In Twenty20, a lot depends on impact players, those who shoulder the pressure, be it getting the side off to a flyer or helping recover after early setbacks. The Indian Premier League has also given rise to a handful of players whose personalities even overshadow their teams.
Chris Gayle has been the prime candidate in this aspect. The Jamaican sought out the IPL while he was out of the West Indies squad due to a row but has since turned his career around thanks to his devastating knocks for Royal Challengers Bangalore. While the team has risen and fallen with Gayle, he has established himself as one of the most watched and admired players in the league.
Kevin Pietersen, who also finds himself in the same situation Gayle after England sacked him, can also turn the game on its head. But this edition neither the Delhi Daredevils skipper nor the RCB enforcer have been able to make a mark, due to injury and rustiness.
For all to see
The Jamaican dynamite not firing is showing in RCB’s results. He missed most of the matches in the UAE but is showing signs of finding his groove with the tournament approaching the business end.
But Bangalore are fourth in the points table and will have to hold on to that spot if they are to enter the playoffs. But three other teams are breathing down their neck. RCB will know where Gayle is in terms of his form when they face Mumbai Indians on Tuesday.
Mumbai Indians coach John Wright acknowledged Gayle’s threat. “Like other teams, we spend a lot of time looking at the various statistics and where he plays his shots. It’s about the accuracy of the analysis and it’s executing, like field placements and where you bowl. There are certain traits with players,” said Wright. Mumbai will need to dismiss Gayle early if they are to gain an upper hand but they will be mindful of the fact that he did get a start in the previous match against Hyderabad Sunrisers.
Over the last few seasons, Bangalore’s performance has been synonymous with that of Gayle. He was vital in leading them to their lone final appearance in 2011, the year when he scored 608 runs at a strike rate of 183.13. The next year, Gayle clinched the orange cap by a distance, scoring 733 runs at a strike rate of 160.74. Last year, the heroics continued and it included a record-breaking 175 no (off 66 balls) against the now defunct Pune Warriors.
Gayle’s consistency comes with his evolved approach. He no longer attacks from the first ball but settles down first before unleashing his array of strokes. MI will hope Gayle delays his ‘comeback’ at least by a game.