NEW DELHI: On Thursday night at Mohali’s PCA Stadium, the leading run-scorer in Twenty20 cricket lit up the IPL with the first century of season 11 – and it was an innings that rolled back the years. Chris Gayle, at the age of 38, slammed an unbeaten 104 off 63 deliveries to set up Kings XI Punjab’s third win of the season, and later when accepting the Man-of-the-Match award, thanked his new franchise’s director of cricket operations Virender Sehwag for “saving the IPL”.
For the uninitiated, Gayle had been released by Royal Challengers Bangalore – who with 3420 runs from 91 matches stands at second in their all-time table – before January’s IPL player auction, and on day one of the auction had gone unsold. On the second day, KXIP made a bid for him and got the record-setting Jamaican for his base price of Rs 2 crore. He did not play KXIP’s first two matches of IPL 11, but when he got a chance in the third one he made an immediate mark with 63 off 33 balls.
Now, following Thursday’s rollicking century – his 21st in T20 cricket – Gayle has ensured that, fitness permitting, he will play all of KXIP’s remaining matches.
And he gave credit, in his inimitable laid-back style, to a fellow maverick batsman who like Gayle revolutionised cricket. “I think Virender Sehwag saved the IPL by picking me (in the January auctions),” said Gayle with a big smile. Everyone says I have a lot to prove. I am just here to put some respect on my name.”
Not long afterwards, Sehwag tweeted the same, to which Gayle responded with ‘Yes!”
While Gayle was disappointing in the last IPL season, with just one half-century in nine innings for RCB, he enjoyed success in other leagues in 2017. He hit a record 18 sixes during his unbeaten 146 for Rangpur Riders – against an attack featuring Sunil Narine, Shakib Al Hasan and Shahid Afridi – in the Bangladesh Premier League final and scored 485 runs in the tournament, at a strike-rate of 176.36. Prior to that, he collected 376 runs in the Caribbean Premier League, hitting four fifties in 11 innings.
With two eye-popping innings in a row for KXIP, Gayle has reminded his critics that he still has plenty of gas in the tank.