Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka
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Chris Gayle has been ruled out of the inaugural season of the Sri Lanka Premier League due to a serious groin strain. Gayle, the icon player and captain for the Uva Next franchise, was among the marquee players for the tournament.
Gayle had injured his groin while playing in the Bangladesh Premier League in February, but the injury was aggravated during West Indies' second Test against New Zealand in Jamaica. The same injury had also prevented Gayle from playing in the MiWAY T20 Challenge in South Africa for the Dolphins franchise.
"Of course it's a blow to lose [Gayle]," CEO of the Uva Next franchise, Tushar Bedi said. "But we are very happy with the team that we've got and we're still going to win the competition." Gayle has signed a three-year deal with Uva, and will likely take part in the 2013 and 2014 tournaments, Bedi said.
Two other overseas players - Pakistan's Abdur Rehman and West Indies' Fidel Edwards - are also in the late withdrawals list that already includes Shakib Al Hasan, who was denied permission to play in the tournament by the Bangladesh Cricket Board last week. There is also speculation that Marlon Samuels will be unavailable, but this has not yet been confirmed.
It is understood that the WICB decided not to provide a "no objection certificate" for Edwards because they would like him to be fresh ahead of the World Twenty20, which begins in September. However, reasons for Rehman's withdrawal remain unclear. Uva have replaced Gayle and Rehman with Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Fawad Alam and Jacob Oram and the Uthura Rudras have drafted in Kyle Mills and Australia batsman Rob Quiney to replace Shakib and Edwards.
An Uthura Rudras spokesperson said the loss of two overseas players days before the tournament had come as a surprise. "When we sat down and discussed strategy, we based our team selection on the basis of availability. One of the things that [coach] Tom Moody said was 'There's no point selecting fancy names if they're not going to turn up', so it's not ideal."
The spokesman said that despite the late withdrawals, Uthura remained upbeat about their chances in the tournament. "Mills and Quiney are sound names for us and they're T20 specialists, so we're happy with that."
A total of 56 overseas players had initially been signed across seven franchises, with some of those players only due to be called into the squads if other overseas players became unavailable. The first matches of the three-week SLPL will be played on Saturday, August 11, with the final scheduled for August 31. Four overseas players are allowed to play in each team per match.