The decision by Kings XI Punjab to pick up Chris Gayle at the Indian Premier League 2018 auctions for his base price of Rs 2 crore has already paid rich dividends for the franchise, with the Windies opener having smashed 252 runs in four matches already, including a century and two half-centuries.
This is the first time Gayle is representing Punjab. He began his IPL career with Kolkata Knight Riders, but his association with Royal Challengers Bangalore was the one that established him as perhaps the best T20 batsman of all time. Gayle scored 3,163 runs for Bangalore from 2011 to 2017, at an average of 43.33 and a strike-rate of 152.7. Those numbers dwindled in 2017 though, with the average sinking to a more normal 22.22 and the strike-rate a rather pedestrian 122.69, which perhaps played a part in the franchise opting not to either retain him or buy him back in the auction.
Gayle though, said that officials from Bangalore had been in touch with him before the auctions and said they wanted him in the team, but he never heard back from anyone.
“It was disappointing from that end, because they had called me,” Gayle told Times of India. “They wanted me in the team and I was told that I will be retained. But they never called back after that. So that gave me the impression that they didn’t want me and it’s fine. As I said, I can’t fight with anyone. I think I had a wonderful CPL and BPL – where I scored two centuries for my side Rangpur Riders. The stats don’t lie: 21 centuries, most number of sixes. If that doesn’t put a stamp on brand Chris Gayle, I don’t know what will.”
Gayle also said that in his time with Bangalore, he was their “biggest draw”, and admitted that he did find it surprising that he was picked up as late as he was in the 2018 auctions, going to Punjab at his base price at the end of the process after being unsold.
“I’ll be honest in admitting that it was very surprising for me to not get picked by any team. I don’t know what went behind closed doors but I also understand that these things happen,” said Gayle. “It’s just the way it is. But it’s fine. I’ve moved on from it. Like I said, it’s a great opportunity to be playing for King XI Punjab and so far I’ve had a great time. Perhaps it was supposed to happen, you know. King Gayle; destined to be playing for Kings XI Punjab.”
The Jamaican though, said that it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if he had ended up going unsold in the auction either, and he would have taken it in his stride. “Even though I was selected in the very last round of the auction, I wasn’t really worried about it,” he maintained. “Even if it was the end of it, there is a life beyond cricket, beyond the IPL. At some stage, you are going to walk away from the IPL and other forms of cricket… This is how I’ve always been, living in the present. But given the sense that I was picked up and playing for a new franchise, it was very pleasing.”
Gayle said that his two major goals now were to win IPL 2018 for Punjab, and then win the 2019 World Cup for Windies. “Just two things: winning the IPL this year and the World Cup for West Indies next year,” he offered. “I believe West Indies have a big chance of winning the World Cup in 2019. I know we struggled in the qualifiers but now that we’ve made it, our next aim is to win it. But right now it’s definitely the IPL. KXIP have never won it. Our owner Preity Zinta is so fantastic, so enthusiastic. The way she roots for her players is just amazing and I think she needs to lift the IPL trophy this year.”