Saint Lucia: After signing off with a typically blistering 77 off 27 balls in his final home one-day international against England at the Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium, Gros Islet, on Saturday, West Indies opener Chris Gayle reflected on his two-decade international career, and what it meant playing for the Windies.
In a thoughtful and emotional farewell speech, Gayle expressed his gratitude to the people of the Caribbean for their support through this series and his career. With two centuries and two fifties in four matches, Gayle was the biggest thorn in England's side, as West Indies held to a stalemate the No.1-ranked team on the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Rankings.
"This is my last ODI series in the Caribbean," Gayle said. "So I was giving the fans a nice wave. Right through the tournament, they have been superb from both sides: West Indies
and England sides. It would be nice if it was in Jamaica, but the crowds have been fantastic."
"It's been an honour to wear the crest and entertain the people around the Caribbean. West Indies is No.1. This is the best achievement you can have in the Caribbean as a cricketer. This is the best thing, to be honest with you," he said.
Since announcing his retirement, Gayle has scored 424 runs in four matches at a strike-rate of 134, leaving many, including himself, wondering why he's walking away, an ICC report on Sunday said.
Gayle had been a diminishing force before the start of this series. Runs had deserted him
in T20 leagues around the world. The IPL, which Gayle set alight for so many years with his monstrous hitting, was no longer as interested in him ? he went unsold twice at the 2018 auction before being bought by Kings XI Punjab for his base price ($US 200,000 approx).
Punjab retained him for IPL 2019, but there was no escaping the fact that the decline has been steep for a man who was once the hottest free agent in the world of franchise T20 cricket. However, the announcement of his retirement seems to have stoked the fire inside him.
"I'm thankful for the form," he said. "I wasn't getting any runs in the T20 tournaments I was playing. When you get a chance to score runs, make sure you score heavy. But it's the best I've played in my home conditions and I'm happy and grateful for that."
"I'm not surprised by how well I've done, or the number of sixes. Sixes come along. It's just natural, to be honest. In T20s, I score a lot of sixes as well, but this is the first time in an ODI series. To hit 39 sixes aged 39 ? it's fantastic from a personal point of
view," Gayle said.
"But my mindset is that, even when I'm 60, I'll still think I can do it. I'll still think I can score runs against the best bowlers in the world. That will never change. It's just the body which is always the worrying part for me," he said.
Gayle still felt that the 2002-03 tour of India, where he hit three centuries in seven ODIs as West Indies beat India, was his best ODI series. He was 23 then. Now 39, Gayle is at a stage where most cricketers would be happy to go out on the kind of form he has been in during this England series.