Gayle lethal in new avatar too

Gayle lethal in new avatar too

The big Jamaican has mixed patience with aggression to lead RCBs revival

Which one of Chris Gayle’s avatars would opponents think is more dangerous? The total annihilator that he was last year or the calculated decimator, a role that he is increasingly assuming this season?

It’s a bit like asking to choose between an acute sinus attack and a bad migraine, but the Royal Challengers Bangalore have little to complain about so long as Gayle continues to be a major headache for rival bowlers.

Perched just one spot above the bottom-placed Deccan Chargers following three successive defeats, Challengers have brought their campaign back on track with two consecutive wins, and a certain Gayle has had a big part to play in their mini-revival. Much as the Bangalore franchise may deny their over-reliance on the big Caribbean, the latest being Andrew McDonald, some plain numbers suggest otherwise.

Not surprisingly, Gayle has been the highest run-getter for the Challengers (246 from five matches at an average of just under 50) but his new-found approach, where he has both anchored innings and provided momentum at the right moment, has come as a double whammy for rival teams. The tactic not only minimises the risk factor but his imposing presence at the crease keeps the opposition under pressure all the time. 

The minimal effort with which he has been able to shift gears in the two previous games against Pune Warriors and Kings XI Punjab has been refreshing and has showed in ample measure that there’s more to Gayle’s batting than just whacking the ball out of sight. Given Challengers’ brittle middle-order batting, it’s a move fraught with no inconsiderable danger for they might be left with too much to do if Gayle falls at the wrong time. But the former West Indian skipper, still looking gingerly following a groin strain that has been obvious while running between the wickets, has backed himself to do the job and successfully so far. Gayle’s caution-first method stems not only from the fact that some of Challengers’ main batsmen have looked out of sorts but also from the confidence in his ability to pull off the near impossible.

A 56-ball 87 on Friday night against Kings XI was by no means a watchful innings. But where Gayle brought those runs with a flurry of sixes and fours and, perhaps, even oblivious to the situation, the southpaw has mixed periods of rare patience with customary aggression to great effect in IPL V.

In the previous encounter against Warriors in Bangalore, the Jamaican struck an equally belligerent knock (81 off 48) but for most of part of his innings, he was going at almost run a ball (41 off 36 after 12 overs) before changing the course of the innings with five sixes in a single over bowled by leg-spinner Rahul Sharma. AB de Villiers’ role in Challengers pulling off two back-to-back wins has been no less crucial. The South African’s outrageous reverse sweeps and scoops behind the wickets have been a revelation, but Gayle continues to be the game-changer.

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