Gayle defends late arrival for England series

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> West Indies captain Chris Gayle insisted he had not let his side down by arriving in England just two days before the first Test starts at Lord's.

Updated: May 05, 2009 16:00 IST
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West Indies captain Chris Gayle insisted he had not let his side down by arriving in England just two days before the first Test starts at Lord's here on Wednesday.

The dynamic opening batsman, in common with a host of leading international cricketers, has been playing in the ongoing Indian Premier League Twenty20 tournament in South Africa.

England skipper Andrew Strauss said his players would not be allowed to turn up so close to the start of a Test -although the IPL trio of Ravi Bopara, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood only returned on Friday.

But Gayle, speaking at Lord's here today, told reporters: "I feel fresh. I'm looking young again, I'm good and ready to go."

Gayle did play one more IPL match than originally envisaged once the England tour had been confirmed but said this had made little difference.

"I was due to come on May 3 but we had a game that day so I got permission (from the West Indies Cricket Board). It wasn't a big gap.

"We are all different and it's about who can adapt as quickly as possible and be ready physically and mentally."

West Indies are only playing in this two-Test series after their board stepped in when Sri Lanka, England's scheduled opponents, withdrew because of their players' IPL commitments.

"We all knew the situation," said Gayle. "We discussed the situation with the board. Everyone knew this would happen."

He added: "Maybe there should be a window for the IPL (when no other major international matches are taking place) when all players should be available so everybody can get the chance to play against the best, like the World Cup."

Had it not been for this tour, Gayle would have been available for the full six weeks of the lucrative IPL event, where he was playing for the Kolkata Knight Riders.

And he admitted he'd been taken by surprise when informed about the England series: "When I heard about the tour, I scratched my head a bit but then I said 'this is another chance to represent the West Indies'.

"There was no way I could avoid coming here to England," added Gayle, who earlier this year led his team to a 1-0 Test series win over Strauss's side in the Caribbean.

"It was a must to come here and participate in the series against England. It is a privilege to lead the entire nation."

Strauss, who was not involved in the IPL, defended the involvement of England players in an event which saw star all-rounder Andrew Flintoff sustain a knee injury by saying earlier today: "We've got a Twenty20 World Cup coming round the corner and if those guys haven't learnt anything from those four weeks, they are never going to learn anything."

But asked about the timing of Gayle's arrival, Strauss said: "The important thing is that Test cricket gets the attention it deserves. That means people prepare themselves properly for any Test they play.

"You don't want Test cricket to be devalued in any way, shape or form. There's a line there. We wouldn't want our players to arrive two days before. From our point of view, we are trying to avoid going too far over that line."

West Indies coach John Dyson appeared to pin the responsibility for the timing of Gayle's arrival on the WICB as much as on the player himself.

"The board gave him clearance until May 2 - but then our board considered an extra day or two didn't matter, so that's that," the former Australia opener told a news conference at Lord's here on Monday.

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