Chris Gayle: I want to get three T20 World Cups under my belt

West Indies opener Chris Gayle is all set to make a comeback in national colours for the T20 series against Sri Lanka at home this month. Gayle spoke to the media late of Monday (March 1) night (India time) and said that he was ready to continue entertaining his fans. The first of the three T20Is between West Indies and Sri Lanka will be played on March 4 (India time) in Antigua. 

“When I got the call and they asked if I’m willing and interested, I said: ‘Yes, I want to play for West Indies’. That’s where my heart is. I’m never going to turn down anything pertaining to West Indies cricket at this particular time. So I came back from Pakistan to be a part of the set-up leading into the World Cup so we can have a unity within the group, and then hopefully we can win this T20 trophy,” Gayle told the media during a virtual press conference.  

“I thought about actually walking away from the game and then people said: ‘No, don’t do it, don’t do it. Stay and play as long as possible’. So I decided I’m actually going to continue playing. I wasn’t actually thinking down this road. I was like, I’m going to play franchise cricket, entertaining people as much as possible, and whatever is left to offer within the game from Chris Gayle, I want to exploit around the world,” the Universe Boss added. 

Gayle’s future in the international game was a subject of wild speculation right after the 2019 World Cup. The opener had first announced that the showpiece event would be his last ODI assignment, only to backtrack right after the event and put his hat into the ring going forward.  

Gayle has also continued to be a constant for several T20 sides around the world, and even hinted at prolonging his short-format career until he was 45. Ahead of the Sri Lanka series, Gayle touched upon the ‘willpower of the mind’ that pushes him to be out on the park still playing at the highest level. 

“At 41, that’s what actually gets me through on a daily basis: it’s more mental than physical to me. It’s the willpower of the mind. The mind still wants to be out there and be out there on the park, still executing from a batting point of view and still having fun. That’s what gives me that extra drive to continue playing. If the mind stops operating like that for me, then I’d have to ask myself a big question there, but for now, it’s the mindset,” he added. 

Gayle is one of eight players to be part of both of West Indies’ T20 World Cup-winning campaigns in 2012 and 2016 and is now eyeing a third title when the tournament gets underway in India in October-November this year. 

In 58 T20Is in his career, Gayle has 1627 runs at a strike-rate of 142.84 with 2 hundreds and 13 fifties. While in franchise and domestic T20 cricket, Gayle has over 13000 runs in 413 games at a strike-rate of 146.86 with 22 hundreds. 

“I want to accomplish, starting off by winning the series, but the bigger picture is actually to get three T20 titles under my belt. That’s actually the goal I’m setting in my head by winning the T20 World Cup. We have quite a few series coming up and we have a lot of cricket leading up to that. We’ll try and take as much as possible out of these series coming up,” the former West Indies skipper said. 

In a squad that now has as many as four opening options in Gayle, Lendl Simmons, Evin Lewis and Andre Fletcher, the 41-year-old’s recent prowess at one-drop might prove to be very handy. Gayle said he was happy to bat anywhere the team management wanted him to, even down at No. 5. 

“It seems like I’m the No. 3 specialist now. It was a role that the coach, Anil Kumble, asked me to play. He did mention it before the IPL actually started, which I had no problem with and then eventually, when I actually got the chance, they wanted my experience at No. 3 because Mayank (Agarwal) and KL Rahul were going great guns at the time. 

“It’s not a problem. I’m good at playing spin, I’m as good at playing fast bowlers as anyone as I’m an opener. But with West Indies cricket, whatever role they want me to play, I’m willing to play that particular role. We haven’t fully discussed it but I’ll get a bit of a heads up and work out what to look forward to in this particular series and down into the World Cup,” the Punjab Kings batsman said.

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Sagar Biswas

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