What’s the commotion with Gayle omission?
It was the qualifier of Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) 2015 on December 13. Rangpur Riders led by Shakib Al Hasan were to play the raging Barisal Bulls for a spot in the finals. Chris Gayle was the star attraction, the show-stopper, the one-man highlight reel for the Barisal side.
Since the West Indian batsman was rested for the previous match, his participation in the qualifier was even more anticipated. Like many cricket fans and followers of this exciting game, I was glued to the television screen with bated breath, and the shock came at the toss.
At the toss, Barisal Bulls captain Mahmudullah revealed that Chris Gayle was not in the playing eleven, as the opener had left Bangladesh for Australia. “He will not be able to play with us due to his commitment to the Big Bash League (BBL),” Mahmudullah said, while referring to Gayle's commitment for the Melbourne Renegades in the competition, which is scheduled to begin on December 17.
For many of us, the news of Gayle’s absence was overwhelming, as if someone had pulled the carpet from underneath our feet, and busted the bubble of naïve cricket fans with a fearsome artillery barrage.
The Barisal management informed at the time that Gayle had complained of back pain on the morning of the game. The BPL was Gayle's comeback tournament since undergoing back surgery.
Certain franchises in the BBL require their players to join their teams a week before the start of the competition. Initially, there was speculation that Gayle, who had a five-match contract with the Bulls leading to the December 15 final, had left due to this rule, reported the Daily Star.
After the match, the message from BPL’s governing council was grim for the Barisal franchise, as its chairman considered the player’s absence quite a serious matter indeed. “We feel that the decision to not play Gayle is suspicious because from what we knew he was supposed to play five matches. We are going to investigate the matter,” said BPL governing council chairman Afzalur Rahman Sinha.
“We were told by the franchise that Gayle was injured and that he decided to leave for the BBL. If that was the case then he could have met our medical team and we could have figured out a solution. The reason why we have made this statement is because many people have been asking us regarding his absence,” he added.
When contacted about BCB’s stance on Gayle-issue, Bulls franchise co-owner Rizwan bin Farouk said the team was not going to force Gayle into playing a game with a back injury."If the player is injured, he can't play. You can't force him to play. He has had an operation. When he called the doctor, he was told to go back immediately," Farouk told ESPNcricinfo, adding that the franchise's contract with Gayle was for him to play "four to five matches" during the BPL season.
However, Barisal team owner never specified the exact number of matches Gayle was suppose to play in BPL-2015.
On Sunday, December 20, BCB president Nazmul Hassan has said the board is investigating Barisal Bulls' decision not to field Chris Gayle in the BPL's second qualifier on December 13, but did not elaborate on the matter when pressed further during a press conference.
"At the same time, there is one issue which they are already working on. It is about Chris Gayle's [non] appearance in the semifinal [Qualifier]. There is some discussion about it. We are looking into it. I am not saying there was anything untoward but we are investigating the matter." Nazmul Hassan added.
Recently, BPL governing council chairman Afzalur Rahman Sinha was quoted as telling the Bengali daily Prothom Alo during the Barisal-Rangpur qualifier that the council had learned of Gayle's unavailability just before the game. He said the council would investigate the Barisal franchise's decision not to pick Gayle.
"We have to examine if there was any other motive in this regard," Sinha told Prothom Alo. "We have to find out why Gayle wasn't played. We will investigate the matter after the tournament. They could have let us know earlier. The BCB physio and doctors could have looked after the problem. But they didn't tell us.”
However, in the post-match press conference of the qualifier between Bulls and Riders, Sabbir Rahman said the Barisal team had known of Gayle's unavailability earlier. "After our last match, we heard that Gayle wouldn't be playing this game," he said.
If the Barisal players could know about Gayle’s unavailability for the qualifier after the game on December 12 against Dhaka, why was the BPL governing council notified just before the crunch match on December 13? (If we take council chairman’s words at face value)
The entire episode has become muddled with contradicting statements from players and officials alike. According to the rules, the BCB and the BPL's governing council and technical committee do not have the jurisdiction in the composition of a team's playing eleven.
But the questions remain...was it right for Barisal to reveal Gayle’s absence just before the match? Did they cheat the spectators by their delayed announcement? If they knew about Gayle leaving on December 12, why did they wait till the toss of the qualifier on December 13?
Paying public and fans of BPL-2015 deserved better, deserved much better…