Chris Gayle hints on a likely ODI return for West Indies

“Things are beginning to open up a little more now, between players and the board,” the batsman says.

Chris Gayle played for West Indies last week for the first time since the World Twenty20 final in Kolkata.   -  G. P. Sampath Kumar

Chris Gayle is hopeful of returning to the West Indies one-day team soon, with an eye on being involved in the 2019 World Cup. The 37-year-old stated here on Thursday that discussions with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) were ongoing, suggesting that a way may soon be paved for his recall to the One-Day International (ODI) side.

Gayle, who had not played international cricket for 15 months until he featured in the one-off Twenty20 International against India in Jamaica on Sunday, was speaking at an event to promote IONA, a virtual gaming centre in the city.

“It was good to be back," he said. "I didn’t realise at the time how long I was out. 12 months? A year? It was a great experience. To be playing in my home town was special. The fans were happy to see me back on the field representing West Indies. Hopefully I can play a few more games. Things are beginning to open up a little more now, between players and the board. It’s looking good, we’ve to try and build from this to get the best players out on the field.”

Earlier this year, Courtney Browne, the West Indies chairman of selectors, had hinted that the current selection policy – which required players to be involved in domestic cricket in a particular format to be eligible to represent the West Indies in that format – could be revisited. That rule has rendered globe-trotting players like Gayle only eligible for Twenty20 internationals. “I can’t get into specific details,” the Jamaican said. “There’s still more discussion to be done. From a personal point of view, I’d be monitored as well. It’s positive. That’s the good thing about it.”

Urgent push needed

West Indies, currently ranked ninth in ODIs, is in danger of missing out on direct qualification for the 2019 World Cup (only the top eight teams qualify directly, with the next four to go into a qualifier tournament in 2018). Gayle was emphatic that West Indies needed to feature in the World Cup. “2019 is just around the corner if you want to be realistic. For us to be involved in that as well...we don’t want to miss out like what happened at the Champions Trophy. We will try and push hard for that and everyone can work collectively to make sure we’re part of the World Cup,” he said.

To be in with a chance of direct qualification, West Indies would require an extraordinary performance against England in September, while hoping that Sri Lanka (ranked eighth) falters against India.

Would he and other similarly-placed players be available for that tour? “That’s what is actually in discussion,” Gayle said. “It’s for them (WICB) to make the announcement, and make it formal so that we know what is what. We’ll wait and see what happens.”

Asked if he would like to remain with Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) - although there is no clarity yet on player retention - Gayle offered a dead-bat. "I have no idea what the outcome will be," he said. "We have to see what the rules are first. I definitely would be looking to be associated with the IPL."

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