Usually among the first names in the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) team sheet, Chris Gayle has been dropped from the playing eleven on multiple occasions in the ongoing edition of Indian Premier League (IPL). While he did become the first batsman to reach the 10,000-run mark in T20s during the course of the competition, the left-hander has not managed to light up the tournament, unlike the past editions.
From six matches, the Caribbean star has scored 152 runs at an average of 25.33 and strike rate of 124.59. Apart from the 38-ball 77 against Gujarat Lions at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium, he has been completely out of sorts in the other games.
Here are five reasons which could explain Gayle’s torrid time in the 2017 IPL season thus far.
#5 Of advancing age and waning reflexes
From the moment he strode into the international arena, it became apparent that Gayle’s game was built around remarkable hand-eye coordination. Such a facet of batting has to come from within and usually cannot be built through training.
A vast majority of batsmen who can take the attack to the opposition bowlers rely on their ability to pick up length quicker than others before playing through the line.
The reflexes that had served the Jamaican so well during his heydeys appear to be slowly withering away due to advancing age. At 37, he is not getting any younger and the once famous hand-eye coordination seems to be waning.
#4 Poor form exacerbating his woes
Before donning the RCB colours in the IPL, Gayle had turned out for Karachi Kings in the second edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL).
On those sluggish and tricky surfaces in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the southpaw played 9 matches and could only manage 160 runs at a miserable average of 17.77 and below par strike rate of 115.10 without crossing the half-century mark even once.
Even though pitches in India seen during the IPL are considerably better for run-making, the impact of poor form can never be discounted. Without getting a meaningful amount of runs under his belt, he has looked short of confidence.
#3 Opening partners are also struggling for impact
A notoriously slow starter, he often relies on his batting partner to keep the scoreboard ticking during the early part of the innings. Even though the left-hander can more than make amends once he gets set, the innings may meander when he is dismissed early.
The general strategy adopted by most teams has been in tightening the noose around RCB’s top-order by building sequences of dot balls.
With Virat Kohli unavailable for the first few matches of the season due to a shoulder injury, Gayle opened with Mandeep Singh in the first game and Shane Watson in the next one. When RCB’s skipper returned to action, he had his third opening partner in as many games.
Since none of them are operating at their best, they have been unable to allow Gayle to get himself in by providing the early impetus. As a result, the veteran has found the going tough right from the onset.
#2 Humongous expectations adding to the pressure
Following a rather lacklustre stint with the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Gayle began to turn heads for RCB in the 2011 IPL edition after emerging as a replacement for Dirk Nannes. Since then, he has never looked back.
With an imposing presence at the crease as well as his blistering stroke-play, he became a fan-favourite and found an aura being built around him.
Perhaps, the weight of expectations has caused a significant downturn in his fortunes this time around. As the pressure continues to mount every time he walks into the middle, the experienced campaigner is not able to rise to the occasion.
#1 The end is nigh?
As is the norm, every sportsman’s career has a certain shelf-life. It’s not just age that begins to show symptoms of the looming end. Weary body language or disillusioned mindset can also go a long way in providing a set of indicators.
In his six appearances in this edition, Gayle has only looked like a shadow of himself. With RCB also enduring a troubled season, the damp mood in the camp has not helped matters at all.
Having played for a whopping number of franchises encompassing every nook and corner of the cricket world, his recently plummeting stocks have raised a sense of uncertainty surrounding his future. In this regard, the pertinent question needs to be evoked. Is the writing on the wall for him? Only, time will tell.