Chris Gayle says he had written off IPL 2011 and was getting ready to resume international duties before being dropped from the West Indies team for the series against Pakistan. Gayle spoke to ESPNcricinfo on the eve of his second IPL game for Royal Challengers Bangalore against Delhi Daredevils on Tuesday.
"It was to be international cricket for me. Had I been picked, that would have been what I would have done," Gayle said. "I didn't have any thoughts about IPL4. I had written off IPL4, rather I was looking forward to its next year. I should have been there (in the West Indies) playing with the national team, but I am here. It is unfortunate but that is how it is."
Gayle said he had never expected to be in this part of the world at this time. The offer to play for Bangalore came "out of the blue at 3 am. After a party." Gayle's IPL arrival was emphatic, with an unbeaten century that set up Bangalore's win against Kolkata Knight Riders after they had gone four matches without a victory. Gayle hammered 102 in 55 balls against his old franchise, leading Bangalore to a nine-wicket win.
He came in to bat at Eden Gardens after having spent the better part of a month without a hit in the nets, working entirely, he said, on physical strength work to recover from an abdominal strain. "An opportunity presented itself, so I am here now to actually do what I can. I have got a good welcome from each and everyone, the players, the owners, and management staff." The abdominal strain? Gayle replied to the question with another one, "What did it look like during the match? That's what it is like now."
In the January IPL auction, Gayle had remained unsold. "It was surprising to be honest when no one took up the bid but based on my knowledge, they said we (West Indies) have a window where we have international cricket at that particular time. So I guess that was the reason, unless there are other things that I don't know about."
Gayle said he did have complaints against the West Indies Cricket Board that had not communicated with him before dropping him for the first two ODIs of the Pakistan series. "I was injured and no one bothered ... haven't I done enough (for the West Indies)? I have given my all and if that is not enough, what is? They left me to fend on my own and I have complaints."
He has followed the progress of West Indies against Pakistan by reading the scores, rather than watching the first of the five ODIs on TV. His interaction with his teammates has been through Blackberry messaging. "I say hi to the guys now and then and wish them well."
Gayle earlier also became one of three West Indian players who did not sign their WICB contracts, becoming freelance players in the several Twenty20 leagues around the world. "I had already pointed out my reasons (for not signing the contract). I thought the contract had too many restrictions and I explained to them (the board) and I explained to the public why I had not signed."
The decision by Sri Lankan fast bowler Lasith Malinga to retire from Test cricket and choose the shorter format of the game, Gayle said, had little to do with his own situation. "Malinga and I are not in the same boat - so I don't know what's happening with Malinga." The issues of club versus country, he said, could be easily sorted in most cases through communication. "It's simple, they (boards) just have to work it out as much as possible with the individual and see how best we can all co-operate. At the end of the day everyone can be happy and then we can actually move on and we wouldn't have anything dramatic like this."
A window for the IPL would be the next step to avoid what Gayle called cricket's "confusion" between a lucrative Twenty20 league and international commitments. "You have a window for the IPL just like you have a World Cup window. I'm sure there wouldn't be any fuss. That's something they need to take seriously. I'm sure cricket can actually move ahead and everyone will be happy."
Gayle had earlier said that the WICB had left him with no choice. At the moment though, all he wanted to do was, "win the IPL, be on a winning team. That would be the ultimate at this point in time. To lift the IPL trophy and see what it's like."
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo