Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo
Calling the allegations levelled against him by Chris Gayle as "scandalous", former West Indies batsman and Jamaica Tallawahs assistant coach Ramnaresh Sarwan has "categorically" denied he had any role to play in the former being released by the franchise for the 2020 season of the Caribbean Premier League.
"I categorically deny any involvement in the decision or the decision-making process, which led to Gayle's non-selection to represent the Jamaica Tallawahs in the 2020 Caribbean Premier League (CPL) Tournament," Sarwan said in a two-page statement he issued on his Facebook account on Thursday.
Sarwan's reaction comes a day after the Tallawahs issued their own statement on Gayle's release, saying the decision was made "collectively by the Ownership and Management team which did not include Mr. Ramnaresh Sarwan and based purely on business and cricketing reasoning."
Gayle was subsequently hired by the St Lucia Zouks for CPL 2020, which is scheduled to be played in August-September.
On Monday, Gayle recorded his outburst in a personal video on YouTube where he pinned the blame primarily on Sarwan and the Tallawahs management led by its owner Kris Persaud and chief executive Jeff Miller for "playing a game" with him and never informing him about their plans to release him. Gayle claimed that the news of his release was given to him by the CPL authorities who did not find his name on the final list of retention by the Tallawahs. Gayle said Sarwan had a big role in his ouster and called him a "snake", "deceitful" and "distrustful" person. Gayle even told Sarwan on the video that he "was done with him" and would tell him that next time the pair met in person.
Sarwan said Gayle's outburst was "quite unfortunate" and the only reason he came out with his own statement was to "protect the character" of people like him who he said were falsely accused.
"In that video, he has levelled false allegations and tarnished the good name and reputation of a series of persons," Sarwan said. "I was the focus of most of the onslaughts. I reply, not because I feel that Gayle's rantings are worthy of it, but because I feel that the public's record must be set straight and also, to protect the character and careers of so many people, whose image he sought to besmirch."
Sarwan expressed dismay and "shock" at his former long-time West Indies team-mate's allegations. Sarwan had played in 249 international matches involving Gayle with their association going back to Under-19 days. "Let me make it abundantly clear, that I have played with Gayle from the inception of my international career and I have always respected him as an extraordinary talent, a colleague and most importantly, a close friend. Hence, my utter shock by these scandalous allegations."
Sarwan said Gayle was a dear friend known to his family and that he had even "rallied" behind the Jamaican when in 2016 there were calls to ban Gayle from cricket after he was involved in a sexism row while appearing to proposition a female journalist on live television during the Big Bash League.
Gayle, who was hired as the marquee player and appointed captain by the Tallawahs, had said at the outset of the 2019 CPL season that Sarwan wanted to be head coach, but he told the Guyanese that he was "not fit" for that role as it entailed various requirements. According to Sarwan, Tallawahs had in fact appointed him as the head coach, a role he had not taken in 2018 because he wanted Mark O' Donnell in the position, who had been with the franchise for a long time to be in charge.
"In 2019, I was appointed Head Coach. I reached out to Chris and discussed with him, the selection of a team. I did so out of respect for him. In my conversation with Gayle about the team, he informed me that Donovan Miller, a Jamaican and a very close friend of Chris should be appointed Head Coach as he would better understand the culture of the Jamaican players. I conveyed Gayle's view to the CEO, informing the CEO that I would be happy to step aside for Miller's appointment given that Chris feels strongly about his appointment. My priority was what would be in the best interest of the team. Gayle is fully aware of the background, yet he accuses me of fighting to be Head Coach."
Gayle had also accused Sarwan of instigating the overseas players to "make a mockery" of him in front of younger players for not being present on training days, a routine he said he had followed in all T20 leagues around the world. Gayle admitted he had been "flipped" by the whispers and "put everyone in their place" during a "heated meeting" ahead of Tallawahs' final match last year.
"I absolutely reject Gayle's allegation that I encouraged foreign players to disrespect him," Sarwan said. "I really do not understand how he came to such a conclusion and this simply is not true."
Sarwan expressed "deep regret on this unfortunate saga" and wished Gayle good luck for his stint with the Zouks. However, Sarwan feared that Gayle might have set a wrong precedent in that young players might want to follow him in expressing disgruntlement in future in a similar fashion.
"My deep concern, is that young and upcoming players who regard Gayle as a role model, may think that this is an acceptable way of addressing problems which may befall them in their careers."