Gayle in for a Blast at Somerset
Somerset have made the most high-profile signing to date for this year's NatWest T20 Blast by agreeing a short-term deal with Chris Gayle between his IPL and CPL commitments. Gayle could play as many as six games in a three-week period in May and June.
One of the most feared batsman in the T20 format and scorer of the fastest hundred, Gayle will arrive at Somerset after his IPL stint with Royal Challengers Bangalore is over - possibly in time for Taunton's first night of the Blast, on May 22, if RCB do not make the knockout stages. His final appearance is scheduled to be at Cardiff on June 13.
Gayle has been battling a back injury, which has ruled him out of West Indies' Test series against England next month, but he seems to have little difficulty with T20 commitments. West Indies were eliminated at the quarter-final stage of the World Cup, giving Gayle a couple of weeks' rest before the IPL, which will be followed by his Somerset spell and then the Caribbean Premier League with the Jamaica Tallawahs.
Somerset have already brought in Sohail Tanvir and Corey Anderson for the Blast - the latter for the second half of the competition. Abdur Rehman will also be available, although his primary role is expected to be in Championship cricket.
Somerset's director of cricket, Matt Maynard, said: "Signing a world-class player of the quality of Chris Gayle is tremendously exciting for the club. He will be a tremendous addition to our already extremely strong squad. He is an inspirational character and we are delighted to be bringing him to Somerset. We have a number of overseas players on the roster for the 2015 campaign and Chris' arrival and registration will give us a number of options which we will look at as we approach each competition."
Gayle previously signed for Somerset in 2012, at a time when he was involved in a stand-off with the WICB, but pulled out of the deal in order to return for West Indies. His arrival should help reinvigorate Somerset, where Maynard took charge over the winter, after last season's Blast, when they failed to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2008.
"I'm excited about joining Somerset for the NatWest T20 Blast this year," Gayle said. "Many of the club's members and supporters will know that I came close to playing for the county in 2012 and I have always felt that, if I was able to, I wanted to honour that commitment to Somerset. I'm looking forward to coming to Taunton and scoring some runs."
As well as hitting the fastest T20 ton - off 30 balls - last month Gayle became the first player to score a World Cup double-hundred. Overall, Gayle has made 13 T20 hundreds, more than twice as many as the next player on the list, David Warner; from 195 matches, he averages 42.01 at a strike rate of 147.18.