The end is nigh for Gayle, at least in ODIs
However Chris Gayle fares in the ODI series against England – and the World Cup that follows – it is unlikely to be a lack of confidence that holds him back.
“You’re looking at a great man,” he said when asked whether he was satisfied with his career. “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.”
But it is a career that, at ODI level at least, is about to end. The next couple of weeks will see him play his final ODIs in the Caribbean, with retirement to come when West Indies’ World Cup campaign ends. Aged 39 and on the brink of becoming the 14th man – and second from the Caribbean – to score 10,000 ODI runs (he requires 273 more), he has decided to call it a day. It will, presuming he is selected, be his fifth World Cup.
“Yes, I’m looking to draw the line after the World Cup,” he said. “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.
“Winning the World Cup would be a fairy-tale finish. 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.”
But Gayle hopes it is not the end of his career. Quite apart from his various T20 commitments in domestic leagues, he has not ruled out appearing in the World T20 in Australia in late 2020 – though he will be 41 by then – and hopes to appear in the ECB’s inaugural season of The 100 ahead of it.
“If I don’t start it, it won’t be a tournament,” he says. “I guess England should invite me over. Then I’ll explode the tournament and say ‘thank you guys; bring in a youngster now.’ I’ll set the trend like I did in all tournaments around the world.
“I’m in good condition. 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.”
While Gayle may be remembered as one of the first players to embrace the world of T20 leagues, he is, he says, as enthusiastic about international cricket – and Test cricket, in particular – as ever. Watching West Indies defeat England in the recent Test series was, he said, “one of the greatest things to happen in 10 years.”
“It was a great Test series,” he said. “It was fantastic to watch from the sidelines and I think it was one of the greatest things to happen in ten years.
“I was the captain for the last home series win against England and to see Jason Holder lifting that trophy ten years later was fantastic, so hopefully as a unit we can get the better of England again in the ODI series.
“Yes, I’m positive about the future of Test cricket. It’s always been the ultimate. I know the youngsters coming up are all looking at T20 cricket, but I would urge them to try to play Test cricket. It will give them a chance to challenge themselves. Definitely they should try.”
Even though he declared himself unavailable for West Indies’ tours of India and Bangladesh in recent months, he has now described representing West Indies as “the most important thing.” And, while he is excited by the pace in the West Indies attack, he does warn his own bowlers that he will “destroy them” if they take him on in the nets.
“Being back in West Indies colours is the most important thing,” he said. “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.
“I’m always looking to put on a show. England fans love to see the universe boss exploding and entertaining you guys as much as possible here in the Caribbean and in the UK as well. I’ve set the trend for a long time, so hopefully I can continue in that same vein and play the game in the true spirit it should be played in.
“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.
“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.’
“Oshane Thomas bowls a heavy ball. He’s got a bright future; he’s very explosive with the ball. Him and Shannon Gabriel: they’re youngsters, man. But I will destroy them anyway.”
So, what does the future hold for him: media work, perhaps?
“Definitely not me,” he says. “I’m not a talker. Maybe I’ll make an appearance here and there, but I’m not into the talking thing. I’m not really into the coaching thing either. I’ll figure it out. You’ll see me around.”
But not, for much longer, on the pitch. Spectators in the Caribbean, Ireland and England and Wales should catch him while they can. (ESPNCricinfo)