Gayle eyes 'huge performance' in landmark Test
On Sunday, should as expected he plays, Chris Gayle will become the ninth West Indies player to feature in 100 Tests, joining an elite club that includes Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Courtney Walsh, Brian Lara, Viv Richards, Desmond Haynes, Clive Lloyd, Gordon Greenidge and Carl Hooper. Gayle is also within sight of another landmark - he is 67 runs shy of becoming the eighth West Indian to amass 7000 Test runs- and he admitted that he was raring to go on the "perfect occasion" in his hometown Kingston against New Zealand.
"This is a huge milestone, this is very special and something I'm really looking forward to," Gayle said. "It all started in Rollington Town - I used to play cricket on the street then I moved to Lucas Cricket Club and here I am today about to play my 100th Test match for the West Indies.
"Now I've reached my 100th match and it is special because it is at home. Sabina Park is my favourite ground. It has changed a bit over the years and it's very special to play cricket here at home with my family, friends and supporters in the crowd, I always love playing at home and Sunday's match will have great significance for me.
"I'm looking forward to it and I also want to have a huge performance. I'm sure the fans will be thrilled to see this occasion on television across the Caribbean and around the world. They have been very supportive throughout the years when I have had my ups and downs."
Gayle, however, insisted that the match was not only about him, and that West Indies looking to take an early lead against their opponents, having gone down 2-0 during their tour of New Zealand in December.
"Hopefully we can win this Test and match and celebrate the occasion. I will look to contribute to the team and success," he said. "The focus is on winning. It will be most memorable to get a win and start the series on a winning note. It is big not just for me but for the team as well - I am sure everyone will be rallying around me.
"I have had my challenges coming up to my 100th Test match. To be able to stand here today I am very proud and I want to keep scoring runs and represent the West Indies for as long as I can."
Gayle, 34, made his Test debut against Zimbabwe in 2000, and though he has blown hot and cold over the years in the longest format, he has still enjoyed a productive career, collecting 6933 runs at 42.01 from 174 innings with 15 hundreds including two triple-centuries. Those heights, however, had seemed a far-fetched dream during his first game, where Gayle admitted he "cried like a baby".
"When I look back I have come a long way. In my first match I was a bit nervous, but then I had played a few ODIs before so I settled down pretty well. I remember it very well. I even shed tears.
"To share a dressing room with Ambrose and Walsh - and being at first slip with the two big men bowling and hitting edges and me taking a few catches - was very good for me.
"When I batted in the first innings I was feeling really good and was looking for a big score. I got run out in a mix-up with Sherwin Campbell and I remember going back to the dressing room and I cried like a baby. But I always knew I was going to get a 'big one'. It was a special match and one I will remember for all times."
In recent years, Gayle has developed a reputation of being only a Twenty20 specialist, but Denesh Ramdin, the captain, quashed such suggestions, insisting that any team would be happy to have him in their ranks.
"It's great to have a player like that in the team who has achieved so much in his career, and he has no plans of retiring," Ramdin said. "He wants to carry on and score more runs and centuries. He's a die-hard West Indies fan, and always wants to win. Any team in the world would love to have him, and I'm sure he'll put up something special once he gets a chance."