End of the run for Gayle show
Chris Gayle's West Indians have finally left the building. Their chaotic campaign ranks second only to Pakistan's in terms of its unpredictability, but for the English audiences who have charted their form and performances ever since the Caribbean Test series in February, the manner of their parting was fitting in the extreme. Gayle is the rock upon which their fortunes, good and bad, have been built. Today he remained standing while his team was swept away.
"This is a real farewell to Chris Gayle … full house!" said the man himself, as he strode into his last press conference before the team's departure for the Caribbean. His mood in defeat was jovial but resigned, after an extraordinary match in which only three players turned up for duty. Unfortunately for West Indies, two of those were Sri Lankan - Tillakaratne Dilshan with the bat, and Angelo Mathews with the ball. "They say any one particular person can win a game of Twenty20," said Gayle, "but it's not a one-man game to be honest with you."
He left the stage as he entered it, the undefeated heavyweight of West Indies cricket, a player whose performances are determined less by form than by mood. From his Stanford-seizing onslaught in November, through to the series-seizing centuries at Jamaica and Trinidad that bookended West Indies' Test triumph over England, and on through to his unforgettable obliteration of Australia on this very ground last week, what Gayle has wanted, he has gone out to get.
Conversely, there have been occasions - particularly during the board dispute that overshadowed the Caribbean one-day series, and then throughout a sulky and terrible Test series in England - that Gayle has seemingly not cared a jot about his or his side's performance. Today, however, was the moment even he could not get what he wanted just by doing what he does best. The evisceration of West Indies' top order in that stunning opening over from Mathews put paid to that.
"I'm disappointed with the way the game went, actually," he said. "It was a bit one-sided, but what can I do about it? Go ask Mummadaddy. We were expecting him to open the bowling, but I didn't expect him to pick up three wickets. We were always on the back foot after that, and unable to capitalise on those [first] six overs. But I say to my fans, we float like a butterfly and we'll still sting like the bees. We'll be back, still stinging… bzzzt!"
West Indies, in fact, will be back in action next week, pitched into a home one-day series against an Indian team that had much less chance of looking on the bright side of their elimination from this tournament. Like England - the side West Indies themselves beat on this ground earlier in the week - the positives were plentiful, simply because the expectations at the start of the competition had been so low.
"We did well to reach the semi-final and we're proud," said Gayle. "I can't fault the guys for reaching the semi-final. We haven't restored the honour of West Indies cricket, but there's a better smile on the West Indian fans' faces.
"But trust me, let me tell you this, they are very hard to please. The only thing they take is victory, but they now have some better understanding of our situation. They'll have a better smile after reaching the semi-final. It's tough luck to the fans, but keep supporting, and stop cursing."
Plans just didn't fall into place for West Indies in this game. Fidel Edwards, the one player who could have rattled the equilibrium of the ice-cool Dilshan, failed a fitness test on his sore back, and after three ducks in a row for Andre Fletcher, his replacement at the top of the order, Xavier Marshall, marked his call-up with a first-ball duck. Lendl Simmons and Dwayne Bravo, Gayle's likeliest foils in a run-chase lasted four balls between them.
Ultimately, the gulf between the teams was yawning. But Gayle was phlegmatic about the result, and hoped that, with the next Twenty20 tournament coming up on home soil, the lessons would be absorbed and remembered.
"Overall you're going to be disappointed, but you can't point fingers," said Gayle. "I'm happy for them to use this as a learning experience, because no doubt, with the next Twenty20 in the Caribbean, it'll good for us to use this as a good learning experience, and we hope to capitalise on our home advantage."
For the time being, Gayle is just content to cut his losses and get back home at the end of an arduous and eventful journey. When asked where his money would be for the final, he shot back: "I don't have any money, I'm broke to be honest with you!" - a line that brought down the house. Either Shah Rukh Khan has yet to cough up, or Stanford's cheque has bounced. Or both. Either way, even though he was on the money himself today, the odds were stacked against West Indies' progression.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo