Last year’s cricket World Cup was always destined to be an emotional one for West Indies cricketers and supporters. Three months before the event got underway, Chris Gayle, the self-styled Universe Boss told the world that this would be his swan song. The Jamaican has been part of the furniture in international cricket since 1999 and this would be the perfect way to end an illustrious career. It added a spice and poignancy to proceedings. There were even those who dared to hope that he could somehow “do a Sachin” and inspire the West Indies to a win, just like Tendulkar did for India.
Of course, things didn’t quite work out that way. Gayle scored a quickfire 50 in helping his team to win their opening game against Pakistan, but after that the wheels came off and there was only one more win, against qualifiers Afghanistan. However, when you are boss of the universe, it means you can change the script. Gayle reversed his retirement decision and now, in his 41st year, has announced the intention to play on for another five years.
A good number
In his typically self-effacing style, Gayle spoke about himself in the third person, telling reporters that “a lot of people still want to see Chris Gayle out in the middle.” He added that 45 is a “good number” to work towards and he has left the door open for selectors “if they want the Universe Boss.”
The most telling word in that last sentence, though, is if. Gayle took a break from the game and missed the recent series against Ireland, giving another left hander the chance to open. Evin Lewis scored 99 and 102 in the series whitewash. Will West Indies selectors want to upset the applecart to bring back a man in his 40s? If you know where to bet on cricket, you’ll find this question is being as hotly considered by the bookmakers as the pundits. And there is no easy answer.
Time for West Indies cricket to move on?
Nobody can dispute that Gayle has been a giant in West Indies cricket over the past two decades, and his place in the history books is assured. The West Indies leading ODI run scorer, the fastest 50 in ODI history, the most sixes by anyone in the world, or indeed the universe – the list goes on and on.
But West Indies cricket is at a pivotal point. Every successful team finds its way to the top through planning, building and bringing people in at the right time. Inevitably that means making room for them through some tough decisions.
Is Chris Gayle box office? Of course he is, even the opposing fans will raise the roof at the sight of him striding out to the middle. Has he still got it? Almost certainly, he’s currently blowing away all opposition in the Bangladesh T20 league.
But is playing Chris Gayle the right decision for the future of West Indies cricket? That’s a tougher one to justify. Who would be a selector when you have a decision like that to make?
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