April 6, 2003

A Gayle of a controversy

Merely a week after the latest in what seems to a series of blunders, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) now finds itself embroiled in yet another controversy.

Their latest faux pas surrounds West Indies' opening batsman Chris Gayle, who has been dropped from the Test team. In a brief but ambiguous release, the WICB said that they have requested written reports from both Chris Gayle and the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA).

The decision to penalise Gayle was made following his decision to represent the West Indies along with Carl Hooper in the inaugural Double Wicket World Championship (DWWC), which was held at the Beausejour Cricket Ground in St. Lucia. It is important to note that the competition was sanctioned by both the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the WICB.

Gayle's decision to play in the DWWC instead of appearing for his native Jamaica became an issue after Jamaica qualified for the finals of the Carib Beer International Challenge against Barbados.

The DWWC, which was organised by the St. Lucia Tourist Board, attracted top all-rounders from eight international teams. The contracts for the West Indian players - Gayle and Hooper - were signed in January after the Carib Beer Series schedule was confirmed.

So, it strikes as strange that the WICB would be asking both the JCA and Gayle for written reports surrounding Gayle's decision to represent the West Indies in the DWWC. The clash of dates (DWWC and Carib Beer International Challenge), came about after the WICB rescheduled both semi-finals as well as the final of the competition to allow India 'A', who arrived late for their first round match, to play against the West Indies 'B' in an effort to qualify for the semi-finals.

In a release earlier today, the WICB said that it had "asked Christopher Gayle and the Jamaica Cricket Association to submit reports on the circumstances that led to Gayle's non-selection for the Senior Jamaica team now contesting the final of the Carib Beer International Challenge against Barbados."

At the same time, the WICB was itself unsure about Gayle's eligibility despite observing that "a player becomes eligible for selection to the senior West Indies team when he makes himself available for selection to his national side in a competition immediately preceding the selection of a West Indies team for an international series."

This therefore raises a few very pertinent questions: (i) If we accept the foregoing, then why is Carl Hooper eligible for selection despite going directly to Australia instead of making himself available to Guyana for their match against the Windward Islands (ii) Also ineligible based on the foregoing would be Vasbert Drakes, another player named in the 14-man squad ahead of the first Test against Australia. He was "rested" for Barbados' match against West Indies 'B', while Pedro Collins was not selected because he was not 100 per cent, carrying an injury.

In the meantime, the WICB has sought legal advice to ensure that they have not breached any proper procedure and caused injury to Gayle in the process. A question, however, remains about Gayle's eligiblity and the WICB have advised the selection panel "that until such time as a decision has been made to the contrary, Gayle is eligible for selection on the West Indies team."

When Wisden Cricinfo tried to get Gayle's side of the story, we were advised that Gayle could not speak on the matter. The big question is: who advised Gayle not to speak publicly about this matter?