Kings XI Punjab have turned around their season and moved into the Indian Premier League top four, with one obvious common denominator; Chris Gayle.
The self-described ‘Universe Boss’ was crucial again, blasting 51 from 29 balls, as Kings XI Punjab chased down Kolkata Knight Riders’ score of 9-149 with seven balls to spare in Sharjah on Monday night.
The result improved Kings XI’s record to 6-6 and saw them move ahead of KKR into fourth spot on the standings, with only a few rounds to play before the play-offs.
Gayle came into the Kings XI side for their eight-wicket win over Royal Challengers Bangalore on October 15 when he scored a half-century.
Kings XI, who were bottom at the time, have since won five in a row to remarkably move into the play-offs spots with 41-year-old Gayle playing a leading role with 177 runs at an average of 35.4 and strike rate of more than 135.
“I’ve been training off the field when not playing, doing my runs, gym, feeling good,” Gayle said.
“I have a good feeling about myself and the team. I’m just capitalising on it, but there’s still a long way to go.
“We had two very good spinners, we had to make a quick adjustment. Quickly assess what they were doing and once you get going, you ease the pressure off Mandeep as well.”
While Gayle was named Player of the Match, opener Mandeep Singh played a critical role with 66no from 56 balls. Mandeep’s father passed away on Saturday, making his performance all the more outstanding.
“Mandeep is going through a lot,” Gayle said. “Last game we said we want to win it for him. It’s so beautiful to watch him in the middle pointing out to his father watching from above.
“Today the coach asked the senior players, we need to step up in crucial games, I am glad we were able to put my hand up.
“The youngsters in the team are telling me, ‘Don’t retire.’”
The result puts Kolkata in a precarious position with two games to play ahead of the play-offs; against Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, who are both outside the top four.
KKR captain Eoin Morgan said: “Going into the last two, our fate is in our hands. If we win those two, we should be in a reasonably good position.”