London: Chris Gayle is adored so much by fans that, when he walked off the field after the West Indies match against Afghanistan at Headingley, they gave him a standing ovation.
It looked like he was walking off after announcing his retirement from international cricket.
It was the last World Cup for the 39-year-old Windies legend, who calls himself the “Universe Boss”.
The West Indies players let him lead the team out of the field while applauding all the way behind him. So much respect was shown to Gayle that Afghanistan skipper Gulbadin Naib thought it was Gayle’s last international match.
He went and bowed before Gayle, almost touching his feet and offered his respects.
When Gayle then told him that it is only his last World Cup and not his retirement, Naib wished him more strength to play for another 10 years.
At the post-match press conference, Shai Hope, who bagged the man of the match award against Afghanistan, said he will miss Gayle badly when he finally calls it a day.
“There are too many things you can pick from Chris. He’s just one of those guys who will be missed by the entire world when he goes. That’s going to be a sad day for cricket.”
Was everyone feeling emotional in the dressing room over Gayle?
Hope said: “Not yet. We are still pretty cheerful and happy in the dressing room. I don’t think we’re going to cry about it, but we do have a lot to cherish. I know he’s one of the better players in world cricket, and we’re just happy to have him on our team. I’m sure the guys will do something for him and surely he will appreciate it.”
West Indies captain Jason Holder also remarked that he was sad over Gayle.
“It’s sad to see Gayle play his last World Cup game. We wish him all the best. He’s been a star for West Indies cricket.”
Outside the boundary, Gayle was seen speaking to Star Sports and, being the entertainer that he is as a player, he did the same with the interviewer when asked whether it really was his last World Cup.
“Yes, it is my last World Cup ... unless they give me two years of rest and I come back [laughs]. While I am privileged to have been part of another World Cup, I don’t intend to put my body at risk, I’ve been struggling for some time. So this definitely my last one.”
Gayle was also of the opinion that the future of West Indies cricket looks bright.
“We have a great bunch of youngsters. It’s now for them to lift West Indies cricket. But I’ll be around for the youngsters for a few more games. Unfortunate that the World Cup wasn’t to be for us, but life does go on.”
The blaster batsman did express his disappointment at not being able to lift the World Cup.
“We would have loved to lift the trophy, but that was not to be. At the same time, it was fun, and I enjoyed it. All the guys rallied around me, and I got a lot of support from the youngsters. I must also commend the staff for the work ethics they’ve put in. Honestly, I am out of words now......”
So what’s next for the Universe Boss?
“To play the T20Is and ODIs against India, the CPL (Caribbean League) and the Canadian T20. That’s it. We’ll see what happens after that.”