Gayle still unlikely for Big Bash League
Chris Gayle remains unlikely to reappear in the Big Bash League next summer despite an apparent climbdown from the Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland when discussing the board's capacity to bar the West Indian opener from returning.
Sutherland had been an outspoken voice decrying Gayle's behaviour following his inappropriate on-air exchange with the former Channel Ten broadcaster Mel McLaughlin when playing for the Melbourne Renegades last summer. The head of the BBL Anthony Everard had also stated that CA reserves the right to veto the overseas recruits of their clubs.
However, Sutherland retreated from taking a position against Gayle's possible return when asked about it this week. "No matter what anyone at Cricket Australia thought at management level, board level, I think you're on a slippery slope if you start making judgements on players who could or shouldn't be playing in the Big Bash League or in our domestic competitions," Sutherland told the Daily Telegraph, "Because, when does that ever end?
"My view is unless there's a very, very strong reason along the lines of anti-corruption, then it's difficult for us to be making those judgements. I'm not saying that it wouldn't happen, but my judgement is that it's not appropriate, it's about the teams themselves to make the calls."
Sutherland's remarks were a surprise to numerous figures connected to Australian cricket, particularly when lined up against his strong words about Gayle the day after the incident and other related allegations that were raised subsequently. One of these is presently the subject of legal action by Gayle against The Age newspaper.
"I think it's a pretty significant mis-hit by Chris Gayle," Sutherland said at the time. "Those comments are completely out of line and inappropriate and something that we don't in any way condone, and there's no place in cricket or the Big Bash League for those sorts of comments.
"The circumstances last night was live television and I don't think anyone should be put in the sort of position that Mel McLaughlin was put in. It's not a nightclub, and one of the things that hasn't dawned on everyone is it's actually a workplace. It's Chris Gayle's workplace, it's also Mel McLaughlin's workplace and those sorts of comments border on harassment and are completely inappropriate in cricket, inappropriate in a workplace.
"Anyone who sees the humour in that is misunderstanding and somewhat delusional about the situation. I think they're forgetting as well that it's a workplace situation. It's inappropriate and it's very, very public. That just goes to the point about how inappropriate and 'not cool' that is."
The sense of a changed course was stronger for the fact there is believed to be minimal interest among BBL clubs in contracting Gayle, for reasons including the negative effect of his actions last summer but also cultural and tactical reasons. Gayle was not a prominent on-field contributor in a struggling Renegades side last season until his fifty in his final innings of the tournament.
Stronger displays for West Indies in the World Twenty20 and the IPL have raised speculation about his return, but Gayle would have to accept considerably-reduced financial terms even if one of the clubs decides he is worth picking. If they do, Sutherland's earlier remarks - and wide reporting that CA had decided there is no place for Gayle in the BBL - will ring hollow.
One event that preceded Sutherland's remarks was the departure of CA's head of communications Jonathan Rose, a respected, reasoned and experienced figure who has moved back to corporate communications after a three-year stint at the chief executive's side. CA is yet to start the search for his replacement.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig