ICC Men's ODI World Cup 2019
'They know what the Universe Boss can do'
Just months out from his 40th birthday, West Indies star Chris Gayle is as confident as ever heading into his fifth World Cup
Louis Cameron in Southampton
22 May 2019, 04:00 PM AEST
World Cup hopefuls, take note; Chris Gayle says bowlers are still petrified of Chris Gayle.
The self-proclaimed 'Universe Boss' has arrived in the United Kingdom for his fifth, and surely last, World Cup as his international career stretches into a 20th year. He turns 40 in September.
Yet Gayle enters what is expected to be his international swansong - though he recently cast doubt over his own retirement plans – in strong form having blasted an astonishing 424 runs at an average of 106, including 39 sixes, in four matches against tournament favourites England earlier this year.
"Youngsters coming at my head - it's not as easy as it was like one time before," Gayle told cricket.com.au. "I was quicker then.
"But they'll be weary. 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.'"
Asked if opponents are still scared of him, a cackling Gayle said: "Can't you tell? You go ask them.
"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.' They're going to say, 'he's the man.'
"But they won't say it (on camera), they won't be frank and upfront and say, 'Listen to me straight up, Chris Gayle is the man.'
"But I'm enjoying it. I'm always enjoying the battle against fast bowlers, it's good. Sometimes those things actually give you extra drive as a batter. When you have a battle, I like those challenges."
The Jamaican cut a casual figure at West Indies training in Southampton on Tuesday a day out from their practice game against Australia, batting in the nets while teammates warmed up with a game of football, before signing some autographs.
Gayle, who in March became the first batsman to hit 300 sixes in the Indian Premier League in his 11th straight tournament, believes the Windies are capable of taking out the World Cup title.
That’s despite a rocky road to the showpiece event that saw world cricket’s former powerhouse forced to scrap for qualification in a tournament in Zimbabwe last year.
Few batsmen in modern cricket have pushed on as late into their thirties as Gayle has and the explosive left-hander is aware the end could be just around the corner, even despite his trademark swagger.
Asked what drives him to keep playing, Gayle said: "To be honest with you, it's the fan, it's the love of the game.
"Sometimes as sportsmen, they don't know when to walk away. Because sometimes you might feel at your peak, but eventually you have to leave the game at some point in time.
"If you're enjoying it, it's always easy (to keep playing) and I’m enjoying it. I've been having a lot of fun on the field, and it's a great bunch of guys as well – that's important.
"The dressing room is always going to play a key part for me as an individual. These guys spur you on.
"The fans are always asking you for more sixes. Those things give you that extra drive.
"There's nothing to go out there and prove, the only thing that would be nice is to win the World Cup."
Gayle insists there was never any doubt over him making it to the tournament, suggesting it was always a long-term goal of his despite going more than two years without playing an ODI after the 2015 World Cup.
Even if he needs to be more mindful of his own well-being than he used to, Gayle feels he's still capable of matching it with the best.
"I am still in good nick," he said. "I had a not-so-bad IPL, coming after the home series against England.
"The good thing about it is I've been playing cricket. It's important for me to keep playing and get some games under my belt and come here to the UK and start with a few warm-up games as well to see where you're at.
"It's a long tournament. For me personally I just have to monitor it as much as possible and just get the mindset right."
After opening their campaign against Pakistan on May 31 at Trent Bridge, West Indies take on Australia at the same venue on June 6.
2019 World Cup
Australia's squad: Aaron Finch (c), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa
May 22: (warm-up) Australia v West Indies, Southampton
May 25: (warm-up) England v Australia, Southampton
May 27: (warm-up) Australia v Sri Lanka, Southampton
June 9: India v Australia, The Oval
June 12: Australia v Pakistan, Taunton
June 15: Sri Lanka v Australia, The Oval
June 20: Australia v Bangladesh, Trent Bridge
June 25: England v Australia, Lord's
July 9: Semi-Final 1, Old Trafford
July 11: Semi-Final 2, Edgbaston
July 14: Final, Lord's
For a full list of all World Cup fixtures, click HERE