In a major blow to the St Lucia Zouks franchise, charismatic opener, Chris Gayle has decided not to take part in this year's edition of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL). The draft for the tournament is scheduled to take place on 24th June and Gayle's withdrawal just a day before is huge news.
Gayle has specified personal reasons for his withdrawal. A CPL spokesperson confirmed the development saying, "we understand that Chris has decided to not take part in CPL personal reasons. We wish Chris all the best for the rest of 2020 and hope to see him back at CPL in 2021."
According to a report in ESPNcricinfo, Gayle in an email to the Zouks franchise has stated that he needed a break and wanted to spend time with his young family. Due to the lockdown, Gayle has not been able to meet them who are in St Kitts while he is based in Jamaica.
Gayle has been a part of two CPL teams before joining the St Lucia Zouks in April of this year. Gayle represented the Jamaica Tallawahs (two stints) and St Kitts and Nevis.
The dashing opener has not been away from controversy as far as the CPL is concerned. Just before signing up for the Zouks, Gayle in a YouTube video outburst in April slammed one-time teammate and Tallawahs' assistant coach - Ramnaresh Sarwan for his ouster from the Jamaica franchise.
"When I came back to the Tallawahs, Sarwan was assistant coach. Myself and Sarwan had a discussion, he wanted to be the head coach. When I left Jamaica Tallawahs, that team was a high-spirited team. (But) the amount of complaints I used to get when I wasn't there, the amount of problems they had with Sarwan - Russell was the captain at that time - the amount of problem that Sarwan and the captain have...so many players were traumatised because of Sarwan," Gayle said.
"That goes to show your own people undermine you. Doesn't matter how far you and them are coming from, they still undermine you," said Gayle. "Out of that era - 1996 - I'm the only one active, playing. Everyone else retired. I'm the last man standing within that era...and I'm still going strong. So it kind of hurt them to see Chris Gayle still playing and still being successful. I'm talking about past and present players. But I'm dealing with you Sarwan. I'll deal (with the others) whenever that time comes," he said.
After the outburst, Sarwan termed it as "unfortunate" in a Facebook post two days later. "Christopher Gayle's outburst disseminated via a YouTube video a few days ago is quite unfortunate. 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 that video, he has levelled false allegations and tarnished the good name and reputation of a series of persons. 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 added.
Gayle too was critical of the Tallawahs' CEO Jeff Miller, saying there was a plan to get rid of him despite him agreeing to a pay cut twice after being informed of the franchise's financial troubles.
The star though escaped sanctions from the organisers after they decided not to constitute a tribunal to investigate the alleged breaches of the tournament rules and regulations. The committee also declared the matter closed after Gayle issued a statement saying his intention was not to damage the brand.
Even though Gayle admitted his comments were "damaging to Cricket West Indies, the CPL and its brand" he said he stood by his words in the video.
Gayle also back then had said he was keen to put the past behind and that he was looking forward to his new association with the Zouks.
"Right now, my eyes are fixed firmly on the season ahead, and the new challenge which playing for the St. Lucia Zouks franchise will bring. I hope to see you there," he said.
With his withdrawal, the Zouks will have to find a replacement in the draft process.
The tournament is currently scheduled to take place from August 18 to September 10, subject to approval from the local government.