KL Rahul, on the back of his side’s drubbing at the hands of RR, heaped praise on Chris Gayle and claimed that the ‘Universe Boss’ has been hitting the ball as sweetly as his prime RCB days. Rahul also applauded Gayle’s dressing room presence and hoped for one more big knock from the southpaw.
Jofra Archer vs Chris Gayle was singled out as the biggest matchup of the night heading into the Kings XI Punjab vs Rajasthan Royals clash on Friday and while, like many had predicted, the towering quick did get the better of the veteran, it wasn’t until after 99 runs came out of the bat of the southpaw that he would do so. Walking in at 1/1, Gayle turned back the clock in what was a ‘vintage Gayle knock’ to absolutely maraud the Rajasthan bowlers. In his 63-ball stay at the middle, the 41-year-old struck six fours and eight huge sixes and flexed his muscles to tonk RR bowlers all over the longest ground in IPL 2020, Abu Dhabi.
Gayle’s efforts, unfortunately, went in vain, as Rajasthan dusted off the target in under 18 overs, but that did not stop KXIP skipper KL Rahul from applauding the veteran. Describing that Gayle was batting as good as his RCB days, Rahul heaped praise on the veteran and his dressing room presence and hoped for one more Gaylestorm to take Punjab through to the playoffs.
“To see him batting the way he is batting, no one will say he is 41. He still looks like when he first burst onto the IPL with RCB. He still looks as fresh as that and he is still hitting the ball as sweetly as he was. So that’s a great sign for us,” Rahul told reporters in the post match press conference.
“He’s a huge part of our dressing room. Not only because of the runs he puts up on the board or consistent performances he puts year after year - to have somebody like Chris Gayle is very, very inspiring. He is somebody who everybody loves in the dressing room, he keeps the dressing room very, very positive. Hopefully one more good innings from Chris (Gayle) will help us sneak in.”
Gayle’s 99 took Punjab to a competitive total of 185, but that proved to be insufficient as dew setting in later on meant that the chase was a stroll in the park for the Royals, whose charge was led by Ben Stokes. Contrary to popular belief, though, Rahul claimed that Punjab were in fact 10-15 ahead of par and stated that he cannot fathom any bar Gayle scoring big in the conditions that were presented to Punjab in the first innings.
“We were 10-15 runs ahead of par. We’ve seen the scores here before and 160-170 was what we decided before the inning as a winning total. After losing Mandeep early and after playing out the initial couple of overs, me and Chris felt that the wicket wasn’t easy to bat on. A lot of credit goes to Chris and the way he batted. I don’t think anybody apart from Chris would have gotten 99 runs on a sticky wicket. Those were very, very valuable. It did give us the best chance to win the game.”
A win on Friday would have taken Punjab to 14 points and ensured they kept their fate in their own hands, but the loss means that they now have to rely on other results to make it to the final four. Kings XI Punjab will take on Chennai Super Kings in a day game in Abu Dhabi on Sunday in their final encounter and Rahul insisted that it would be important to adapt early to conditions. The 28-year-old also claimed that the side will have to go out and enjoy themselves and remember the hard work they’d put in, in the second half of the season, to even find themselves still within touching distance of making it to the final four.
“It’s very clear for us that we need to win that game, so we need to focus on what our strengths are and what our positives are and take the learnings from the game that we played today. The next game we’re gonna play is gonna be completely different, because we’re gonna play a day game, so it’s important that we assess the conditions really quickly and not forget how hard we’ve had to even give ourselves a chance to get into the Top four.
“There’s a lot to be proud of, for us, as a team. It is important for us to go out there, enjoy ourselves and enjoy our cricket and try and put up the best performance we can and try and do the best with executing our skills. If we do that, we will come out with two points.”