By: Chinmay Vaidya
The 2019 World Cup should be the end of the road for Chris Gayle. He'll likely get an honorary selection as the West Indies get set to defend the T20 World Cup crown next year, but Gayle's playing days are probably over on the international level. He'll still be around in T20 leagues raking in cash and sending balls out of the ground, but Gayle's confusing legacy as an all-timer at the international level has likely come to a close.
Gayle is the only player in cricket to have 10,000 runs in the T20 format of the competition and he's led the West Indies to two T20 World Cup titles. He's taken aggression at the top to the next level and at his peak, Gayle could singlehandedly win a match. Unfortunately, that didn't translate to the one-day format.
The West Indies have gone 118-159 in ODIs with Gayle playing. He's played with the likes of Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Kieron Pollard and Marlon Samuels so it wasn't like his supporting cast wasn't talented. For an all-time great like Gayle, that W-L mark is part of his confusing place among the game's best. In the ODI format, you could argue Gayle isn't one of the best to play the game. He simply didn't lead his team to anything significant in the one-day arena.
In the T20 format, Gayle is significantly better. The West Indies are 28-24 in T20 internationals when the left-handed batsman plays, but those wins include two championships. Gayle is a devastating T20 player and he's been able to benefit from it. Not only has he extended his playing career, but the earnings from leagues around the world have allowed him to set up The Chris Gayle Academy to help underprivileged children. In this format, Gayle is an all-timer. He's likely the best ever. In the format many consider the future of the sport, Gayle helped create the excitement and interest.
Gayle's tenure has not been without controversy. He has had numerous spats with the West Indies Cricket Board (all of which were justified) and his comment about T20 cricket replacing Test cricket sparked an incredibly unnecessary debate. His comments to cricket presenter Mel McLaughlin in an interview during the Big Bash League were obviously wrong and that will remain with Gayle forever. But his cricket-related controversies have been justified and they've paved the way for WICB to operate better.
So after a disappointing 2019 World Cup campaign where the West Indies will likely finish ninth, where does Gayle's international legacy stand? He scored 242 runs for the West Indies in the tournament as his swan song, but the time has come for the big man to step aside and let the team venture into the future. In the ODI format, Gayle doesn't touch the top 10 and potentially the top 25. In the T20 format, the modern standard for cricket, he's at the top of the list. His off-field record is spotty, but his work on behalf of West Indies players and charitable actions outweigh his childish moments. Very few fans will forget his batting style. Everyone has seen at least one great "Chris Gayle innings". Perhaps that's why he'll always be remembered around the world.
Chris Gayle has been a confusing player to critique for his entire career. His legacy is no different.