Chris Gayle could be on the brink of a return to international cricket after pulling out of a deal with English county side Somerset in a bid to revive his West Indies career.
Former West Indies captain Gayle, renowned as a big-hitting batsman, has not played international cricket for more than a year following a dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) sparked by critical comments he made about officials in a radio interview.
The 32-year-old Jamaican left-hander, also a useful off-spin bowler, signed to play Twenty20 cricket for Somerset this season.
However, Gayle -- currently starring in the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) -- issued a statement on Thursday saying he had made himself available for international cricket again following talks with the WICB.
He said he would not be joining south-west side Somerset, even though he has received no guarantees he will be selected by the West Indies.
"I wish to advise that as of today (Thursday), I have written to Somerset and advised them that I will not be honouring the commitment I made to them when I signed a contract with them," Gayle said.
"I made it clear to them that my decision was made because of my commitment to West Indies cricket and to West Indies cricket fans, and because I believe that it is time for the WICB to make a decision which will provide a clearer view of my own future.
"I understand that by making this decision, it may place me in a position of considerable risk, since I am foregoing a signed contract, without any guarantees whatsoever, with only the hope that I will be selected to play for the West Indies again.
"I have now satisfied all of the requests of the WICB and their selection panel, with whom I met via teleconference yesterday (Wednesday), and to whom I reiterated previous assurances given to the board regarding my availability.
"So that there is no doubt, I confirmed to the selectors that I was available for West Indies duty in all forms of cricket, immediately following the conclusion of my contractual obligations to my IPL franchise, Royal Challengers Bangalore."
Gayle has not played for the West Indies since the 2011 World Cup, but has been in blistering form in the IPL, where he is third in the list of the tournament's highest run scorers and has made 81, 87, 4, 86 and 71 in his past five innings.
Although he was not selected in the West Indies Test squad for a three-match series starting at Lord's on May 17, he could now return to the side for the subsequent one-day series, which gets under way in Southampton on June 16.
But those one-day matches clash with the county Twenty20 tournament, hence Gayle's decision to pull out of his Somerset contract.
Somerset were, unsurprisingly, upset by Gayle's move.
"We are very disappointed that Chris Gayle will not be joining us for this season's FLt20 (Friends Life T20), particularly as we have a signed contract and a no-objection certificate from the West Indies Cricket Board," said Somerset chief executive Guy Lavender.
Somerset subsequently announced that they had signed South African batsman Francois du Plessis as a replacement for Gayle.
The West Indies squad arrived in England on Wednesday and they begin their tour with a three-day match against south coast county Sussex at Hove starting on Saturday.© ANP/AFP