Chris Gayle almost didn’t make it to IPL 2018. He was picked up only after his name was called three separate times at the auction in January, bought at a steal for his base price of INR 2 crore (USD 312,000 approx). Still, most probably expected him to feature in the starting XI to begin with, especially with the Kings XI coach Virender Sehwag declaring ahead of the season that Gayle was “worth the money even if he won them two-three games”. But Kings XI didn’t find a place for Gayle in the side in their first two games. That changed on Sunday, a decision that earned the appreciation of the crowd at the IS Bindra Stadium when R Ashwin announced the teams at the toss. And it instantly paid off.
With Gayle’s struggles against offspin in the Powerplay well-documented – he goes at 6.5 against bowlers of this genre – MS Dhoni introduced Harbhajan Singh in the second over. Off his first ball for his new franchise, Gayle drove the offspinner languidly through the covers for four.
As is often the case when he plays one of his big innings, Gayle took time to get his eye in, moving to 6 off nine deliveries. He then slapped Harbhajan for a four and a six to begin the fourth over, and was relentless thereafter. CSK’s bowlers were erratic, and Gayle took full toll. With CSK’s bowlers offering him ample width, Gayle swung cleanly, effortlessly dispatching the ball. He hit a bulk of his runs straight down the ground; his preference for the region, and how CSK’s bowlers fed him balls to hit there, was best demonstrated by Deepak Chahar in the sixth over when the medium-pacer was tonked for two fours and as many sixes.
Complementing Gayle was KL Rahul, who was in savage hitting form himself; the duo razed 96 in eight overs. By the time the opening stand had been broken, Gayle had completed a 22-ball half-century. He would subsequently slow down, collecting 13 runs off 11 balls until his dismissal. But that couldn’t take away from a memorable debut performance for Kings XI.
The wow moment
Gayle’s first boundary of the night was rather atypical of him. Known for standing tall in the crease and using the strength in his arms to clear the field, this was pretty much the antithesis of the Gayle school of batting. With Harbhajan floating one up nicely outside his off stump, Gayle met the delivery with precise movement of the feet, and split the gap with laser-guided precision.
Gayle’s Man-of-the-Match award on Sunday was his 19th – the most in the league. Yusuf Pathan is second best, having claimed the award 16 times
Gayle finished with a Smart Strike Rate of 226.3 – that was comfortably better than his conventional strike rate of 190.90
Gayle was equally efficient against pace and spin, scoring 34 off 18 balls and 29 off 15 balls of each respectively
“It’s good to be back. I got a text this morning saying I would be playing. It makes me very happy that we won. That’s Chris Gayle for you – hitting just fours and sixes and not worrying about ones and twos.”
Chris Gayle has his say