Dubai: Much of the attention will focus on the return of ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle as the Kings XI Punjab seek to turn around their form as they head for a clash against an upbeat Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League (IPL) in Sharjah on Thursday.
Gayle has not yet featured as the Kings XI Punjab rest uneasily at the bottom of the eight-team standings with just two points from seven games at the start of the return fixtures.
Gayle could have featured in the KXIP’s set-up a match earlier but was out of action after being hospitalised for a stomach bug last week. Now back on his feet, the 41-year-old promised fans that he couldn’t be kept out for too long as his team languish at the bottom of table.
“To all the fans out there, the Universe Boss is back. The wait is over, unless something gymnastically wrong happens. I know you’ve all been waiting for a long time for the Universe Boss. There are seven games to go and we are at the bottom of the table, and the only way we can go is up,” Gayle predicted on his social media platform after a practice session on Tuesday.
“We wanna do it and we all know it is still possible to do it. We have the self-belief,” said the Jamaican who holds the record for the most sixes (326) in the IPL.
Led from the front by KL Rahul – the bearer of the Orange Cap with 387 runs and opening partner Mayank Agarwal in second place with 337 runs - and coached by Anil Kumble, KXIP have struggled to iron out the minor creases within the side.
The Royal Challengers Bangalore, on the other hand, have hit the consistency trail early while winning five of their seven matches so far. Their last win – also at the Sharjah Stadium – was an 82-run demolition of Kolkata Knight Riders on Monday.
While AB de Villiers was at a level of his own with a blistering 73 not out from 33 deliveries, much of the support came first from Aaron Finch (47) and then skipper Virat Kohli (33 not out) as RCB reached 194 for two in their allotted overs. The RCB spinner – Washington Sundar and Yuzvendra Chahal have complemented the pacers Isuru Udana and Navdeep Saini in ensuring they are at the top half of the standings.
Growing in confidence with each fixture, RCB have been further strengthened with the return of Chris Morris from injury. With Aaron Finch back among the runs against KKR, RCB’s top-four of Devdutt Padikkal, Finch, Kohli and de Villiers can quite a handful for a team that is yet to hit their stride.
Catch the match
Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Kings XI Punjab
Venue: Sharjah Cricket Stadium
Start: 6 pm
Live telecast on Bein Sports