Middlesex set sights on Gayle

Although the English winter is drawing in there is still plenty happening around the county circuit. During the off-season, ESPNcricinfo will keep you up to date with major developments, news and the odd quirky story

George Dobell
Although the English winter is drawing in there is still plenty happening around the county circuit. During the off-season, ESPNcricinfo will keep you up to date with major developments, news and the odd quirky story.
Middlesex have eyes on Gayle
Chris Gayle has been targeted by Middlesex as an overseas player ahead of the 2012 T20 season.
"If you're asking whether we would like Chris Gayle in our side then yes, of course we would," said Middlesex's director of cricket, Angus Fraser, "but whether we can afford him in another thing entirely."
In the past, however, Middlesex have benefited from a partnership with the MCC whereby the burden of playing the top overseas players' wages has been shared between the two clubs. Adam Gilchrist was signed thanks to such a partnership.
As things stand, however, Middlesex are likely to play only three of their five home games at Lord's with international commitments and the Olympics limiting the ground's availability. The club may even need to persuade the ECB to allow them to stage their first game a couple of weeks before the formal launch of next year's event.
Middlesex have already strengthened their top-order batting with the signing of Joe Denly from Kent. Fraser confirmed, however, that Andrew Strauss will not play any Twenty20 cricket in future.
High-profile candidates for MCC role
Steve Elworthy, currently director of marketing and communications at the ECB, and Dave Richardson, currently the general manager of cricket at the ICC, are understood to be among the short-listed candidates for the vacant role of chief executive of the MCC. The previous CEO, Keith Bradshaw, resigned recently in order to spend more time with his family in Australia.
Shanker for IPL?
You might have thought we'd heard the last of Adrian Shankar. After the debacle of his brief stint at Worcestershire, most people would have slunk away and got on with their life far away from the world of cricket.
But not our Adrian. He's nothing if not determined. It now seems that Shankar has turned his attention to the IPL and has, somehow, aroused the interest of Rajasthan Royals.
As a result, Royals management have made enquiries to players in England to learn more about Shankar's background. The question they asked was: is Shankar a fantastic, untapped talent who has somehow escaped the notice of all English scouts; or is he just an audacious blagger?
You can probably guess the answer they received.
Moeen Ali's England chance
It might have been presumed that the likes of Monty Panesar, Samit Patel and Scott Borthwick were the men jostling for the second spinner spot in the England squad to the UAE (in January-February) and Sri Lanka (March-April).
But Moeen Ali is also in contention. The 24-year-old Worcestershire allrounder took more wickets than any other off-spinner in Division One of the Championship in the 2011 season (albeit a modest 18 at 51 apiece) and also scored 930 runs at an average of 33.
That allround ability subsequently won Moeen a place in England's potential performance squad and, along with a few of the other batsmen and spinners in that squad, he will remain in Sri Lanka after the three-week training camp in Colombo. The players will be allocated first-class teams and benefit from playing for another seven weeks in Sri Lankan domestic cricket.
The inference is that a role in the Test side - probably batting at six and fulfilling the role of second spinner - is just about within Moeen's grasp. While there are several players ahead of him in the queue at present, most have question-marks against them; Panesar, for instance, has few pretensions as a batsman or a fielder, while Patel's fitness remains an issue.
Whatever happens, if England do need to call upon Moeen in Sri Lanka, it will surely prove beneficial that he has experience of the conditions. It's another example of the planning and attention to detail that has characterised the England management in recent years.
Financial issues for Warwickshire
Warwickshire have left several clubs disgruntled by their approaches for players in recent seasons, but the boot could soon be on the other foot.
The failure to land an Ashes Test in 2013 will have a large impact on the finances at Edgbaston and is likely to make recruiting - and retaining - top players increasingly difficult.
In the short-term, it has done little to help them secure the signing of James Taylor. Taylor is also wanted by Nottinghamshire, who won the right to host Ashes Tests in 2013 and 2015 and, as a consequence, have the certainly of a high income for the foreseeable future.
In the longer-term, attention will focus on retaining Warwickshire's best players. Chris Woakes, for example, is out of contract at the end of the 2012 season and is certain to attract interest from a number of other counties. As a quality allrounder who might not quite make the Test team, Woakes might even be considered one of the most valuable players in the entire county game. If Warwickshire are going to keep him, they're going to need to fund the mother of all pay rises.
Kartik set for Oval move
Surrey are close to securing the singing of Murali Kartik, the left-arm spinner, as an overseas player for the 2012 season. He has previously enjoyed spells at Lancashire, Middlesex and Somerset. While it is understood that Surrey's salary bill remains the largest in the county game, the club have not breached the salary cap of £1.8m.