HARARE, Zimbabwe, CMC – Talismanic West Indies opener Chris Gayle says he is thrilled to be playing in next year’s World Cup in England, and says he will focus on his fitness in the interim as he prepares for what will be his final global 50-overs tournament.
The left-hander was part of the Caribbean side which defeated Scotland on Wednesday in their final Super Six match of the ongoing ICC World Cup qualifiers, to clinch one of the two available World Cup spots.
Defending a paltry 198, West Indies had reduced the Scots to 125 for five in the 36th over when a thunderstorm forced the abandonment of the contest. Scotland were five runs short of the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern par score.
“I am so happy to have qualified for another World Cup. I just have to stay fit now and we have a young team, but it will be my last World Cup that is for sure, so I am looking forward to it,” an elated Gayle said afterwards.
He added: “I need a couple [of] months to get properly fit and especially I love playing in England and Wales. Lots of the Windies fans over the world are sad that we are in this position, where we have to play the qualifiers.
“But, cricket is like life, you have ups and downs, and nothing is guaranteed in life.”
Gayle is the leading one-day player in an otherwise inexperienced Windies side, with 9 575 runs from 280 One-Day Internationals.
His 123 against United Arab Emirates was the 23rd hundred of an illustrious career, now in its twilight years.
The 38-year-old Gayle has played in four World Cups but has been missing from ODIs in recent years. In fact, he played just six of the Windies 23 ODIs last year, returning for the tour of England following a two and a half year break.
Gayle said the World Cup provided him with an opportunity to appease the appetite of committed fans.
“The fans drive you, people always say, ‘Chris we want to see you back in Windies colours, want to see you play Test cricket in the whites again’, and I say one more time I will do it for you guys,” the Jamaican said.
“I will take on the journey and next year will play for them again and I look forward to it.”
Gayle has had mixed success in the qualifiers, with his century against UAE being the high point. Against Scotland, he was dismissed off the first ball of the match, caught at the wicket off a beauty from speedster Safyaan Sharif.
Nevertheless, the former captain said he had enjoyed the tournament, especially with the Windies having qualified.
“It has been a great tournament, the support here in Zimbabwe is always fantastic,” he said.
“It has been quite a while since I have been here, the people have been fantastic. We have come and accomplished what we came for.”