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T20 World Cup 2021

Afridi 2.0: Recalling all the times you thought Chris Gayle was retiring (but he didn’t)

Gayle retire
Aadya Sharma by Aadya Sharma
@Aadya_Wisden 3 minute read

Chris Gayle is done. Or maybe he’s not. It’s a perplexing situation that has been gently floating about in cricket for a while now, making us wonder when the Universe Boss will really hang up those big boots.

We love(d) to watch him play, and he’s really fun the way he is, but while I might not be Curtly Ambrose, I, too, feel that the recent returns have thinned to the point that he ought to be nudged out, rather than him walking off to the exit door with that mighty willow of his.

So, when West Indies were knocked out of the World Cup, cruelly pulled down from their pedestal of defending champions, murmurs intensified into proper chatter, calling it the final death knell on West Indies’ golden T20 generation. Dwayne Bravo announced that he’ll be signing off after the final group game, after Kieron Pollard, without mentioning specific names, indicated that some of the careers had truly come to an end. Gayle made no such announcement, but he was clubbed alongside Bravo in retirement tributes.

From cricketers present and past, to media analysts and the general public, tributes poured in for the ‘Bradman of T20’. Not long after, though, came Gayle’s comment, which fuelled the rumours further without giving them a decisive turn.

“I didn’t announce any retirement but [if] 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.”

What does that mean?

It means that we’re as confused as we were in June 2019 when he backtracked on his apparent retirement after the ODI World Cup, wishing to continue playing T20s until the ongoing tournament, and picking himself for the one-day series that year against India.

“I still have a few games to go, maybe another series to go, who knows? We’ll see what happens.”

This was after Windies Cricket had tweeted in February 2019 that Gayle had announced he’d retire from the ODI format after the World Cup. “WINDIES batsman Chris Gayle has announced he will retire from One-day Internationals following the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 England & Wales,” read the tweet. It still exists.

Then, in August 2019, in what appeared to be his final international in the ODI series against India (there was a special ‘301’ jersey, plenty of tributes, a lot of indirect signalling. You thought he was done, you really thought, but then came a video on Cricket West Indies’ Twitter handle, featuring Gayle saying “I didn’t announce any retirement.”

In the years leading up to the first official announcement by Windies in early 2019, Gayle continued to silence rumours, some of which had an amusing twist to them. Pardon the sudden break in the timeline, but in February 2015, during the World Cup, WICB cricket chief Dave Cameron was heavily condemned for retweeting a “negative” fan post that read: “Gayle goes… Can’t buy a run. Let’s give him a retirement package … Can’t fail repeatedly and still front up based on reputation”.

It’s not something Gayle did himself, but it’s still a humorous twist to the long-standing saga.

Later during the World Cup, in March 2015 to be exact, Gayle hinted at saying sayonara to Test cricket, a format he hadn’t featured in for a year.

“It is a possibility. You never know,” he said, when asked if he would retire before Windies’ next Test series the following month, but remained coy without admitting anything. With back injuries plaguing him, and the long stretch of Test limbo, you thought his red-ball career was wrapped up. As recently as June 2019 though, he wanted to play home Tests against India.

Forever lingering in the background has been Gayle’s fractured equation with WICB. In June 2012, he ended a 15-month international exile after a prolonged period of failed negotiations with the board, which reached a point where he claimed his international return was difficult or unlikely. At one point, it wasn’t clear when the path to Gayle’s return, if ever, will be cleared. He’s gone on for almost a decade more since. There have been plenty of other minor detours, strange statements and funny misinterpretations since. And we’re still waiting to see where it goes from here.

Gayle’s official retirement could come in a few hours from the time I write this, a few days, maybe months, or never. The element of surprise is long gone, and it’s even crossing all lengths of graceful inevitability.

But hey, each man to himself. Who are we to tell the great Chris Gayle how he should leave. All said, the manner of his departure shouldn’t change the way we remember him. He’s been a great and he’ll always be.

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