Kolkata: There could be some speculation about the way Chris Gayle, the ‘Universe Boss’ walked out of the IPL bio-bubble on Thursday night - but the Caribbean’s decision to recharge his batteries before the T20 World Cup needs to be respected.
The Jamaican, who turned 42 soon after the UAE leg of the IPL got underway, had always been his own man - so much so that it makes one ponder how had he been coping with the stiffling nature of bio-bubble over the last one and-a-half years.
Here’s Gayle in his own words: “Over the last few months, I have been a part of the CWI (Cricket West Indies) bubble, CPL (Caribbean Premier League) bubble followed by the IPL bubble, and I wish to mentally recharge and refresh myself. I want to refocus on helping the West Indies in the T20 World Cup and would like to take a break in Dubai. My thanks to the Punjab Kings for giving me the time off. My wishes and hopes are with the squad always. All the very best for the games coming up.”
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Interestingly, Gayle - whom the Punjab Kings team management had been using in an unaccustomed No.3 position since last year, has had a very subdued season so far with only 193 runs from 10 innings with 46 as his highest score. However, with Punjab still in with an outside chance of making the cut as the fourth team and three crunch matches coming up for them (with one against Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday), his experience and ability to change the complexion of a match could have come in handy anytime.
The brittle middle order of Punjab had been the main reason for the team blowing hot and cold this season as no other overseas batsman, barring South Africa’s Aiden Markram to a degree, has been able to anchor the innings. There will, hence, be questions asked if the fiercely proud West Indian had any other factors weighing in behind his decision.
Anil Kumble, Head Coach and Director of Cricket Operations, Punjab Kings, said in a press release late on Thursday: “I’ve played against Chris and have coached him at Punjab Kings and all through the years I’ve known him he has always been an absolute professional and we as a team respect his decision and desire to prepare himself for the T20 World Cup.”
Satish Menon, CEO, of the team endorsed Gayle’s decision in the following words: “Chris is a legend who has changed the game of T20 cricket, and we stand by his decision. He is a part of the Punjab Kings family and his presence will be missed. We extend all support to him and wish him success.”
Gayle, who is known for his liking to spend a downtime in Dubai, has moved out of the bubble before joining up with his West Indies teammates for the T20 World Cup - all of whom are in the UAE with various franchises in the IPL. Despite being the natural performer that Gayle is, it’s not possible to play competitive cricket non-stop at the highest level at 40-plus and it remains to be seen if the break could be a case of Punjab’s loss, West Indies’ gain.
He had been a part of the West Indies team on two occasions that they won the World T20 - first in Colombo in 2012 and then again in Kolkata in 2016. The famous ‘Gangnam style’ jig that he broke into after they defeated hosts Sri Lanka in the 2012 final on a balmy evening still stays etched in my memory.
Can he help the West Indies to a third crown after the break? We will know soon.