London – Chris Gayle has the audacity to call himself “Universe Boss” but can justify his swagger by pointing to an astonishing career in which he has regularly laid waste to bowling attacks.
Even in his 40th year, in what looks likely to be his final major international tournament, the left-handed West Indies opener is planning on having a big say at the World Cup in England and Wales.
And who can blame him?
It is only a few months since Gayle scored 424 runs at an average of 106, including 39 sixes, in four innings against England, the World Cup favourites.
That deluge of runs across the Caribbean was a reminder that Gayle retains the strength and eye that have made him such a dangerous opponent during a 20-year international career.
Gayle is basically correct hitter. Pitch too full and he can drive the fastest of bowlers straight back over their heads but drop too short on either side and expect to be on the receiving end of powerful cuts and pulls.
While prepared to make some concessions to his advancing years, Gayle is in no mood to give too much ground even if it is a decade since he hit Australia express fast bowler Brett Lee for some of the biggest sixes ever seen at the Oval in London during the 2009 World Twenty20.
“Youngsters coming at my head — it’s not as easy as it was like one time before,” Gayle told the cricket.com.au website. “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.'”
He added: “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.’
“I’m always enjoying the battle against fast bowlers, it’s good,” he added. “Sometimes those things actually give you extra drive as a batter. When you have a battle, I like those challenges.”
One of the most entertaining batsmen of his generation, Gayle, who in recent years has often missed West Indies matches because of conflicts with administrators, relishes a large crowd in much the same way a stage actor feeds off a full house.
“The fans are always asking you for more sixes,” he said.
“Those things give you that extra drive,” added the Jamaican, who has scored more than 10,000 runs in 289 ODIs including 25 hundreds during a career also featuring two Test match triple centuries.
West Indies won the first two men’s World Cups, in 1975 and 1979, under another big-hitting left-hander in Clive Lloyd, as much feared by bowlers in his day as Gayle is now, for all their different personalities.
“There’s nothing to go out there and prove, the only thing that would be nice is to win the World Cup,” said Gayle.