By Tridib Baparnash
New Delhi: Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) have reached the summit clash of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on three occasions and ended on the losing side each time, but self-proclaimed “Universe Boss” Chris Gayle is now pinning his hopes on England speedster Tymal Mills to end the title hoodoo for the side in the 10th edition beginning on April 5. Gayle feels the inclusion of Mills, who was bought for a whopping Rs 12 crore in the February auctions, will add teeth to the RCB pace battery in the absence of Australia’s Mitchell Starc. Besides Mills, the Daniel Vettori-coached RCB can boast of a pace attack which includes Australian Billy Stanlake, New Zealand’s Adam Mine and India’s Sreenath Aravind, along with the all-round duo of Shane Watson (Australia) and Stuart Binny (India). IPL 2017: Watson hints at opening for RCB during Kohli, Rahul’s absence
Satisfied at the composition of the squad, the 37-year-old Jamaican said his side will look to achieve small targets as they progress in the tournament. “Yes it is a good mixture and a great balance in the team as well. It will bring some more fire in the bowling attack. Mills has been very good all around the world since he started playing international cricket. Hopefully, he will lead from the front and fit in nicely. There are quite a few young guys who’ve been in the team as well and I’m sure they will fit in well,” Gayle told IANS in an email interview from Bengaluru.
“We have a great captain [in Virat Kohli] and a lot of senior guys to actually gel with the youngsters and hopefully we’ll get a good start in the tournament and take it from there,” added Gayle, who was in the Karnataka capital, the RCB home base, to promote responsible drinking through the DRINKiQ initiative. The West Indian power hitter has almost all the records in T20 — most centuries (18) half-centuries (60), sixes (732) and fours (759), from 286 matches — and is just 63 runs shy of becoming the first batsman to reach the 10,000-run milestone in Twenty20 cricket. He also revealed the team’s strategy to clinch the 2017 IPL crown. IPL 2017: Don’t want to have too many expectations during RCB trial, says N Jagadeesan
“We will go all the way, that is the objective. We are going to break it into small targets as we go on. We would love to get our hands on the trophy,” he said. With Kohli still a doubtful starter for the opening few matches, due to an injured right shoulder, Gayle said RCB can only wait for the 28-year-old return to the playing XI. “Yes that’s disappointing and sad as no player wants to miss out on a match because of an injury but it’s unfortunate. I don’t know where he stands now at this point in time, we’ll just have to wait and see and take it from there,” he said.
Kohli picked up the injury on March 16 while diving near the boundary rope to stop a boundary on the opening day of the third Test against Australia in Ranchi. The Board of Control for Cricket in India’s medical team said on Friday the right-hander will undergo rehabilitation and his recovery will be assessed in the second week of April to determine his exact return to play in the IPL. IPL 2017: Tymal Mills not putting pressure of price tag on himself
Asked about the impact of Kohli’s absence on the side, especially when the RCB open their campaign against defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad, Gayle said: “Who said he will be absent? He will be there.” Ahead of the IPL, the RCB were also dealt another blow when India opener Lokesh Rahul was ruled out of the tournament with an injured left shoulder, contracted during the February 23-27 opening Test against Australia in Pune. He, however, played with pain in the remaining three matches of the rubber against the Kangaroos. The 24-year-old is likely to undergo surgery.
But Gayle was all praise for the Karnataka right-hander, who scored five consecutive half centuries in the Test series. Terming him as a “huge asset” for Indian cricket, the Caribbean southpaw said: “Lokesh is a special player and his future is looking bright. He’s the only person who can stop himself.” “It goes to show he’s very dominant in all forms of the game. He’s just got to keep doing it, pressing on the bowling attack and stamping his authority and make sure he gets the big runs whenever he gets a chance and never take anything for granted. He will be a huge asset for Indian cricket,” he added.
Lending his support to the DRINKiQ initiative, Gayle said: “It is very important to create awareness about drinking responsibly, especially among the youth. They are the flag-bearers of creating a better society and promoting road safety in India. Through the Diageo-United Spirits DRINKiQ initiative, I want to encourage people to celebrate responsibly wherever they are, and to Never Drink and Drive.”
(Tridib Baparnash can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)