Hello Chris Gayle! Good to have you back

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Hello Chris Gayle! Good to have you back

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Babasish Nanda

04/06/2017

After a disappointing PSL as Chris Gayle returned to his T20 home and opened the batting for a depleted RCB in the inaugural match of the 10th edition of IPL against Sunrisers Hyderabad, he showed signs of the entertainer that he is. And it's certainly only a matter of time before he finds himself.

“Though your feet may take you far from me, I knowwherever is your heart I call home ”

Home. The place you know. The place you belong to. The place that is truly yours. For Christopher Henry Gayle, the home will always be Kingston, Jamaica. In this age of franchise T20 leagues, Gayle is a nomad who wanders from one team to the other. But if ever there is a place Gayle can call his T20 home, it's India. Bangalore, the city he plays for, is obsessed with him. Obsession it is. If you’re in Bangalore right now and you take an auto rickshaw, start a conversation about the IPL, and the first name you hear is not Kohli or Dhoni but it is “Gayle”.  The big man had ensured that Bangalore fell in love with him over the two seasons of 2011 and 2012.

In 2013 on a hot day at the Chinnaswamy, Gayle murdered the Pune Warriors as he smashed 17 sixes in a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of power hitting en route to an unbeaten 66-ball 175. This was the innings that made the whole of India fall for him. Those one and a half hours made him the "World Boss".  

Fast forward to the present day

It has been 15 innings since Chris Gayle made a T20 half-century. Way back in August 2016 Gayle scored a 54 in the CPL and that is his only 50+ score in 25 innings. Before coming into this tournament, Gayle had a torrid time in the Pakistan Super League - in 9 matches, he scratched his way to a paltry 160 at an average of just 17.

 © BCCI

Gayle has been quiet. Against the obvious trick of off-spin, Gayle seems to have lost his mojo. This is the IPL though. He is back playing for a city that claims authority over him. This is known territory. In front of a jam-packed crowd in Hyderabad, Gayle started the way he usually does; dropping his arms picking up singles. After batting for 5 balls, Gayle went on the back foot and helped a delivery towards fine-leg for his first boundary. But it was Ashish Nehra’s final ball in the same over that marked something substantial. To a length delivery just outside the off stump, Chris Gayle extended his arms and tonked it high into the night sky.

A couple of balls later, Bhuvneshwar Kumar pitched it up and the giant got stuck into that, as well. He smoked it over the long on fence for his second six.  If the first six wasn’t an indicator, this one definitely was a sign that Gayle was in the zone. The third and final maximum of his innings was the ball before he got out. Deepak Hooda offered a full toss, and Gayle took only a couple of paces to hit it cleanly over long off.  The honeymoon came to an end as Hooda tossed one up again, Gayle mistimed the lofted shot and David Warner at long off took it with all the certainty in the world. Gayle lost the battle against the off-spin, again. Dismissed for 32 off 21 balls. But, as it turned out he became the top scorer in the innings as well.

For RCB, it is imperative that Gayle bats well. For Gayle, well, he has a legend to live up to. But the fact that he is home will provide him with some breathing space. As the tournament moves on and he makes trips to the different venues in India, he will again be greeted with the same obsession. Sometimes when you’re not at your best, the feeling of being wanted can do wonders. And rest assured the whole world wants Gayle to fire, let alone the whole of India!

His 32 last night wasn’t enough to beat the defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad, but it must have boosted his morale. And that might just be the difference. Teams are tremendous in their pre-match preparations these days. So, off-spin will be more likely the ploy that will be used against him, and scoring runs isn’t going to be easy. But with whatever little he showcased on the opening night, one thing is for sure. Gayle is happy to be home.

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