Gayle in demand

sportschrisgayleindemandinnewzealandWELLINGTON — Cricket Wellington continues to aim high, confirming it has Twenty20 superstar Chris Gayle in its sights for a Firebirds cameo before the West Indies tour opens in December.

Fairfax Media understands the big-hitting left-hander is a legitimate target for one or two matches in the Firebirds’ Twenty20 campaign in November. Chief executive Peter Clinton said no offer had been tabled, but Gayle was an obvious focus for one of their two import slots, given the West Indies would be in the country anyway.

“With Jesse [Ryder] departing we’ve lost power hitting at the top so clearly Chris Gayle could replace him in that regard. He’s attractive for that reason and he would attract fans, he’s a very popular player and he would be a fantastic asset. But we haven’t made any plans on who we need to approach yet,” Clinton said.

Gayle might appear out of the league of New Zealand teams but he went within a whisker of playing two T20 games for Central Districts in New Plymouth last December, during a lull in his Sydney commitments.

CD chief executive Hugh Henderson confirmed yesterday they agreed to terms with Gayle for a total of $15,000 to $20,000, with assistance from financial backers, but it fell through when the West Indies Cricket Board objected. “We were as close as you probably could get,” said Henderson, who agreed Gayle could pique their interest again if circumstances were right.

Clinton wouldn’t discuss money but it appears Gayle wouldn’t break the bank. It is understood a figure of $4000 per match has been pencilled in, which appears low. Cricket Wellington has previously snared stars like Muttiah Muralitharan, Brett Lee and Shaun Tait for a handful of games, with help from anonymous benefactors.

“My experience is that it’s not just about the money for a lot of these players. They actually take the gig because they need to be playing and at times we might be the only first-class T20 competition running,” Clinton said.

Gayle has played in Zimbabwe and Bangladesh T20 leagues. When on song, the 33-year-old Jamaican is

the most destructive batsman in world cricket, and in April smashed a world record 30-ball century when he plundered 175 not out for Bangalore against Pune in the Indian Premier League.

Gayle’s recent form hasn’t been great, though, with a top score of 30 in 10 limited overs innings for West Indies in the past month. The West Indies are scheduled to play three tests in New Zealand in December, including one at the Basin Reserve.

Gayle is a regular in Australia’s Big Bash, which starts on December 20, leaving November as the best window to snare him in. The HRV Cup schedule hasn’t been released, but is expected to be similar to last year when it started in November and featured Friday night televised matches, with the finals in mid- January.

Clinton said Gayle wouldn’t be the only target for New Zealand teams, with all-rounders Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard popular T20 imports. He hoped New Zealand Cricket would work with the WICB to clear the way for their players to appear in T20 matches before their tour.

Wellington’s highest-ranked contracted player, James Franklin, will also act as a scout. He’s playing alongside Martin Guptill for the Guyana Amazon Warriors in the Caribbean Premier League starting this week, whilst Gayle will captain the Jamaica Tallawahs.

“James will be in the dressing room with these players and see what sort of people they are, as well as their cricketing abilities.”

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