CANBERRA: When the president of your own cricket board is re-tweeting messages suggesting you should retire, you know you need to make something of a statement.
On Tuesday against Zimbabwe, West Indies batsman Chris Gayle made that statement in a fashion that can only be described as emphatic with the first double century in a World Cup match.
West Indies Cricket Board president Dave Cameron will not be the only person around the world wiping large amounts of egg off his face over the next couple of days, however.
One of the most feared batsmen in the game, Gayle’s last one-day century had come in June 2013 and it had been eight innings since he last breached the 50-run mark.
A poor start to the World Cup had many in the cricket world consigning the 35-year-old to a lucrative semi-retirement in a series of cameos in Twenty20 leagues around the world.
On Tuesday, though, Gayle played one of the great World Cup innings with a record-equalling 16 sixes as well 10 fours in a 147-ball 215 that shattered a string of records.
“It’s been a lot of pressure and the runs haven’t come for the first time ever in my career,” Gayle said in a pitchside interview.
“So many people wanted me to score, the message kept coming in from Twitter, the telephone and everything.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever seen the people wanting Chris Gayle to perform so badly. In the end, I’m really glad I gave them something to actually cheer about.”
The slim line between success and failure in top level sport was in evidence again on Tuesday and the third highest innings in a one-day internationals came within a whisker of not getting off the ground at all.
A strong lbw appeal on the first ball Gayle faced was turned down by the umpire but Tinashe Panyangara referred it to the third umpire and technology showed the ball would have just cleared the bails by a matter of centimetres.
“I struggled at the start,” Gayle added. “On the first ball I was like ‘C’mon, you can’t be serious, I can’t be out the first ball’. I needed a chance and I got a break and made the best of it.”
Reprieved, Gayle put his head down and suppressed his aggressive tendencies to start building the innings he needed to answer the critics.
He brought up his 47th half century in uncharacteristic style with a sprinted single and another in the 28th over took him past 9,000 runs in the 50-over format.
His 22nd century came up with another single off the first over of the batting power play. His point made, Gayle resumed the explosive game that once made his name.
“If I get past the century, I’m going to make it a big one, and I’m very happy to get my first double century in ODI cricket,” he said.
“A lot of fans have tweeted about it since Rohit Sharma got two double centuries and everyone expected me to do it as well. I’m glad I got the chance to deliver.”
Gayle paid lip service to the chance of Zimbabwe overhauling the target but was clearly already thinking of getting his body right for the clash against South Africa on Friday.
“Sometimes, a lot of people see you on the field and they don’t know what you are going through, still struggling with injuries and these kind of things,” he said.
“Overall I’m really happy, let’s try and build on this as much as possible and the team can gain some momentum.” (Reuters)