Four days before the first trading window of the IPL shuts, the biggest question surrounds the future of Chris Gayle. Currently the world's top batsman in the format, Gayle turned out for Royal Challengers Bangalore last season, taking them to the IPL final. This year the Royal Challengers have first rights to his services - but the rider is that the player must agree, else he can be available for auction.
Either way, Gayle stands to cash in on his form and reputation, with the Royal Challengers looking at breaking the bank to retain him before January 20 or the other franchises doing so in next month's auction.
"You will have to wait. We will make an announcement soon," Siddharth Mallya, the owner of the Bangalore franchise, told ESPNcricinfo, without revealing any further details.
But the Royal Challengers are hard on the heels of Gayle, who is currently playing in the BBL for Sydney Thunders, before he returns to the West Indies mid-week. Gayle, easily the most-wanted Twenty20 player around the world, played for the Royal Challengers in the 2011 IPL season as a replacement player after the Australia fast bowler Dirk Nannes was forced out due to the injury. Gayle proved a key player for his team and was a dominating force, topping the run charts with 608 in 12 matches at 67.55.
However, according to a BCCI official, theoretically, the Royal Challengers can tell Gayle they can retain him for his base price at the auction last year. "Theoretically RCB can say that they can [offer] Gayle the base price [US$400,000], which according to the IPL rules, they can to a replacement player. But they would like to negotiate ideally," the board official pointed out. Whatever amount the Royal Challengers sign Gayle for, in the event they do, will have to be disclosed to the IPL and that amount will be deducted from the franchise's US$2 million purse at the auction.
It is understood that the Royal Challengers are trying hard to arrive at the perfect balance between the "cricketing and financial" compulsions that come in to play around the retention of Gayle. "Bangalore want Gayle because they see the cricketing merit in the decision as he helped them to the final last year. But if they decided to sign a deal with him, they will have to pay big money and if they do that they will be left with nothing much at the auction," the board official said.
As far as Gayle is concerned, he is spoilt for choices. Reportedly Mumbai Indians, a bigger and richer franchise than the Royal Challengers, have expressed their interest in buying him. "Every franchise would like to have Gayle. He turned one IPL on his own," one of the franchise officials said, explaining why Gayle would be a hit at the auction. According to him Gayle would easily get the maximum US $2 million purse available to each franchise and then go to the secret tie-breaker route through which Mumbai Indians bagged Keiron Pollard. At the moment, it seems, Gayle holds all the aces.