Chris Gayle may have upset Somerset but this summer's Windies series against England will be much improved by his presence, says Frank Gregan...
The ongoing spat between the West Indies Cricket Board and their former skipper Chris Gayle seems to have lasted longer than Coronation Street. It certainly tops the rankings as cricket's soap opera. The two parties involved have hardly covered themselves in glory but their differences now seem to be settled.
Gayle has reneged on a contract he made with Somerset, which was to be his next gig as a freelance T20 'gun for hire.' He left himself open to possible breach of contract proceedings, something that he acknowledged when he announced his decision: "I understand that by making this decision, it may place me in a position of considerable risk since I am foregoing a signed contract without any guarantees whatsoever, with only the hope that I will be selected to play for the West Indies again."
That's a pretty big piece of humble pie that the Jamaican is chewing on but he went even further: "So there is no doubt, I confirmed to the selectors that I was available for the West Indies duty in all forms of cricket immediately following the conclusion of my contractual obligations to my IPL franchise, Royal Challengers Bangalore."
So there it is, there's no ambiguity. Chris Gayle has swallowed his pride, isn't picking and choosing his contests and has put the ball firmly back into the WICB's court. As Gayle has said, there's no guarantees that he'll be selected and given how petty and churlish the WICB has been in the past they might just thumb their noses at his offer. If they did it would be a disgrace as Gayle is one of (if not the) best one day cricketers in the world.
Not only would the West Indian cricket fans be up in arms but their English counterparts would not be happy at that scenario either. The Windies tour is not exactly getting pulses racing over here but Gayle's inclusion in the one day stuff will be mega box office. Let's face it, the West Indies in England during the early summer are going to need all the help they can get and the inclusion of probably the best T20 batsman in the world can only aid their cause.
Before the one day series there is the small matter of a three match Test series for which the visitors preparation has been truly dreadful. They managed only 18 overs in their warm up match against Sussex at the weekend, they are experiencing visa problems with three of their 15 man squad and admitted that their 50 year old tour manager, Richie Richardson, might have been called upon to fulfill the 12th man duties in the game at Hove.
The first Test gets underway a week on Thursday and England are a very tempting price given the West Indies form, their dreadful preparation and their dislike of early season English wickets. The home side are 5/71.69, with the West Indies at 15/28.4 and the draw 5/23.5. The spanner in the works is, of course, the weather, but England will probably not need five days to get a result. A home win is the recommendation.
Somerset could have had the final say in 'Gaylegate' and applied the letter of the law, dragging the dispute through the legal system. They have chosen not to and their statement, particularly the reference to not wanting to damage the reputation of the game, proves that there is still integrity to be found in cricket. If both Chris Gayle and the WICB had conducted themselves in a similar manner from the beginning, this soap opera that could have been avoided.