Gayle given permission to extend IPL stay
West Indies have reluctantly given Chris Gayle permission to extend his day with Kolkata Knight Riders at the IPL by two days if he wants to play an extra game. It means he could arrive in England just 48 hours before the first Test at Lord's, which will leave him precious little time to adjust to conditions.
With poor batting and inclement weather robbing West Indies of much-needed momentum ahead of the Test series, the tourists are now bracing for Gayle to remain in South Africa longer than originally agreed.
"The West Indies Cricket Board has been informed of this development and has agreed for him to arrive in England on Monday, May 4 if it becomes necessary," Omar Khan, the West Indies team manager, confirmed to reporters at Derby where they are playing England Lions, but also admitted it would "not be ideal preparation for a Test match."
John Dyson, the West Indies coach, said the decision didn't help his team. "It's not enough time for an ideal preparation (for a Test match) but we will work with it. The medical boys all say that, after that length of flight, you need a minimum of a couple of days to get over the jet lag and re-acclimatise and then you need a couple of days of practice.
"We were prepared to work around that and now that it's been extended out a bit further it puts more pressure on Chris and I suppose the people in the West Indies Cricket Board who made that decision."
Fresh from a 1-0 Test series victory in the Caribbean - a win that moved them within sight of sixth-ranked England on the ICC table - the West Indians have experienced a substantial reversal of fortunes since arriving in England. Already without the services of star allrounder, Dwayne Bravo, who was mysteriously ruled out of the Test series on medical grounds but cleared to play in the IPL, West Indies are desperately in need of Gayle's services after indifferent batting displays against Essex and England Lions.
Gayle was originally scheduled to join his West Indian team-mates after Friday's IPL game against Mumbai Indians, but he wrote in his column in the Times of India that he "might still stay back for the game on May 3 [against Kings XI Punjab]". The West Indies captain said he had "yet to make a final decision on the matter" and was mindful of his commitment to play in the first Test, which begins at Lord's on May 6.
He added that his staying on in the IPL depended on how Kolkata fared in Friday's match against Mumbai; a game in which he was bowled for just seven by Zaheer Khan to a flat-footed swat as Kolkata lost by nine runs.
When Gayle does present himself for national duty, there is no guarantee he will be at peak fitness. Kolkata coach Matthew Mott confirmed Gayle was carrying a foot injury - he required a runner during his recent innings against Bangalore - but did not think it serious enough to keep him from playing the Test series. Gayle's ability to bowl his off-spinners in recent matches will partially allay fitness concerns, although his lack of footwork in Friday's innings could be an indication of restricted movement.
Gayle's explosive batting in the opening rounds of the IPL had been among the few bright spots for Kolkata in an otherwise dismal campaign to date. Kolkata entered Friday's game against Mumbai in last place on the IPL ladder, and hounded by reports that team owner, Shah Rukh Khan, is considering selling the under-performing franchise. Kolkata have denied those reports, but are still preparing for their out-of-sorts leader, Brendon McCullum, to stand down from the captaincy in the coming weeks.
West Indies' players had been cleared by their board to play in the IPL until May 1, after concerns they would boycott the tour of England in preference for the lucrative Twenty20 league. One of the complaints raised by players in their recent dispute with the WICB was the ruling body's unilateral decision to tour England without their consultation, and at a time of year that placed it in direct conflict with the IPL.
IPL-related disruptions are not new to the West Indies team, which last year was denied access to its leading players until just days before the first Test against Australia. Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul joined the national squad did not attend a pre-series training camp, while Bravo arrived into Jamaica on Test-eve aboard a private jet, paid for by Mumbai.