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By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Chris Gayle is T20 cricket’s most dangerous batsman. In two previous editions of the Indian Premier League (IPL), he has almost single-handedly rallied the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) with his mind-boggling exploits. Which begs the question: Are Bangalore heavily dependent on the big-hitting West Indian?
During the two previous IPL seasons, Gayle has had to shoulder immense pressure with the other batsmen in the RCB side failing to maintain consistency. In the IPL 2012, he finished with 733 runs; the second highest run-scorer for Bangalore was Virat Kohli with 364 — which is less than half of what the West Indian amassed. During the IPL 2011, Gayle scored 608 runs and Kohli the next best with 557 runs. In fact, none of the other RCB batsmen managed to score more than 350 runs in the tournament.
However, in the initial stages of the ongoing IPL 2013, Bangalore’s batsmen have shown that there is more to their batting than Gayle with AB de Villiers raising his hands with Kohli. Even when Gayle fails there is enough firepower to make up for it and post a challenging score. That Kohli has surpassed Gayle in the run-charts and is the current holder of the Orange Cap bears testimony to the young India’s good form of form.
Kohli has played with his typical swagger. His innings against the Sunrisers Hyderabad (at Bangalore) was truly special as he looked in complete control of the game. Bangalore had lost Gayle early during the run-chase, but Kohli took charge and saw RCB through, clearing the ropes with ease a few times.
Kohli has absorbed the pressure exceptionally well. In previous editions, there were obvious nerves whenever Bangalore lost Gayle cheaply. This season, Kohli has anchored the innings and hasn’t let the pressure get to him, which is evident in his positive body language. Even as he goes about his recovery job, he eyes the boundaries to keep the scoreboard ticking.
The Bangalore middle-order is held together by the playmaker — de Villiers. The South African has this knack of changing the game with electrifying displays that can stun the best in business. Who can forget his assault on Dale Steyn during the IPL 2012! He fearlessly took on the world’s best paceman and treated him with utter contempt. That same approach was seen during his innings against the Chennai Super Kings (CSK). He was moving about the crease, getting down on one knee and playing across the line to disturb the bowlers’ rhythm.
One can say with conviction that de Villiers is the complete modern batsman. How many batsmen can claim to dominate in all the three formats? In Test cricket, he is a vital cog in the South African middle-order and contributes with tremendous consistency. An average over 50 reflects his value to a South African team that is the undisputed No 1. He averages over 50 in One-Day Internationals (ODIs) as well. In T20, he unleashes an array of innovative strokes that leaves the world watching in awe.
Needless to say, de Villiers would be an automatic choice in an eleven for any format. Bangalore are lucky to have him.
Through all that it is imperative that Bangalore’s youngsters contribute. They have handed out opportunities to Karun Nair and Lokesh Rahul this season. Mayank Agarwal is another promising player who has the ability to play the big shots. It is bizarre that Saurabh Tiwary hasn’t found a spot in the eleven. He is a destructive player and needs to be backed to come good. Then there is an Arun Karthik, the wicket-keeper batsman, who shot to fame by hitting a six off the last ball to win a game for Bangalore at the Champions League T20 (CLT20), 2011.
However, Gayle’s effect transcends the mere parameter of runs scored. Whenever he performs, the opposition is demoralised into submission and they have little or no chance of coming back. That is what separates him from the rest and he is the greatest batsman in T20 cricket’s short history. Bangalore’s batsman may perform well, but Gayle’s impact is unique and they would hope he fires consistently. Given his ability and the promise in the Bangalore batting, they have the potential to be unstoppable this season.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/nishad_44
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