Gayle sends out early warning
He is pretty hard to stop when he is hitting like that, says Ponting
The critics call it over-reliance on one batsman while the Royal Challengers Bangalore term it a strategy. Whichever way you look at it, there is little doubt that the Bangalore-based outfit looks only half-baked without the gladiatorial presence of Chris Gayle.
Thursday’s match here was just one instance of the southpaw’s influence on Royal Challengers whose 60 per cent of the total runs (92 n.o out of 156/5) against the Mumbai Indians flowed from his broad willow.
Since his induction into the side mid-way through their 2011 campaign when they made the finals of the Indian Premier League for the second time, the West Indian has been their batting mainstay. After RCB engineered a coup of sorts to get him on board, Gayle hammered 608 runs at an average of just under 68 while his strike-rate hovered around 184. In the next edition, the big Jamaican gathered 733 runs at just over 61 and a strike-rate of around 161.
The significant drop in the strike rate — that’s only relative though — is a direct result of his changed approach due to the team’s needs. A combination of shaky middle-order and the think-tank’s plan to have him most of the strike, has forced the opener to play the percentage game. Where he used to smack the ball out of the park right from the word go, he now bides his time. Like a hungry tiger waiting for the right moment to ambush its prey, Gayle waits for the right kind of bowlers to take them to the cleaners.
“I think that’s the way Chris plays anyway (on hitting out in the final ten overs),” pointed out Mumbai Indians’ skipper Ricky Ponting. “He gets himself set, and probably gets himself through the bowlers who he thinks have a chance of getting him out, and then targets the other guys. I think he did that pretty well today. You’ve got to congratulate him on the way he played. He won the game for them.
“He’s pretty hard to stop when he’s hitting them like that. All our bowlers tried to bowl in different areas. We tried to bowl at his toes, tried to bowl wide outside off-stump.... And being as big and as strong as he is, he’s only got to get half a bat on it, and it goes for six. He was the difference in the game, no doubt about it,” he reasoned.
RCB captain Virat Kohli, though, felt it was too early in the tournament to say that his team is heaviliy dependent on Gayle. “Chris has always been a consistent performer for us, and we sort of have that batting plan that we go with -- that he plays as many balls as he can because he can accelerate at any point of time. The guys with him look to build partnerships with him. That’s been our strength. I mean people can call us over-reliant on Chris and all that stuff but we don’t really worry about that. We have a certain gameplan which has been working for us and any sort of tags being given, we really don’t think about that. Obviously Chris has been magnificent for us. He once again proved why he’s the best T20 player in the world, and he can adapt to any situation. It’s not about just hard hitting, he thinks about his game as well which he showed today,” he offered.
There was a certain injury scare to Gayle who had a bit of a twist in his left leg when he collided with Harbhajan Singh. But there seems to be no respite for the bowlers as Kohli declared all was well with the batsman.