Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) have forever been the franchise which has had the X-factor to go the distance. They have always had the much-needed star power to lift the trophy. Yet, the title has eluded them for the past nine seasons.
When you discuss RCB, the Jamaican superstar- Chris Gayle becomes the instinctual focus. It all started in 2011, as Bangalore begun their season terribly having lost the first few matches they had played. And then an injury to their pacer Dirk Nannes necessitated a replacement. This paved in the entry of Christopher Henry Gayle to their ranks and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Caribbean has single-handedly changed the fortunes of the team over the last few years. The highest run-scorer in both 2011 and 2012 editions, the posters at the Chinnaswamy stadium have proudly flaunted “Ben-Gayle-luru” which clearly indicated of how much he had become an integral part of the team.
Come 2013, the Gayle-storm made everyone drop their jaws as he went on to play one of the innings of a lifetime clobbering the bowlers all over the park scoring a 30 ball century.
It eventually became the highest individual T20 score (175 not out) eclipsing the previous mark set by Brendon McCullum playing for the Kolkata Knight Riders.
It is therefore quite evident that Bangalore has been dependent heavily on the broad shoulders of the West-Indian to provide them with the much-needed momentum at the top of the order. His wicket puts pressure on the upcoming batsmen even though it follows the likes of Kohli and De Villiers. At times, his early fall has been an enervating setback for the team ending up in the form of an inadequate total on the board.
Going into the tenth edition of the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL) Gayle's form was always going to be the key to RCB’s hopes. Although it is early days in this campaign the Caribbean six-machine has managed to fetch only 38 runs from the two games he has played so far. To everyone's surprise, the team management of Bengaluru decided to keep the T20-King on the sidelines for the game against Kings XI Punjab on Monday night.
“Shane Watson has batted in the top order for all his career, so there was no question of changing his position. We had no option but to drop Chris Gayle to make way for AB in the top order. It was not a tactical strategy but simply we had no other choice. As soon as AB de Villiers is fit he walks into RCB’s playing XI,” Stuart Binny, said after the match.
However, it doesn't quite seem to be a plain and simple game of numbers specifically, fitting five overseas players among the four available slots. Apart from Watson and AB de Villiers, the team management went on with Tymal Mills and Billy Stanlake as the two other foreigners in the playing XI.
Considering the amount of impact Gayle has had on IPL over the years, his omission from the XI would have been inconceivable about four years ago. Albeit, a look at the statistics of his past six seasons in IPL might just about provide some explaining to his exclusion.
From 2011 to 2013, the Jamaican superstar played 43 matches in which he heaped together a whopping 2,049 runs at a staggering average of 62.09. This also included 4 tons and 14 half-centuries.
However, his form has slumped badly since 2014 as he has managed to collect only 946 runs in 34 games. This constituted just one century and four fifties as he averaged 29.56, which is pretty poor considering his standards. Altogether, it is clearly pointing towards a downfall in the big man's game as his performance has almost reduced to half of what it was three years before.
This now pops up quite an interesting thing to look after – whether the franchise who has not been able to post a total of 160 on board in last two games decides to reshuffle their combination and get back their T20 veteran or look to storm through without the famous Gayle-storm.
Altogether it is quite important for RCB to now come up with a team effort if they are to make a bigger impact in the tenth edition of the T20 extravaganza. They cannot piggy-back on the shoulders of one man for a long time.
Of course, this opens up the door and sets us up the stage for the youngsters to deliver the goods. As of now, the star-studded RCB lineup may have lost its sheen but it has to look beyond Gayle and rise to the occasion as a unit if they are to end the title-woes this time around.