The St. Lucia Zouks have named eight regional players on their squad for the 2020 Caribbean Premier League (CPL), and captain Darren Sammy says he is confident that marquee player Chris Gayle, who publicly blasted his former franchise in a controversial rant, will be focused and motivated when the season starts.
Zouks, which announced last month that it had signed Gayle after his release from the Jamaica Tallawahs, on Wednesday named West Indies Emerging Player Kimani Melius as the only other newcomer to the squad which is captained by Daren Sammy. The exciting St. Lucian batsman joins a squad that also features Andre Fletcher, Kesrick Williams, Obed McCoy, Rahkeem Cornwall and Kavem Hodge.
Gayle, the all-time leading T20 run scorer, is at the centre of a controversy which he created by posting a series of YouTube videos last month, bashing his home franchise and Tallawahs’ assistant coach Ramnaresh Sarwan. Gayle had described Sarwan as a “snake” and other unflattering terms and accused his former West Indies teammate of conspiring to have him released from the squad. He also charged that management of Tallawahs was “playing games” with him, and had cut him from the squad without any notice, although he still had two more years left in the three-year contract and had agreed to a pay cut.
Cricket West Indies president Ricky Skerritt expressed the view recently that the 40-year-old Jamaican could be penalised by the CPL for his outburst.
Neither the CPL nor Zouks have commented publicly on the matter, and Sammy said he was looking forward to playing with the big hitter.
“I don’t have to tell you about Chris Gayle. He is the most successful T20 batsman in the world and I’m happy to be playing with him. I think he will be focused and motivated for the season,” he said.
Sammy, who recently returned from a coaching stint in Pakistan, said he was also looking forward to seeing Gayle working and sharing his experience with other players.
“Rahkeem Cornwall really bosses the powerplay overs and him partnering up with Chris Gayle is going to be something exciting to watch. I’m excited about Kimani Melius because he is from St Lucia. He is one of the hardest working youngsters I’ve ever seen. With the experience of Chris Gayle and Andre Fletcher, he could really benefit from this CPL exposure,” he said, adding that Fletcher, who has been with the franchise since the inception of the CPL in 2013, “carries the true spirit of St Lucia Zouks, and he is a great entertainer on the field”.
The captain also spoke flatteringly of the other returning players.
“Kesrick Williams is one of the top T20 bowlers over the last few years in international cricket,” he said.
“Obed McCoy is a talented left-arm fast bowler out of St. Vincent. He is a very skillful bowler, can’t wait to see him play a full season for the St Lucia Zouks. Kavem Hodge is another talented all-rounder we have. He works really hard on his game; he had a pretty good first-class season as well.”
Zouks coach Andy Flower said he was “really looking forward to having two Caribbean legends” in the dressing room – Sammy for his outstanding leadership and Chris Gayle for his experience and explosive stroke play.
“They will be central to our chances of doing well in the tournament. Kesrick Williams and Obed McCoy are going to be the mainstays of our seam attack, both operating in very different ways but both extremely effective in this form of the game,” he added.
“I am very excited that we have the youth and potential of the West Indies U19 World Cup captain Kimani Melius with us. A St Lucia native, it is brilliant to have him on board and looking forward to seeing how he progresses when he gets his chance.”
The CPL is scheduled to take place between August 19 and September 26 but organisers of the six-team tournament are liaising with medical advisors and governments, given the COVID-19 situation, to decide whether it can proceed as planned or must be rescheduled.
Zouks, Trinbago Knight Riders, Guyana Amazon Warriors, St. Kitts and Nevis Patriots, and defending champions Barbados Tridents have all disclosed which local and regional players they have retained or signed for the tournament. Only Tallawahs have not made their team public.