On the eve of the series against England Chris Gayle said he would retire from ODIs after the World Cup. Then midway through with his form as good as ever he admitted that he was having a rethink on that decision. And at the end of it all if he really went back on his decision the cricketing world would rejoice at having the entertainer extraordinaire carry on for some more time.
But obviously the comment midway through was made in jest in keeping with Gayle’s image of a fun loving cricketer who loves his dance steps almost as much as he enjoys batting has endeared him to cricket fans. The extrovert that he is he relishes playing to the gallery and being the centre of attention. Just the other day while announcing that he would retire from ODIs following the World Cup he came up with lines like “You are looking at a great man’’ and “I am the greatest player in the world’’ and “Of course I am still the Universe Boss. That will never change. I will take that to the grave.’’ Which other cricketer would come up with lines like these that bring back memories of Muhammad Ali.
And yet as he walked off the field in the fifth and final ODI at St Lucia after scripting yet another famous West Indian victory – turning to salute all four corners of the ground – it was clear that even as he had played his last game on home turf the original decision would stay. But if his extraordinary form during the series was any indication it was certainly not because of any decline in his game. On the contrary even in his 40th year he has lost none of his enthusiasm for the game and rounded off an incredible series – 424 runs in four innings at a strike rate of 134 – with an innings of 77 in just 27 balls that included the fastest half century (19 deliveries) by a West Indian batsman in the history of the format. He hit 39 sixes from the 316 balls he faced in the series which means that incredibly every 8.10 balls he faced went for a six. During the series he became only the second West Indian batsman after Brian Lara to cross the 10,000 run mark in ODIs.
Thanks chiefly to Gayle a result between the No 1 ranked team in the world and the No 9 ranked team ended 2-2. And as he himself put it in a rather bland understatement “we will get a bit of respect going into the World Cup.’’ The West Indies in fact have already emerged as the dark horses going into the competition.