KARACHI, Pakistan – Chris Gayle headlines a plethora of West Indies stars confirmed for next weekend’s draft of the Pakistan Super League.
The 41-year-old Gayle, along with veteran all-rounder Dwayne Bravo, former Twenty20 captain Carlos Brathwaite and openers Lendl Simmons and Evin Lewis, were among 25 foreign players announced by the Pakistan Cricket Board yesterday.
Barbados-born England all-rounder Chris Jordan is among the foreign players indicating his participation in the sixth edition of the showpiece set to run from February 20 to March 22.
Gayle, the most successful T20 batsman ever with 13 584 runs and 22 hundreds from 411 matches, has been installed in the platinum category along with his West Indies counterparts and the likes of Afghan superstar leg-spinner Rashid Khan and South Africa fast bowler Dayle Steyn.
“We are delighted to release a star-studded list of players in the platinum category even though we are dealing with an unprecedented situation due to COVID-19, and player availabilities are also hampered by a packed FTP (Future Tours Programme) calendar,” said commercial director, Babar Hamid.
“The HBL Pakistan Super League 2021 will be another exciting season once again being played in Pakistan.
“The quality of players on the list is a further testament of the credibility and integrity of the league as it continues to attract the best T20 talent from around the world.
“In the coming days, we will work as hard as ever on successful delivery of the event with all stakeholders as we are determined and focussed on producing another world-class event while raising the bar higher and ensuring the safety and security of all participants.”
In the past, Jamaican Gayle has turned out for reigning champions Karachi Kings and Lahore Qalandars, two of the six franchises which feature in the tournament, but he did not feature in the 2020 edition of the tournament.
Islamabad United, Multan Sultans, Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators make up the remainder of the teams.
“The six franchises will now be making key trade and retention decisions before the draft, with each team allowed a maximum of eight retentions ahead of the draft,” the PCB said in a statement.
The board cautioned, however, that despite the high number of overseas players, some would only be available for a part of the tournament due to the “packed international calendar during the February-March window this year”.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted last year’s tournament, forcing fixtures to be halted at the end of the preliminary round in March. They resumed last November with the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Gayle has made it clear that he is looking forward to the T20 World Cup, with high hopes of helping the regional team win a third title.
Gayle’s last appearance for the Windes, a One Day International match at the Queen’s Park Oval last year, was a dramatic affair as he walked off the field to applause from both sets of players and fans. The special occasion was thought to be his retirement from international cricket.
Following that match, Gayle turned down the selection to an ODI series against India, after insisting that he needed some time off to figure out his future. Since then, however, Gayle has had a complete reversal of thought when it comes to the idea of retirement.
The big left-hander recently showed that he remains capable of producing plenty of fireworks, after an outstanding season in the Indian Premier League (IPL). After being left on the bench at the start of the tournament, the insertion of Gayle into the line-up fuelled an impressive run for Kings XI Punjab who narrowly missed out on making the playoffs. During the tournament, Gayle became the first player to reach 1000 T20 sixes.
Having found himself in that type of form, retirement is understandably now the furthest thing from the batsman’s mind and he is ready to take that kind of form into international cricket.
“I’m enjoying my cricket, to be honest with you. I just recently played the IPL in Dubai and did well. Now I have the T10, honestly, I’ve been feeling good, I’ve been putting in some work,” Gayle said.
He admitted that he already has one eye on the ICC T20 Championships, which will be held in November of this year.
“I’m just getting myself in condition. I still have a lot of cricket to play. I’m looking forward to the World Cup and hopefully giving the West Indies another T20 title.”
Gayle has not played in a T20 international since March last year but intends to be part of the squad in lead-up matches to the tournament.