” he said at Kensington Oval on Sunday. “I’m the greatest player in the world. Of course I’m still the Universe Boss. That will never change. I’ll take that to the grave. I’m looking to draw the line after the World Cup.
“Or should I say cut the string? Definitely, in 50-over cricket, the World Cup is the end for me. I’ll let the youngsters have some fun and I can sit back in the party stand and watch them have some fun.”
Gayle will still continue on the T20 franchise circuit and hopes to be picked up for The Hundred, the ECB’s new competition, when it begins in 2020.
For now, Gayle’s focus is on the upcoming series against England, the world’s best ODI team. Having skipped tours to India and Bangladesh last year, Gayle last played for West Indies in July but despite that absence, and having endured a poor season in the recent Bangladesh Premier League when he averaged less than 20, Gayle says he is fit and believes that he still strikes fear into opposition bowlers.
“I’m in good condition,” he said. “The body is feeling good and I’m pleased with that. I’ve lost a bit of weight and I don’t want to get too big. I’m still working on my six pack. I’m trying to keep up with the youngsters in the field who are like cats the way they chase the ball. I still have it in me and I’m still enjoying it.
“I don’t know who is opening the bowling for England, but any bowler is going to beware of Chris Gayle. That doesn’t change because he is 39 now, they are going to be saying ‘yes, he’s got some grey hairs in his beard, let’s get him now, this is the perfect time to get the universe boss now he is 39.’
“Being back in West Indies colours is the most important thing. I’m actually looking to go forward with the Windies. I’ll be bringing some experience to play and sharing that with the youngsters and I hope to enjoy the next couple of months with the West Indies cricket team.
“This series against England might be the last time people get to see the Universe Boss on local soil. The last game I played in Barbados for Jamaica I got a hundred and it would be nice to continue where I left off and entertain the home fans as much as possible. At the end of the day everybody should be happy and enjoy the game.”
Although West Indies won their last series in Bangladesh, they have won just 11 of their last 40 ODIs and only just made it to the World Cup, scraping through the qualifying tournament. Gayle’s presence in a young West Indian squad, even if he hasn’t been in great form, provides much needed experience for captain Jason Holder to rely on as well as some ballast at the top of the order, particularly given Evin Lewis’ absence for the series against England through injury.
Despite the team’s limitations, and the passing of father time, Gayle hopes his fifth World Cup will be the perfect ending for a stellar ODI career. “Winning the World Cup would be a fairy-tale finish,” he said. “The youngsters owe it to me to win. They have to do that for me and try and get me the trophy. I’ll be looking to put my input in as well.”