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Gayle deal reached

...but storm clouds hover

l BRIDGETOWN

The way has been paved for opener Chris Gayle's selection to the West Indies team, but uncertainty over his actual return and grave concerns about his role in a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) continue to hover ominously over the deal reached.

 Chairman of CARICOM's Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on Cricket, Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, announced Wednesday evening that the year-long impasse between the embattled Jamaican and the WICB had been resolved.

His announcement follows weeks of negotiations which started in St Vincent last month between the concerned parties and which were facilitated by St Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.

The Statement of Resolution on the impasse, signed by both Gayle and the WICB, sees both parties expressing regret for their actions and pledging to move forward in the spirit of reconciliation.

"In the light of all of this, WICB and Mr Gayle agree that the way is now clear for his active return to West Indies cricket subject to all necessary fitness considerations," the agreement stated.

Spencer said that a meeting would now be convened "at the soonest appropriate time" between Gayle and the WICB in order to "tidy up residual matters".

"A date is to be set for this meeting convenient to all parties including Mr Gayle who is currently in India," Spencer said.

Gayle, however, in a statement dated March 23, said while he signed the agreement, he remained ineligible for West Indies duty for the duration of the Indian Premier League which winds up May 27.

He said he would be available after May 29, effectively ruling him out of the current Australia tour and the Test phase of the tour of England next month.

He also said he would forego his Twenty20 contract with English county Somerset at no cost to the WICB and would be free to play in the one-day and Twenty20 aspect of the England series.

West Indies tour England from May 5 to June 24 and will play three Tests, three One-Day Internationals and a single Twenty20.

Gayle also indicated he would be available for the Twenty20 World Cup later this year but gave the assurance he was not seeking to "cherry pick" the series he played.

In response, the Board, in a statement dated March 29, noted it was "disappointed" over Gayle's unavailability for the duration of the IPL but said that in the "spirit of compromise and subject to agreement being reached on all outstanding residual matters" it would convey Gayle's unavailability to the selectors.

The Board also raised concerns about Gayle's pending litigation against the WICB, which is part of a multi-million West Indies Players Association lawsuit regarding the issuing of No Objection Certificates, and said it hoped Gayle would now drop the case.

"The Board finds it difficult to see how continuing with the litigation could be consistent with Mr Gayle's assurance not to cherry pick and the other commitments he has given and hopes that Mr Gayle will cease that litigation in the interests of the new beginning that we are in the course of establishing," WICB president Julian Hunte wrote.

Gayle, in his latest response dated April 1, argued that the lawsuit had been initiated by WIPA and that he could not "possibly contemplate withdrawing unilaterally from proceedings", especially when such a move would affect all West Indies players.

He said the WICB could discuss a settlement with WIPA during talks to amend its Code of Conduct.

However, in a letter sent to PM Gonsalves on Wednesday–a copy of which was obtained by CMC Sports–the WICB said it remained perturbed by the litigation.

"The Board finds it difficult to see how: (1) continuing to pursue claims against the Board in the lawsuit is consistent with an assurance that a player does not want to cherry pick which tours or games to play," Hunte stated.

"Whether a player, who wants to be considered for selection by the West Indies, can make himself temporarily unavailable so he can take up what he considers to be a better offer, is central to the lawsuit; and/or (2) persisting with an alleged multi-million dollar claim for damages against the Board is at all consistent with the process in which we are engaged."

The Board argued that while WIPA initiated the lawsuit in August last year, Gayle chose to join as an additional claimant last December.

Also, the WICB challenged that Gayle's claims were "discrete" and had no direct impact on West Indies players overall.

"As the lawsuit was started by WIPA without him, and his claims are set out separately, we do not understand why Mr Gayle says he cannot contemplate withdrawing from the lawsuit without WIPA," the Board queried.

"Our efforts must surely be focussed on bringing about the resolution of all outstanding matters between the Board and Mr Gayle."

The WICB said it welcomed a final meeting to resolve the outstanding issues.

Gayle has not played for West Indies since the World Cup last March after publicly criticising the WICB and head coach Ottis Gibson in a highly charged radio interview with a Jamaica radio station.

—CMC

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