West Indies have openly embraced the return of their premier batsman Chris Gayle, who on Wednesday committed to making himself available for selection for the one-day leg of their tour of England. In doing so he decided to forsake his contract with Somerset as an overseas player for the Friends Life t20 and Ottis Gibson, the West Indies coach, said if Gayle was available, he would "definitely be picked".
However, West Indies captain, Darren Sammy, warned that his predecessor will need to get used to the new "hardworking culture" put in place in the West Indies dressing room.
Speaking at West Indies' media conference at Hove, ahead of a three-day tour match beginning on Saturday, Gibson said: "It is great to hear that Chris is available again. I'm sure the selectors will pick him, because he is world-class. If he's made himself available for the one-day series, I can't see him not being selected."
Gibson, who has been openly critical of Gayle in the past, was confident that despite having not played international cricket since the 2011 World Cup, the opener would slip back into the team environment without fuss. "It will be very easy [for him]," Gibson responded, after being asked whether Gayle would find it difficult to re-establish himself in the international arena. "He's the best one-day batsman in the world. So I don't think it will be a problem at all.
"He plays very well, going into many different dressing rooms all round the world and making runs. I don't think coming into ours will be any different."
Sammy said the team had not been distracted by the standoff between Gayle and the WICB, which has remained the main West Indies talking point in the last year, despite the team making gradual progress in certain areas. Asked if it had been unsettling for him to read about the Gayle issue all the time, Sammy pointed out he was busy drilling in the new culture that he and Gibson had put in place.
"I don't necessarily focus on that. I am more focused on what the team is trying to do," Sammy said. "The Chris Gayle issue has been going on for a while but we as a team have moved on and as you could see the last series we played we came out with a new attitude: where we are not going to let anybody keep us down. We are going to strive to move forward. When Chris joins the set-up, he will be coming into a very hardworking environment in which he has to fit in."
At the same time Sammy said Gayle's return could only be a good thing for West Indies cricket. "As a captain, whoever comes into the dressing I know myself and the coach would welcome them. Obviously we would urge them to contribute to the team's success. If he is in it is all good for us. We all know what he is capable of doing and hopefully he could fit in nicely and do the job to take West Indies cricket forward."
Gayle had ruled himself out of selection for the three-Test series against England having got a NOC from the WICB to participate in the IPL, where he represents Royal Challengers Bangalore. Gibson did not entirely agree with the opinion that some West Indies players were more interested in the monetary gains accrued from playing in lucrative Twenty20 tournaments around the world, while they picked and chose which series to play in national colours.
"In an ideal world you would want all your best players available to you all the time and still be making money and the board to be able to say to somebody 'we don't want you to go to the IPL, so we will pay you X amount of money to stay at home and play for us', but the reality is that is not possible in the Caribbean because of the financial situation," Gibson said.
In such a situation, Gibson said the WICB did not have much to bargain with. "The board has tried to negotiate, if you like, with people. That is what it has come to. That is the reality. So some guys can go off and play in the IPL and come back and play in the one-day series for instance. It is a little bit of give and take. It is good to see some of the guys go down that road rather than say they are unavailable completely. So it is not ideal but it is what it is and we just have to get on with it really."
Edited by Alan Gardner