Player-board relationship 'steadily improving' - Gayle
West Indies could feature a full-strength squad across formats as early as August this year, according to Chris Gayle. Gayle said "things have been steadily improving" with regard to the dispute between the players and Cricket West Indies.
"The fans were happy to see me back on the field representing West Indies. Hopefully, things can get better. Hopefully I can play a few more games. I definitely want to play the 2019 World Cup," Gayle said. "Things are beginning to open up a little more now between players and the board. It's looking good, and we've to try and build from this to get the best players out on the field."
Currently, Cricket West Indies follows a stringent policy of considering only those players who have featured in the domestic 50-over competition, under the regime of Julian Hunte and Ernest Hilaire. In recent times, however, the CWI have been more open to negotiation, which Courtney Browne, the chairman of selectors, too spoke of in May.
Gayle said discussions regarding the possibility of featuring in a full-strength squad for West Indies' tour of England in August were positive. "That's what is actually in discussion. It's for them to make the announcement, and make it formal so that we know what is what," Gayle said. "We'll wait and see what happens.
"I can't get into specific details, just from the little I've experienced since coming back, it's been good. There's still more discussion to be done. It's positive. That's the good thing about it. We've to just look to carry on from here. Once we are guided with the rules, if it is going to change fully, we'll know how to take things further."
Gayle was also optimistic that investment in a young squad, particularly Evin Lewis, would pay off eventually, even though results in recent times - a loss to Afghanistan and an ODI series defeat to India apart from their failure to qualify for the Champions Trophy - haven't gone their way.
"Two centuries in two T20s against India, it's fantastic," Gayle said of Lewis. "He's a small player but a powerful player. He's very young and very hungry, he's one for the future. Once more consistency comes into his play, he will be more dangerous. It was a brilliant innings just the other day to put us into that winning position by batting right through the end was fantastic. That's what I love to see, especially an opener batting right through to take it till the end and win games.
"With our experience, we all try and share as much as we can before we go; 2019 is just around the corner. 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."
Gayle also said he was "excited" at seeing young fast bowlers challenge him at the nets, and impressed upon the need to maintain his fitness to take every step possible to put himself in fray for selection. "I'm still being active in the gym, putting in the work. These youngsters are very sharp, they try to take your head off saying 'he's old now, take him down,'" he said. "You've got to be mindful, got to be ready at all times. I'm trying and looking after the body. There's a lot of travelling, so I try and monitor [my schedules and training] as much as possible."
Chris Gayle was speaking in Bengaluru at the launch of IONA Entertainment, a virtual-reality gaming arcade
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo