Durban - Chris Gayle returned to the West Indies on Sunday night, ending all hope of his participation for the Dolphins in the domestic MiWay T20 Challenge.
The 32-year-old arrived in the country three weeks ago nursing a groin injury and was expected to overcome the problem in time for the latter stages of the competition.
However, he requested an early release by the Durban franchise to attend the funeral of Runako Morton, his former international team-mate, who died in a car accident last week.
“He had another medical examination on Friday and also an injection to help speed up the process,” KwaZulu-Natal Cricket Union (KZNCU) chief executive Jesse Chellan said on Monday.
“The healing had improved significantly, but it was still looking like another two or possibly three weeks before he would have been able to play.
Chellan said they were looking at March 23 as the earliest opportunity Gayle would be able to play but the funeral gave them little choice in the matter.
“Subsequent to that date, Chris had also requested to go to the West Indies to attend the funeral of Runako Morton.
“We could not refuse to that. He left last night (Sunday) and won’t be returning.”
Chellan insisted it had still been a worthwhile investment to have had Gayle, widely seen as the best Twenty20 batsman in the game, in their set-up over the past three weeks.
“He did contribute a lot off the field and helped the players in many ways,” he said.
Details of whether the Dolphins still had to pay for Gayle’s entire contract were unclear, although reports indicated there was a clause in the deal that protected the club had the player not honoured his commitment.
Chellan neither confirmed nor denied the finer details of the deal, but said he was optimistic that the former West Indian captain would return to play for the union in the coming seasons.
“It was certainly not a waste of money. In his (Gayle’s) own words, he ‘owes’ us. So the chances of seeing Chris Gayle in a Dolphins jersey in the near future is very good.”
The Dolphins, who had a poor season in the SuperSport Series and One-Day Cup competitions, were banking heavily on their international stars for success in the 20-over format of the game.
Gayle, injured while on duty in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) with his side Barisal Burners, and Australia paceman Shaun Tait were announced as their two high-profile stars last year, before the latter withdrew with an elbow problem.
Another West Indian, Fidel Edwards, was brought in to bolster the bowling department 10 days ago.
The Dolphins are currently fifth on the T20 Challenge log, eight points off the log-leading Lions, with three matches to play.
Their last four matches were all washed out.