Disappointed to end without making it to final four, says Gayle

Leeds: Big-hitting opener Chris Gayle regretted not being able to make the semifinals but said he will always be around to help West Indies cricket after playing the last match of his fifth and final World Cup here.

“It’s been a privilege and honour to represent West Indies in five World Cups, disappointed to end without making it to the final four. Lot has happened behind the scenes to get here and be here, that’s fantastic,” Gayle said after their last match against Afghanistan ended in a 23-run win.

The victory will hardly be any consolation for West Indies, who started the tournament on a high, but are going back with only two wins from nine games. “Would’ve loved to lift the trophy, but it didn’t happen but at the same time it was fun, enjoyed it. All the guys rallied around me, got the support of the youngsters. Must commend the staff for the work ethics they’ve put in. Words can’t explain my feeling at the moment honestly,” the 39-year-old veteran said.

Last week, Gayle had indicated that he could retire from international cricket after the series against India next month. “We have a great bunch, it’s for them to uplift West Indies cricket. I’ll be around, I may be around for a few more games, will be there for the youngsters. World Cup wasn’t to be but life does go on. It is my last World Cup….unless they give me two years of rest and I come back (laughs). I don’t intend to put my body on the risk, I’ve been struggling. This is the last one, definitely.”

Gayle needed 18 to leapfrog Brian Lara and become the Windies’ leading one-day international run-scorer of all-time, only to be dismissed for 7. He added, “The future looks bright, with Hetmyer, Hope, Pooran – those guys will carry the flag and make sure West Indies cricket is back to where it belongs. They have a young captain in Jason Holder as well, they have to rally around. Look forward to the next World Cup as well.” Asked about his plans ahead, Gayle said, “To play the T20Is and ODIs against India, the CPL and the Canadian T20. That’s that. We’ll see after that what happens.”

West Indies victory means that Afghanistan ended their World Cup campaign without any victory. Speaking after the loss, skipper Gulbadin Naib said, “At one point, we looked comfortable at the wicket. Khil and Rahmat played really well. In the end, chasing 300-plus isn’t that easy. So I am really happy with the fight.”

Leading the side for the first time in the big event, Gulbadin said it was a good learning effort. “I learnt a lot in this tournament. Fitness is an issue for us, boys are struggling and it’s something we need to work on. Also, need to handle the pressure moments more. We need to keep working on bettering our skills. I think the World Cup has been a good learning curve for all of us.”

Jason Holder, captain of West Indies was pleased with the effort. ‘It’s good to get over the line. We’ve had some close encounters in this World Cup. So it’s really good to finish with a win. Obviously, batters stepped up. Evin and Shai got a good partnership going. At the back end, I and Pooran were able to finish well. 300 was a par score I felt on that pitch. They had a good partnership but we stayed strong and came through in the end.”

On what went wrong for WI in the WC, he said “I think inconsistency let us down. Our fielding has a lot to improve. The bowlers did really well, credit to each of them. Batting was inconsistent and that also needs to step up.”