Chris Gayle returns to where it all started - and went wrong - when the controversial West Indian takes on his former club the Sydney Thunder tonight.

But the organisation he left is in a far better place now, with new management, players and an improved culture.

Gayle chewed up more than a quarter of the club's A$1 million salary cap, partied in Sydney, stayed in superior accommodation to his teammates and occasionally chipped in with a few runs. But no more than a few - the Thunder were a basket case.

So when Gayle showed interest in returning to the same Big Bash franchise last season the Thunder's general manager, Nick Cummins, who wasn't at the club during Gayle's time there, didn't even entertain the possibility.


"I wasn't there so it's difficult for me to comment, but there were cultural issues at the Thunder at that stage - whether they were of Chris Gayle's creation I couldn't say," Cummins said.

"When we look at players (to sign), we look at them holistically and what they provide to the group. We didn't believe it would be a positive one.

"He may have been valuable on the field, but whether he provided the kind of ambassador that we were looking for off the field was another thing. From our perspective that doesn't mean he's a bad person or that he's not right for another club, he just wasn't right for our club."

This season Gayle joined the Melbourne Renegades and, unfortunately, everything he does on the field will be overshadowed by the disrespectful comments made to Channel 10 reporter Mel McLaughlin during a live interview.

But Gayle received plenty of support from the crowd during the recent Melbourne derby and Cummins expects there will be a mixed reaction to him on Monday night too.

"There'll be some people who will be supportive of him and some who will be opposed to him - that would have happened anyway as an ex-player," he said.

"Some people were big fans of him, and there are some who weren't."

Wicket keeper Chris Hartley expects Gayle to come out with a point to prove tonight.

"I presume he's probably going to try and show what he can do out on the field even more so. Hopefully for our sake there's some extra pressure on him to perform after the last week," Hartley said.

"When he played at the Thunder the organisation and the team itself was very different, so there's nothing for the team to take from his time here."

As for whether Gayle should feature in the Big Bash beyond this season, Cummins believes it should be up to his club to decide.

"If the club wants him he should. I don't think what he's done really equates to a lifelong Big Bash ban, but at the same time I don't think what he did should escape sanction."

The Thunder welcome back both Mike Hussey and Usman Khawaja for the crucial match, a huge boost for the team after three consecutive defeats.

"You can't speak highly enough of someone like Mike Hussey - not just the skill that he brings to the team and obviously the weight of runs he brings, but obviously his leadership and captaincy," Hartley said.

"Usman, who has been in brilliant form all through the summer is all formats, has won one match for us. Absolutely huge inclusions for us and I'm sure the Renegades will be doing their homework because they definitely add so much to the team." -