Sydney, Jun 30: West Indies allrounder Chris Gayle has signed with the Sydney Thunder for the inaugural season of the revamped Australian Twenty20 Big Bash tournament.
The club announced Thursday that Gayle, one of world's leading T20 players, will join big-hitting opener David Warner at the Thunder, one of two Sydney-based teams in the new eight-team league.
Gayle played for Western Australia in the last two seasons of Australia's previous T20 competition, which comprised teams from the six state associations, but he reportedly rejected an offer of A$250,000 to remain with the Perth Scorchers. The Big Bash clubs have a salary cap of one million Australian dollars ($1.06 million) per season, with players on fixed retainers rather than match fees.
West Australia Cricket Association chief executive Graeme Wood confirmed Thursday that Perth had not been able to agree to terms with Gayle's management team. "We presented Chris with a very generous offer, and his management indicated that if our contract terms were near enough to the amount he was chasing then his preference was to play for the Perth Scorchers," Wood said.
"We have invested a great deal in Chris Gayle the past two years and he has forged some great friendships here in the west."Perth coach Mickey Arthur said the loss of Gayle was a blow, but other leading international players were being pursued.
"There is no doubt that Chris is one of the most dangerous Twenty20 players in world cricket and it would have been great to have him on board with the Scorchers," Arthur said. "But there are limitations within the salary cap and securing one player but running the risk of losing talented young players in the process is simply not an option when you are trying to build a team from scratch."
Gayle's international future is currently in doubt after he made strong criticisms of the West Indies cricket board and coach Ottis Gibbons in a radio interview. A meeting involving board members, Gibbons, Gayle and players union representatives on June 14 failed to ease tensions. In a statement, the WICB said the four-hour meeting had "ended in uncertainty."
Tension between Gayle and the board came to a head after April's World Cup, where he led the West Indies to the quarterfinals. Gibson criticized Gayle and senior players for their effort, and Gayle was among those dropped for early limited-overs games during Pakistan's tour.
While recuperating from an abdominal strain, Gayle agreed to play in the Indian Premier League as an injury replacement. He said he did it as a protest at how he'd been treated by the WICB. He ended up leading Bangalore to the IPL final and being named man of the tournament. Meanwhile, West Indies lost the one-day series to Pakistan.
During the IPL, Gayle railed against the WICB on Jamaican radio station KLAS, saying the board had threatened his place in the World Cup before the tournament, and treated other players poorly. He also criticized Gibson and replacement captain Darren Sammy.
The board said the interview "had a detrimental effect on the relationship" with the team and the board "and was unbecoming for a professional sportsman who would be desirous of playing within that same team environment." Gayle has said he still wants to represent West Indies, for which he has played 91 tests and 228 one-day internationals. AP