The Universe Boss has made a comeback to the IPL.
His comeback was in his signature style.
A veteran of 103 tests, 301 One Day Internationals, and many more T20s, Gayle has indeed added spice to the Kings XI Punjab lineup.
His entry seems to have a notable effect on Rahul, in particular, who has started to play quicker.
In the first seven games of the season, Rahul looked to play through and was content with batting at a strike rate in the 120s.
While his approach to play through the innings was reasonable, the execution was off as is often dismissed before accelerating, or he accelerates too late and wastes his resources.
Considering the middle-order is out of form, Rahul takes it upon himself to see the Kings XI through challenging stages and does well to get his side close to the win.
His untimed dismissals, however, tend to put more pressure on the batsmen as Rahul takes up many deliveries to get himself in and leaves before speeding up.
In the two games Gayle has played, there has been a notable change in Rahul’s approach.
While Mayank Agarwal usually plays the aggressor’s role upfront, Rahul has also taken the initiative to search for boundaries and has also been successful in doing so.
With Chris Gayle coming into the side, the batting order looks deeper. As Agarwal and Rahul’s opening pair has been successful, the side did not change it and sent Gayle in at number three.
Sending Gayle at number three not only allows Punjab to play the same openers as it also enables Pooran to bat in the middle order where he is more successful and can attack from the word go.
It allows the likes of Pooran and Maxwell to play their natural games in the middle and end of the innings.
The captain has played with strike rates of 124 and 150 in both games and started faster.
A reason behind the aggressive approach could be the lack of running between the wickets and Gayle’s slow starts.
Chris Gayle generally likes to take his time to assess the pitch and bowlers before bossing the game.
He is also not the fastest between wickets, which deprives Rahul of quick runs.
Considering these factors, Rahul may be influenced to speed up, so the side doesn’t lose momentum after the powerplay.
The pressure is also lifted off Gayle, who can take his time to get set before attacking.
Another factor for the skippers changed approach could be the situation
With Chris Gayle in the lineup and Maxwell and Pooran batting deeper in the lineup, Rahul feels that he has the cushion to play his shots and doesn’t need to stay through the innings.
He seems to enjoy his partnerships with Gayle, particularly.
With the option of running between the wickets taken away from Rahul, he is forced to go for bigger shots and has been successful.
Being a talented batsman, the skipper doesn’t have any issues finding the boundary but has been off with his execution and approach until now.
With Chris Gayle in the side, it looks like Rahul has finally got the freedom to open up and enjoy the innings better.
His performance against Mumbai was certainly worth noting. Chasing 177, Agarwal fell in the early stages of the innings while Rahul was going very well. He took Trent Boult apart and was in control against most bowlers.
He shared a partnership with Chris Gayle in which the captain was the aggressor, and he looked set to finish the game on his own had it not been for a fabulous yorker by Bumrah.
Nevertheless, it looks like Rahul is finally opening up after the entry of the Universe Boss.