West Indies icon Chris Gayle has conceded he has likely played his final ICC Men's T20 World Cup match, with the revolutionary batter set to sign off in front of a home crowd.
Speaking ahead of the game, Gayle said: "I’m semi-retired. I’m one away.”
He was applauded onto the field by teammates when he went out to open the batting and saluted the ground after his dismissal, proceeding to throw gloves into the crowd. Alongside the retiring Dwanye Bravo, he was given a guard of honour on his way off the field at the end of the match.
In a wide-ranging interview on ICC's post-match Facebook live show, Gayle clarified he had not made a decision to retire but that the end of his international career was coming.
"I was just having some fun today," he said. "Put everything that happened aside. I was just interacting with the fans in the stand and just having some fun seeing as it’s going to be my last World Cup game."
Asked to clarify his comments, Gayle laughed: “I’d love to play one more World Cup. But I don’t think they will allow me.
"It’s been a phenomenal career. I didn’t announce any retirement but they actually give me one game in Jamaica to go in front of my home crowd, then I can say 'hey guys, thank you so much.' Let’s see. If not, I’ll announce it long time and then I’ll be joining DJ Bravo in the backend and say thanks to each and everyone but I can’t say that as yet.”
A veteran of 79 T20Is, 103 Tests and 301 ODIs, Gayle's international career has spanned 22 years and three decades.
Often forgotten in the Chris Gayle story are the challenges he has had to overcome over the journey, including the need for heart surgery in 2005 after he retired mid-innings in a Test match against Australia.
“I’ve been through a lot of struggle. You mentioned the heart condition but I’ve had a phenomenal career. I want to give thanks to actually be standing here today, aged 42 still going strong. The career has been really great. I’ve had a bit of hiccups here and there. I’ve shed blood, I’ve shed tears in West Indies cricket, you name it, one leg, one hand, I’m still batting for West Indies.
"It was a pleasure always to represent West Indies, I’m very passionate about West Indies. It really hurts bad when we lose games and we don’t get the result and the fans so [much] more is very important to me because I'm an entertainer. When I don’t get the chance to entertain them it really hurt me a lot. You might not that see that expression, I might not show those sort of emotions, but I’m gutted inside for the fans, and especially for this World Cup as well."
In the background to this World Cup, he was also dealing with concerns greater than cricket back home.
"Most people didn’t even know since the first game of the World Cup my Dad has been ill so I have to rush back to Jamaica tonight, see what the doctor have to say about him. He’s batting well, he’s 91 years old, but he’s been struggling a bit. I have to go back home.
"Sometimes as a player we play through a lot of things and we don’t really express these things. We’re here to do a job. Those are the behind the scenes, what you have to deal with as a player and then come and perform."
Just like the challenges he has had to overcome and the realities of life not always realised by supporters, Gayle also touched on the amount of hard work that goes on behind the scenes.
“I’m a very determined person. I work hard. A lot of people don’t see the hard work, but I work hard in silence. I’m a talent and I use it wisely.
"I grew up from nothing to something. I didn’t have anything, I didn't have the luxury when I was growing up so I used those things to motivate me as well. Start my career, ‘Mum I’ll get you a house’, when I make the first money, I’ll buy a car. Those are the things that keep you going. With the stability and the mental strength I have, that carried me right through 20-odd years of playing for the West Indies and playing around the world as well.
"At no time I felt like I'll actually reach the bar, that I’m bigger or better than anyone else. I was very humble with it as well. I just give thanks to the almighty to actually be standing here telling you all these things."
Most famous these days for his T20 legacy, Gayle was a force across all three formats.
He excelled in Test cricket, primarily as an opening batter, making 7214 runs at 42.18 with 15 centuries and a high score of 333.
And in ODI cricket he made more than 10,000 runs at 37.83, with his high score of 215 coming at the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup.
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However, it will likely be his impact on the sport's newest international format that he is most remembered for.
A two-time winner of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup, in 2012 and 2016, Gayle was fittingly the first player to score a century in the format at the international level, doing so in the first-ever T20 World Cup match.
And as well as helping West Indies to two World Cup titles in the format, he has also been a dominant force in franchise leagues around the world, scoring more T20 runs than anyone else (14,321) and hitting a record 22 T20 centuries, 14 more than any other player.
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