Immediately after the Indian Premier League auctions, one had asked who among the cream of world cricket, brought for astronomical sums by franchise owners, would prove the most valuable in the season, quite a few names would have been put forward.
But Chris Gayle, who remained unsold
despite a base price of $400,000, would not have been among them.
However, as the league stage ended on Sunday, the Jamaican was the unanimous choice for the Most Valuable Player (MVP) tag so far in the tournament.
In just nine matches, Gayle has had unmatched impact, leading his side to eight victories and helping them script an amazing turnaround from bottom of the points table to the top.
After another unbeaten half-century against champions Chennai Super Kings on Sunday, Gayle also annexed the Orange Cap from Kings XI Punjab's Shaun Marsh.
He now has scored 511 runs in 9 matches at an astonishing average of 85.16, and a blistering strike rate of 187.17.
CSK coach Stephen Fleming saw his side make short work of RCB before Gayle arrived on the scene.
However, after his match-winning innings on Sunday, the former New Zealand captain had no doubt he has been the MVP.
"I haven't seen a player have that much impact in a season yet. He's been phenomenal. It's by luck that he was available to RCB through the injury to (Aussie paceman Dirk) Nannes. He's responded beautifully," said Fleming.
RCB skipper Daniel Vettori admitted he had never seen Gayle play with such focus.
"I have never seen him play this well. It's been amazing the way he's played since he turned up for us.
"It is not slogging but good cricket shots and using his strengths," said the Kiwi ace.
However, the over-dependence on Gayle can backfire if he has an off-day, as evidenced by the batting collapse triggered after his dismissal for duck against KXIP at Dharamsala - his only failure of the season so far.
Fleming said: "A lot of their wins feed off him. I guess the challenge now in the semifinals and the final, whoever plays them is - if you get Gayle out early and you've got a few runs on the board, you have a chance."
The teams who have the Orange Cap winner in their side have never finished as champions as Kings XI Punjab's Shaun Marsh (2008), Chennai Super Kings' Matthew Hayden (2009) and Mumbai Indians' Sachin Tendulkar (2010) all fell short of going the distance in the previous editions.
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