With a cloud hanging over regional cricket after the West Indies’ abandonment of the India tour, four members of that squad will be jetting off to South Africa to take part in that country’s domestic Twenty20 competition.
The players –– One-Day International captain Dwayne Bravo, Twenty20 captain Darren Sammy, Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell –– will be joined by Chris Gayle who was not on the Indian tour, for the Ram Slam Tournament which runs from November 2 to December 12.
Interestingly, the West Indies were originally expected to conclude their India tour on November 19 prior to its abandonment with a One-Day International, a Twenty-20 International and three Tests left to be played. It is not known whether the contracts to play in the South Africa T20 competition were negotiated before the players’ strike action or after. It is also unclear whether the players have already applied for or received No Objection Certificates from the West Indies Cricket Board to play in the tournament.
Gayle is set to join the Lions, Bravo is heading to the Dolphins, Russell to the Knights, Pollard to the Cape Cobras and Sammy is linking up with the Titans. This is the third time in four seasons that Gayle has been linked to South Africa’s domestic T20 competition but this time it seems he may actually play in the event. Gayle signed for the Dolphins for 2011-12 and 2013-14, but injury kept him out of the event.
“It looks very promising that Gayle will play for us. We have sent him the contract and we hope to finalise things in the next 24 hours,” Greg Fredericks, CEO of Lions, told ESPNcricinfo. “We know that if he is firing on all cylinders, he could be a game-changer.”
Lions were aware of Gayle’s twin pull outs from Dolphins and have been meticulous in confirming Gayle’s availability for them. “We were obviously a bit concerned about what happened last time with the injuries and we made sure to check that he is fit and ready to play, and he is,” Fredericks said.
Gayle will be available for the entire competition, like his West Indies team-mates, apart from Bravo, who will miss the first match. Following the abandoned India tour West Indies have no fixtures during the competition. Their next international assignment is in South Africa – a three-Test, three-T20 and five-ODI tour which starts on December 17. The only possible clash for West Indies players in the twenty-over tournament will be if they are required to play in the tour match in South Africa, which is pencilled in for December 10-12, or be part of a pre-series camp.
Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara was also slated to join the Lions but opted to join Sri Lanka’s ODI outfit for the trip to India to replace the West Indies.
Meanwhile South Africa’s international summer remains uncertain. West Indies are the only team due to tour the country and one insider said that after last season’s curtailed visit by India, if the calendar was affected again, it would be “a disaster” for the venues. As things stand, none of them have received any information on the status of the tour but, as a source said, all are “hopeful it will be sorted out and not affect the quality of the cricket that will be played this season”.
The arrival of the five West Indies cricketers to play in South Africa’s domestic T20 competition could also provide the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations an opportunity to engage them about the ongoing dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board. FICA’s executive chairman Tony Irish, who is also chief executive of the South African Cricketers’ Association, said he would use the next few weeks to try and discuss the fracas with the quintet.
“It’s a positive from a FICA point of view that these players will be in South Africa because it will allow us to engage with them and try and resolve the issue,” Irish said. “I’m looking forward to talking to them over the next few weeks.” While Irish said FICA has been “doing what we can at this stage,” he was not in a position to offer any other comment on where the process was at currently.