WEST Indies opener Christopher Gayle is part of a considerably strong Jamaica 13-man squad set to battle the Windward Islands at the National Cricket Stadium in Grenada in the March 6-9 Regional Four-day match.
The Tamar Lambert-led squad is to depart tomorrow.
The tall left-hander, who has recently struggled for consistency on the international circuit, requested a break from the ongoing limited-overs phase of the West Indies home series against Zimbabwe, citing "mental drain".
His inclusion in the Jamaica squad after a little over a year away from the four-day scene is seen as a move to get in practice ahead of the March 12 start of the two-Test series.
Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) chairman of selectors Courtney Daley confirmed Gayle's inclusion and added that 27-year-old seamer Brian Buchanan has also earned his first senior call-up.
"Gayle called and notified that he was available and he was picked. Pacer Brian Buchanan has also been called up. He has been on a shortlist of players and has been training with the squad since last year. So he has been around for some time and has impressed selectors," Daley told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
Buchanan, formerly a student of Vere Technical, who plays for Clarendon CA on the local club circuit, has the reputation of being an accurate pace bowler, who has the ability to move the ball both ways.
The bowler expressed extreme delight at his first national selection at any level, while adding that he was determined to make this his breakthrough season.
"Right now words can't explain how I feel... I'm overwhelmed. I've been playing cricket for many years and I've been called to (national) trials a couple times, but things didn't work out. This year, I decided, was going to be my chance and now I just want to stay fit," Buchanan said.
Gayle, 33, a constant fixture in Twenty20 (T20) cricket around the globe, said last week that playing in the longer version could provide the tonic he needs.
"Sometimes you do get mentally drained... you want to be fresh at times because when you are fresh you can think a bit clearer. I won't use it as an excuse because I've been there before... I've been in great condition, well rested and things didn't go according to plan.
"But I felt the urge (to take a break) and I think it was needed. Being one of those players who gets the opportunity to travel the world and play in all the different leagues you do play a lot of cricket.
"I'm looking forward to being back in as soon as possible. I'll be mentally and physically ready for it (the Test series). The longer format gives you time to spend in the middle and we know how fast paced the T20 format is. With Test cricket... you can get accustomed to bat in the middle for a long period of time," he told the Observer at a presentation at his local club Lucas CC.
Interestingly, Gayle's previous outing for Jamaica in this format was against the Windward Islands at Sabina Park, Kingston in February of last year. Then, the powerful batsman left the Windwards team bruised, battered and thoroughly beaten as he smashed a thunderous second innings 165 at Sabina Park.
Also included in the squad is batsman Danza Hyatt, who returned from a spell in the recently concluded Bangladesh Premier League T20 competition.
Noticeably absent are left-arm pacer Sheldon Cotterell and middle-order batsman Jermaine Blackwood. Both are scheduled to play for the Sagicor High Performance Centre (HPC) in a warm-up match against a Zimbabwe XI in Barbados from March 7-9.
Ja squad— Tamar Lambert (capt), Christopher Gayle, Simon Jackson, Nkrumah Bonner, Danza Hyatt, David Bernard, Carlton Baugh, Nikita Miller, Andrew Richardson, Odean Brown, Brian Buchanan, Xavier Marshall, Zeniffe Fowler.