When Chris Gayle returned to the West Indies squad in September 2017, it was just in time, with the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in sight. Since then, with qualification sealed, he’s had a sensational year of ODI batting, the peak coming during the home performances against England – two hundreds and two fifties in four matches – earlier this year.
He now has the IPL out of the way, and is set to play in what would be his fifth World Cup. That’s every World Cup held since his ODI debut in September 1999.
“Honestly [I do it for] the fans, I am not going to lie. Maybe a couple of years ago the thought did cross [that I have had enough],” he said to Press Trust of India. Then the fans came out and said ‘don’t go’. They actually drive me to go on. I know nothing lasts forever and hopefully, I can give them a few more games and it also pushes you to win the World Cup.”
Gayle’s making the team in his 20th year at this level is a remarkable feat, made doubly impressive by the fact that he had 30 months of no ODI cricket after West Indies’ quarter-final exit in the 2015 World Cup.
“Never really considered thinking about it but time does fly quickly,” Gayle said. “I could never dream of playing so many World Cups but it has happened. It shows consistency in the career. That keeps you going and earn a lot of praise. Hard work in the last couple of has years paid off. People want to see you more and you are trying to deliver as much as possible.”
Among the challenges – and a direct reason for that 30-month hiatus after 2015 – was the well-documented stand-off between players and board in the West Indies, an issue that continues to make several elite players from the region stay freelancers. A robust change has taken place recently, however, with the appointment of Ricky Skerritt as Cricket West Indies president. And with increasing success on the field under the captaincy of Jason Holder, there seems to be a decided step to move on from all parties involved. Gayle is optimistic about the progress.
“We have seen changes [in the cricket board] in the last couple of months,” he said. “Hopefully, the new team gets it right, gets the structure in place. Cricket is the most important thing for the Caribbean. Hope they take the game to where it is supposed to be.
“It will take time, of course. Lot of things need to be rebuilt. On the field, we had a good series against England, now the World Cup is coming up and that is another opportunity for us to turn things around.” (ESPNCricinfo)