Delhi: Royal Challengers Bangalore registered a 11-run consolation victory over Delhi Daredevils in their last league game of the season at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in Delhi
His slump, then, is neither an aberration nor a revelation. The last couple of years had thrown up ample hints that he’s sliding down the slope. In the Pakistan Super League, shortly before the IPL, he managed only 160 runs in nine innings at a strike rate of 115.10. The corresponding numbers in IPL 10 were 200 in 9 at 122.69.
Dig deeper, you notice a perceptible plateauing -- the prosperity of 2015 was bookended by the droughts of 2016 and 2014. The digression was all too evident, in the numbers as well as the persona.
In his prime, even if his bat had failed, there was something compelling about him, a joie de vivre that seemed to suck out all the gripe of defeat festering in this dressing room. This season, though, he has resembled a lead guitarist strumming false notes, helplessly watching himself and his vaunted band make an utter mess of a concert.
What he still does is that he instills a morbid fear in bowlers. For most part of his innings on Sunday, Delhi’s bowlers, barring Zaheer Khan, gave him undue respect, as if they were bowling against a Gayle who has smashed a 100 off 30 balls the other day. He also stifles the skippers’ enterprise, manifested by conservative fields. But Gayle can’t sell his fear factor for too long.
There were also a few moments wherein the sheer brawn of his shoulders compensated for the diminished hand-eye coordination, like the swish-six off Mohammad Shami that surged into the stands from the bottom of the bat, or the brutal pull off Amit Mishra.
It might have afforded him just enough longevity in the league, but it can be fairly assumed that he won’t set the auction floor afire next year.
Is there a team in the league as prone to mindless implosions as the Delhi Daredevils? There sure will be a few contenders, like their Sunday opponents, Royal Challengers Bangalore. But while Bangalore have lost several matches they seemed like losing, Delhi has perfected the fine art of losing matches they had no business losing.
Like their most recent encounter. For how can a side, in perfect control of the match at one stage-87 for two in 11.3 overs, chasing 162--contrive to lose on a flat wicket in front of their home crowd? But it won’t be unfamiliar to the Delhi fans.
It’s symbolic of their season, which was a blend of thumping wins and inexplicable capitulations. For a team that thrashed Pune, who eventually emerged second, by 97 runs, a seventh-placed finish is ground of genuine consternation.
Royal Challengers Bangalore - 161 for 6 (Kohli 58, Gayle 48, Cummins 2-21)
Delhi Daredevils - 151 (Pant 45, Iyer 32, Negi 3-10, Patel 3-43)
Result - Royal Challengers Bangalore won by 10 runs