Chris Gayle could make an eye-catching return to West Indies’ one-day side against England later this summer following the thawing of relations between senior Caribbean cricketers and the board.
Even at 37, the big-hitting Gayle remains one of the world game’s biggest drawcards, but he has restricted his international appearances since the last 50-over World Cup in early 2015 to a handful of Twenty20 matches.
Now, following the efforts of a new-look West Indies Cricket Board to make peace with several of their star players, Gayle is in line to represent the one-day team during the five-match series against England in September, as well as the preceding one-off Twenty20 match at Chester-le-Street.
Chris Gayle is set to make a return to 50-over cricket for the West Indies this summer
The left-hander has rarely featured in white-ball cricket for the West Indies since 2015
Until recently, the board refused to pick players who opted for money-spinning overseas Twenty20 tournaments rather than appear in domestic cricket in the Caribbean.
But the appointment in January as the WICB’s new chief executive of Johnny Grave, who had previously worked at the Professional Cricketers’ Association, has eased tensions between players and administrators. Last month, an amnesty was announced, in effect lifting the ban and allowing the likes of Gayle to be available for one-day selection.
‘West Indies have probably wasted more money on having to address legal issues with players than they have spent on developing young cricketers,’ Grave told the Mail on Sunday.
‘The amnesty is about highlighting to the public the progress we’re making and getting one or two of the big names back in the 50-over side.
‘When Evin Lewis hit a ridiculous T20 hundred against India recently, it was telling that the two guys who talked him through it from the other end were Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels. I’m hopeful we’ll see them both in action against England.’
First, though, West Indies must negotiate a three-match Test series, starting with Thursday’s pink-ball match at Edgbaston, against an England team who are on a high after disposing of South Africa 3-1.
‘The perception is it will be no contest,’ said Grave. ‘All I’m hearing is each game will be over in three days, and Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson will blow us away. People view West Indies cricket as being in decline, and they’ll see an England win as further evidence of that.
‘But we can take confidence from our recent performance at home against Pakistan. We’ve got the talent to compete – it’s just a question of whether we have the confidence to put together 15 sessions.
‘This is a great opportunity for our players to make a name for themselves. I just hope that the likes of Shai Hope, Roston Chase, Shannon Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph and the captain Jason Holder can prove a few people wrong.’
Grave is adamant that there remains plenty of ability on the Caribbean islands, despite a Test decline that has seen West Indies fail to win an away series anywhere other than Bangladesh or Zimbabwe for more than 22 years.
Gayle has predominantly played in domestic T20 franchise competitions around the world
‘West Indies won the Under-19 World Cup last year, and that team has just won a one-day series in South Africa, so the talent is clearly there,’ he said. ‘It’s just about harnessing it. At the moment, we’re a bit like England in the 1990s.
‘What I’ve tried to do with our new director of cricket Jimmy Adams and our new coach Stuart Law is bring a sense of stability to the game. The players aren’t immune to problems at board level, but things are getting better.’
And the new chief executive also believes that only success at Test level can alter the sense that West Indian cricket is on a slippery slope to nowhere.
‘Winning three global events as we did last year [the men’s and women’s World Twenty20, as well as the Under-19 World Cup] only provided a short-term boost. Long-term change only comes through Test cricket.
‘We’re viewing these three games in England as the first of seven Tests, followed by two each against New Zealand and Zimbabwe. Hopefully by the end of it we’ll have developed as a Test side.’
The temptation for England will be to underestimate West Indies, who have not won a Test in this country since 2000, nor a series since 1988. But, against a team desperate to prove they are not the no-hopers of popular wisdom, they will do so at their peril.
But tensions between the West Indies Cricket Board and its players have now eased