Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo
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Chris Gayle, the West Indies captain, arrived in Brisbane on Wednesday morning and declared himself "mentally prepared" to play the first Test against Australia, beginning at the Gabba on Thursday. In a tremendous boost for the tourists, Gayle headed directly for the Allan Border Field for the Windies' final training session, where he informed team-mates he would be taking the field beside them the following day.
"It's difficult but, yes, I'm playing tomorrow," Gayle said. "I'm committed to it. It doesn't make sense to come and sit around and watch the game. It's always difficult to come in the day before a Test match but what I try to do is prepare mentally. I know it's a tough task ahead. The main thing is to condition my mind to go out there and lead from the front. It won't be easy, but I'm mentally ready. I was hitting balls in the nets today and I'm feeling pretty confident."
Gayle touched down at Brisbane International airport shortly before 8am, sporting diamond encrusted sunglasses and all-black attire. He promptly dashed to the team hotel in the city, changed into his whites and reported for training at the Allan Border Field with the rest of the West Indian squad at 9am.
Gayle showed few ill-effects from the long haul flight during a 20-minute batting session, with Sulieman Benn and a handful of local quicks on the receiving end of some powerful blows. He bowled several overs of finger spin to round out training, before racing across town to the Gabba to conduct his pre-match press conference.
"I'm not feeling anything at this point in time," Gayle said of his impending battle with jet-lag. "I don't know what later on will happen. Hopefully I'll get some rest in between and pull up fresh tomorrow morning. I haven't played Test cricket for quite some time now. We haven't played as a unit for quite some time as well. The challenge is always going to be there."
Gayle is no stranger to eleventh hour arrivals ahead of Test series. He landed in England the day before this year's first Test, having been granted special permission by his board to extend his stint in the IPL. He also cut fine his arrival for the 2008 home Test series against Australia, also due to IPL commitments, prompting David Williams, the West Indies interim coach, to quip: "He's getting used to it."
Gayle has spent almost 100 hours commuting between Jamaica and Australia over the past fortnight, with the latest trip occurring so he could be with his sick mother. She was released from hospital at the weekend, allowing Gayle to plan his way back to Australia. He thanked supporters for their "prayers and best wishes."
"I'm honoured, it's good to be back here," he added, looking remarkably fresh. "Hopefully tomorrow it will be a good day for the West Indies cricket team. This time we'll test our skills against the best team, so I'm looking forward to it."
Gayle kept fans abreast of his recent movements via his Twitter page, including updates on his mother's improving health. He also caused a stir when, before boarding a flight in the United States, he tweeted: "couldn't use my private jet pilot was too drunk so commercial all the way." Upon arriving in Brisbane, Gayle said the post was intended as a joke. "I was mucking around," he said.
Joel Garner, the West Indian team manager, was buoyed by Gayle's return. "He is the captain and one of the leading batsmen and now that he is back we hope he will be well rested over the next 24 hours," Garner told Cricinfo. "I hope he will come out and give us the kind of support and performance that would make West Indians proud."
Williams, meanwhile, dismissed suggestions West Indies could opt to field first on Thursday to allow Gayle additional time to recuperate from his latest long-haul flight. "We're not going to make a decision based on one guy," he said. "If we get to the Gabba and we have a look in the morning and we feel it's feasible for us to be bat then so be it."