Ajit Agarkar has raised question marks over Chris Gayle's place in the Punjab Kings' playing XI. PBKS succumbed to their third consecutive defeat in IPL 2021 following their nine-wicket loss against the Sunrisers Hyderabad on Wednesday.
Chris Gayle started his IPL 2021 campaign on a good note, scoring a quickfire 40 off 28 balls against the Rajasthan Royals. But since then, the southpaw has only amassed 36 runs in three games.
Former India pacer Ajit Agarkar acknowledged that dropping Gayle from PBKS' playing XI would be a tough decision, given the 41-year-old's impressive performance with the bat last season.
"He got 40 in the first game. The challenge with Chris Gayle is that he did not play the first few games last season and then came back and he was as good as ever. So I can understand it is a difficult decision to sit him out. If he is it and when he has done well, you always want to accommodate him. How long can you go on if he is not firing, especially at this stage of his career?” a bemused Agarkar said on ESPNCricinfo.
Last season, Punjab Kings (then Kings XI Punjab) got off to a horrendous start, winning just one of their first seven games. However, they managed to turn things around and win their next five matches on the bounce. Punjab's change in fortune coincided with the inclusion of Chris Gayle, who scored 288 runs in seven games at an average of 41.14.
Andy Flower talks about Chris Gayle's inability to take quick ones and twos
Punjab Kings' assistant coach Andy Flower acknowledged Chris Gayle's inability to run quick singles and twos acts as a handicap for PBKS in Chennai. Playing aggressive strokes has been tough on the MA Chidambaram pitch, with the ball holding and turning on the track.
In such conditions, picking gaps and rotating the strike often becomes necessary, with Flower insisting that ideally, teams would want quick runners in the middle.
"Ideally, Yes (Whether Chris Gayle's inability to run hard acts as a hindrance), i think on a pitch like this, the boundaries are hard to come by, so hitting the ball in the gap, playing with the spin as often as possible and running hard... It was the sort of template that David Warner and Jonny Bairstow really used well (against PBKS)," Andy Flower said.
With a talented batsman like Dawid Malan waiting in the wings, it remains to be seen how long the Punjab Kings will persist with Chris Gayle in their playing XI.