GOA: In 2011, Chris Gayle, having spent three seasons with Kolkata Knight Riders, surprisingly enough, had remained unsold during IPL players’ auction. He had written off the IPL that year and was getting ready to resume international duty for West Indies, who were scheduled to take on Pakistan. But then, three months later out of the blue, Gayle received a call from Royal Challengers Bangalore, who had named him a replacement for Dirk Nannes because the left-armer was ruled out of the remainder of the season due to a side strain. The rest as they say is history. Not only did Gayle end up becoming RCB’s most impact player with 3163 runs across seven seasons, but his stint also played a crucial role in making RCB a favourite among crowd.
Fast forward to 2018 and a similar situation unfolded. Having endured a mediocre 2017 season with RCB (200 runs in nine matches), no franchise put its money on Gayle, before Kings XI Punjab – who had already formed the core of the team – with two crore remaining in their purse, ensured that Gayle had a team to represent in IPL 2018. And the result: 4 matches, 252 runs, strike rate of over 151 and an unbeaten century. “Gaylestorm” is indeed alive and kicking.
It required Gayle just three innings to once again become IPL’s hottest property. The big-hitting Jamaican sat down for an exclusive chat with TOI Sports, and spoke on a range of topics, including the IPL, his fitness, whether he was surprised to see no franchise backing him, his experience being part of the Kings XI Punjab dressing room and more.
Four innings in this edition of the IPL and three of them have resulted in a fifty or a hundred. Is it safe to say that Chris Gayle has proved his detractors wrong?
I don’t know if I’ve actually proved them wrong. There are always going to be doubters but at the same time I didn’t have anything to prove. My records speak for themselves. Even though I was selected in the very last round of the auction, I wasn’t really worried about it. Even if it was the end of it , there is life… a life beyond cricket, beyond the IPL. At some stage, you are going to walk away from the IPL and other forms of cricket. So I was never too intrigued. 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. And the way I have played in the first three games, I think it has been fantastic. I’m very happy with where I’m at.
Chris Gayle became the first centurion of the IPL 2018, when his unbeaten 104 took the game away from Sunrisers Hyderabad
Everyone was surprised at your exclusion at the auction in a way hinting that the franchises were not really banking on you. Can that be considered a factor behind your current scores?
Not in particular but 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. 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.
Your last season with RCB went south. But with 485 runs in the BPL and 376 in the CPL, were you surprised when RCB did not show interest in retaining you? After all, you were one of their biggest draws…
Not “one of”. I was their biggest draw. It was disappointing from that end, because they had called me. 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.
You have reinvented yourself time and again. How have you been able to boss this art?
Because I’m the Universe Boss (laughs). But on a serious note, the first time I understood the need of it was when I injured my back in 2015 and underwent surgery. It’s the old rule of the game you know, with serious injuries, your approach changes. I’ve dealt with injuries before as well but none was as tricky as my back. It required a lot of monitoring and that is when I thought I can’t be going in with the same approach everytime. So I began biding more time at the crease. I am using my experience a lot more now.
Gayle scored over 3000 runs for RCB but it required one bad season for his seven-year association with the franchise to come to an end
Lately, your approach to batting has been slightly different. Earlier, you used to see off a few deliveries but this year you’ve gone after the attack pretty early. What has been the reason behind that?
That just differs from opposition to opposition. Any team I play and once I’m at the crease, they’ve all got to worry. Sometimes I give myself a chance early on and bat as deep as possible; let the other batsmen play around me. So while all the focus is on me, the other batsmen can get their eyes in and go about their game accordingly. On other occasions, when I feel like it’s my day, I try to put the bowling team under pressure by attacking early. So like I said, it is all about having a different strategy for different opponents.
At 38, what are the challenges you face to keep yourself fit?
Just keep your body in shape as much as possible, just doing the usual drills as much as possible. I know that I am no spring chicken but at the same time, I don’t really need any intense training session or anything of that sort. I’m naturally fit and I think my body is in great shape for a 38-year-old (laughs). So as long as I can combine this body with my experience, I’m good to go.You have owned almost every T20 record that there is. What lies next for Chris GayleJust two things: winning the IPL this year and the World Cup for West Indies next year. 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.Your West Indies teammate Dwayne Bravo has acted in a Tamil thriller movie. When can we see you appear on the big screen? Has Preity mentioned anything yet?
Is it your fondness towards the game of poker that you have such a brilliant poker face when you’re at the crease?
You can say that. I am very deceptive, on and off the field. You can never know what’s coming next. I like to bluff a lot too. It’s good to get a break sometimes. The IPL is quite hectic. There is plenty of travel and the routine gets quite intense. We had a five day break so thought I’d use this time to relax a little.