Although Kings XI Punjab lost a couple of these encounters early indications were that they would be a big threat in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020. But then it went horribly wrong. The skipper, KL Rahul continued to score big but could not convert that into wins for his franchise. KXIP lost 5 matches in a row – from their respective match 3 to match 7. This meant that they had lost 6 of their first 7 matches in the tournament.
What was common in these defeats was the absence of one of the greatest T20 batsmen in the format’s history. Yes, the 41-year old Christopher Henry Gayle could not find a place in the KXIP XI for the first half of the tournament – he did not fit in the combination of the four overseas players chosen by the think-tank and was also hospitalised due to a stomach infection which forced him to sit out for a few matches.
KXIP were down and out. They needed some magic and inspiration. They needed their T20 talisman back.
Match Number 8 for KXIP: Chris Gayle was a part of the XI for the first time in IPL 2020 to face RCB in Sharjah. And the Universe Boss made an immediate impact! Set 172 for win, he was involved in a match-winning 93-run stand with KL Rahul and scored a responsible 53 off 45 deliveries to guide KXIP to a thrilling last-ball win. The inclusion of Gayle had a positive effect on the entire unit. Something changed in the KXIP dressing room and there was a new found energy and zest to win. It also sent a signal to the other opposition teams. KXIP were in for a fight. They went on to register a record 5-match winning streak and Gayle had played a significant or supporting part in each of these victories.
He lived up to his reputation and billing. Even when not scoring big, he came up with his cameos which played a supporting but significant role in KXIP’s victories. 24 off 21 balls when Rahul was going great runs at the other end against MI, a momentum-changing 29 off just 13 deliveries after losing Rahul early setting up the chase for KXIP against the Capitals, a Player of the Match performance – 51 off 29 deliveries, chasing 150 against KKR and his best of the lot, 99 off just 63 deliveries against the Royals, albeit in a losing cause in Abu Dhabi.
Gayle has been KXIP’s most impactful batsman, even ahead of KL Rahul, since his inclusion in the playing XI. He has aggregated more than his skipper (in these 6 matches) and scored his runs at a much higher rate, making him doubly dangerous. Gayle has been KXIP’s highest scorer since their transformation against RCB in Sharjah. He has scored 276 runs in 6 matches (including 3 fifties) at a strike rate of 144.5. He has been very consistent and has not failed even once in these 6 innings.
Gayle is the greatest T20 batsman ever and has a stupendous record in the IPL as well. Overall, he has scored 4760 runs in 130 innings at a strike rate of 150.63 in the tournament. His average of 41.39 is the fourth-highest (min. 20 innings) in the IPL’s history after Rahul, Warner and Jonny Bairstow. No one has recorded as many hundreds as Gayle’s 6 in the history of the coveted league. He was the highest run-getter for two consecutive seasons in 2011 and 2012.
KXIP has a match to play against CSK. Depending on the result and the outcome of some other matches, they may or may not qualify for the playoffs. But to be in this position even with a chance, currently at number 4 on the points table, looked a distant dream half-way into the tournament.
Chris Gayle has been the pivot around KXIP’s remarkable transformation.