Sharjah, Oct 16 (IANS) When ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle scored 53 off 45 balls for Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) on Thursday, it was the third successive year that he had smashed a half-century in his first of an IPL edition. And, overall, it was seventh 50-plus score — including a century — that he had smashed in his first match of a particular edition of the tournament.
After being benched for the first few matches, the KXIP, languishing at the bottom of the eight-team points table, finally brought the hard-hitting left-handed batsman and he smashed the Bangalore bowlers smithereens at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
The years in which Gayle scored a half-century in his first match of an IPL season were 2010, when he smashed 75 off 60 balls for Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) against Mumbai Indians; 2011, when he hammered 102 not out off 55 balls for RCB against his former team, KKR; 2013, when he made 92 not out off 58 for RCB against Mumbai Indians; and, 2015, when the opener scored 96 off 56 for RCB against KKR.
The West Indian joined KXIP 2018, and smashed 63 off 33 balls against Chennai Super Kings in Mohali in the first very first match, and the next year he scored a brisk 79 off 43 against Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur.
Gayle, 41, missed the inaugural IPL edition in 2008.
On Thursday night, the West Indian returned to KXIP’s playing XI and smashed five sixes in a half-century to help his team beat RCB and register their second win of the season.
Gayle, who moved to KXIP from RCB in 2018 after a seven-year stay at the Bangalore franchise, was playing his first game this season after missing the seven previous games. He also suffered from a stomach bug in the interim.
The win gave KXIP a lifeline and his former teammate Yuzvendra Chahal couldn’t keep the Jamaican out his reach, tweeting a picture of himself hugging Gayle with a caption, ‘Timon & pumbaa reunites #hakunamatata’. Timon and Pumbaa are cartoon characters from animation movie, Lion King. Timon is a meerkat (African mongoose) while Pumbaa is a warthog (a wild pig found in Africa). Chahal apparently calls himself Timon and refers to Gayle as Pumbaa.
Asked if he was nervous, Gayle said: “Not really. Come on man, it is the ‘Universe Boss’ batting, how can I be nervous? Might give you a heart attack, I thought I had it in the bag but stranger things have happened in cricket. It was a good innings, first in IPL and now I can make myself available for 2021. I can get out of the bubble now and go.”
Gayle said that KXIP were lucky to bat in second innings, when the pitch was playing better.
“I thought it was important to keep fit, I don’t like being on the bench but I was enjoying it and apart from the sickness I have been getting fitter,” Gayle said of his fitness.
KXIP skipper KL Rahul said it is important to keep Gayle hungry.
“He’s (Gayle) not been feeling well in the last couple of weeks. But, he is hungry even at 41. He always wanted to play from the first day. He was training hard, he wanted be out on the park. It was a tough call to make and not make him play. It’s important to keep the lion hungry. Wherever he bats, he’s dangerous. He’s taken it up as a challenge as well. He’ll still be intimidating,” said Rahul.