IPL 2018: Is Chris Gayle really worth 2 crores?
The beginning of a new IPL season dawns on the horizon and the future is certainly bright for the Kings XI Punjab. They have not had the best the record in the tournament's history, having never won the coveted trophy and only reaching the final on one occasion. However, after a complete squad makeover, KXIP have a strong platform from where they can challenge for their title.
They secured several big names in the IPL Auction, notably openers Lokesh Rahul and Aaron Finch, as well as purchasing the in-form Mayank Agarwal. As the auction drew to the close, Punjab placed a bid for West Indian legend Chris Gayle, who went unsold in two previous rounds of bidding. They paid ₹2 crore for the opener, which was his base price.
Gayle has always been an IPL fan-favourite, with his eccentric character and immense power combining to produce a very attractive player. Yet, was he really worth the ₹2 crore₹ ₹KXIP paid for him?
Recent poor form
There is no doubt that Chris Gayle is a phenomenal T20 batsman. He has scored over 700 runs in an IPL season twice, in 2012 and 2013, and has averaged over forty in four separate seasons. However, if you look at his performances in the past two years, it is clear that he has not quite managed to reach the same heights as he previously used to.
He hit 200 runs in 9 matches last year and 227 in 10 the year before that. This was at averages of 22.22 and 22.70. His career IPL average is an impressive 41.20, but his recent performances are found wanting. Indeed, Gayle usually thrives in belting opposition bowling attacks, but his strike rate last year was just 122.69, substantially lower than his IPL career strike rate of over 150.
Has he lost the ability to be a consistent match winner?
Also, his recent form in the fifty over World Cup qualifiers has been average at best. Admittedly, Gayle did hit a century against the U.A.E, but against the stronger sides of Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Ireland he has struggled.
His recent scores read 17, 1, 46, 14 which are not what you would expect from the 'universe boss'. It is clear, therefore, that Gayle has started losing his limited overs mojo.
KXIP batting depth
Another reason why Gayle's contract was surprising was the immense batting depth the new KXIP squad has. Gayle could potentially be a third-choice opener, behind Indian Lokesh Rahul and Aussie Aaron Finch.
Also, with their middle order boasting Yuvraj Singh, David Miller, Karun Nair, and Manoj Tiwary, it is clear that KXIP have immense firepower. And so, their decision to sign Gayle in the dying seconds of the auction seems rather peculiar.
Instead of buying Gayle, Punjab would have been much better off investing in another homegrown fast bowler. They only have Barinder Sran and Akshdeep Nath as Indian seamers, with Nath being more of a part-timer these days. This may not be enough to support them through a long campaign.
Their signing just seems like a last minute panic buy and rather unnecessary in the grand scheme of their IPL campaign.
Chris Gayle's recent form does not suggest that he ought to have been bought for the expensive amount of ₹2 crore. His contract seems even more profligate given Punjab's dominant batting unit and in the context of KXIP, he certainly is not worth the money they paid for him.
However, he will provide a wealth of experience and lot of the younger players in the squad will greatly benefit having him around. Coach Virender Sehwag recently said that his signing was worth it if he wins one match for Punjab.