Chris Gayle believes opponents are still scared of him, but the 39-year-old West Indian opening batsman admits that it’s no longer as easy playing against youngsters as it used to be.
Gayle, who is set to play his fifth – and last – World Cup, has been a part of the tournament each time it has been held since his ODI debut in September 1999.
“Youngsters coming at my head – it’s not as easy as it was like one time before,” Gayle told cricket.com.au on the eve of West Indies’ unofficial warm-up match against Australia. “I was quicker then. But they’ll be wary. They know what the Universe Boss is capable of. I’m sure they will have it in the back of their mind, ‘Hey, this is the most dangerous batsman they’ve ever seen in cricket’.
“Go ask them on camera. They’re going to say, no, they’re not scared. But you ask them off the camera, they going to say, ‘Yeah, he’s the man. He’s the man’. They’re going to say, ‘he’s the man’.
“But I’m enjoying it. I’m always enjoying the battle against fast bowlers, it’s good. Sometimes those things actually give you extra drive as a batter. When you have a battle, I like those challenges.”
“I just have to monitor it as much as possible and just get the mindset right”
Gayle hinted at ‘unretirement’ just ten days after he had announced his retirement following his strong form in the home series against England earlier this year. He had blasted 424 runs at an average of 106, including 39 sixes, in four matches and also brought up his second-highest ODI score, on the way to leading West Indies to their highest total in the format.
Prior to that, he had not played an ODI for 30 months after West Indies’ quarter-final exit from the 2015 World Cup, and while it seemed like his ODI career was heading towards an end, he returned to the West Indies squad in September 2017 ahead of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers. With qualification sealed, he featured regularly in the format and has been in great form since then, making 930 runs in 19 innings. He is also by far the most experienced player in West Indies’ World Cup squad, and has 10,151 runs from 289 ODIs.
He believes that it’s his passion and that of his fans that has been driving him to deliver.
“It’s the love for the game,” he said at a press interaction. “But sometimes sportsmen don’t know when to walk away. You might think you’re still at your peak but eventually, you have to leave the game at some point. But enjoying is important. I’m enjoying it and having fun. Especially with a great group of guys.
“All this is going to play a key part for me as an individual. These guys spur you on and the fans are always asking you for sixes and those sort of things give you the extra drive. There’s nothing to go and prove.”
Coming off a decent form in the IPL, where he made 490 runs in 13 matches for Kings XI Punjab, Gayle stressed on the importance of game-time and a positive mindset ahead of the big tournament.
“I am still in good nick,” he said. “I had a not-so-bad IPL, coming after the home series against England. The good thing about it is I’ve been playing cricket. It’s important for me to keep playing and get some games under my belt and come here to the UK and start with a few warm-up games to see where you are at.
“It’s a long tournament. For me, personally, I just have to monitor it as much as possible and just get the mindset right.”