MOHALI: Kings XI Punjab opener Lokesh Rahul has shot a warning to rival teams in the Indian Premier League: beware of Chris Gayle as he is back to his brutal best.
Gayle, playing his first game of the season, smashed his second fastest IPL fifty, off 22 balls, to lay the foundation for KXIP's thrilling four-run win over Chennai Super Kings last night.
"It is amazing news for our team and bad news for the other teams that Chris Gayle is hitting the ball well. We all know he is a player who can win games single-handedly and demolish attacks on his day and that's what he did today. We want him and we expect him to continue this form forward," said Rahul, who himself has been in top form, at the post-match media interaction.
Not so long ago, Gayle went unsold in the auction twice before KXIP picked him up for a base price of Rs 2 crore, the same amount they paid for Yuvraj Singh.
KXIP play their next home game against Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Asked about the plans against Sunrisers, Rahul said, "every team in the IPL is good, we are going to stick to our plans, we will stick to our strengths, we will see where we can better Sunrisers Hyderabad.
"Our plans are going to be simple whichever team we face and we will go out there and play aggressive cricket."
About batting first and setting the target for the opposition, he said "If you are batting first as an opener you give yourselves a couple of overs see what's the wicket behaving and then try to assess what a good score on that wicket would be and then you plan accordingly."
"By the look of the wicket, I don't think anybody can tell the wicket is going to behave a certain way. Even though this is our home game, we are still getting to know what the wicket is like. Once we play a couple of overs then we decide what a good target on that wicket is," he said.
CSK skipper M S Dhoni almost got CSK over the line with a refreshing 79 off 44 balls.
Asked what the plan was to contain him, Rahul said "The plan was to bowl wide yorkers at him because he was struggling with his back. But, good back or bad back you pitch it in his arc and he is still going to hit it miles. It was good learning for our bowling attack, but still early stage in this IPL."
CSK head coach Stephen Fleming said Gayle played really well and that made a big difference.
Fleming, however, said CSK did "incredibly well" to restrict the score to somewhere under 200 because at one stage KXIP looked poise to reach 220 plus.
"So the character for the second half of that bowling innings was very good as we were able to get some wickets, create some pressure. So, I am really impressed and proud of the effort," said the New Zealander.
About advantage of chasing, Fleming said, "When you are chasing you get certainty in an uncertain game, so you can manage your risk as you saw MS managing his risk almost to perfection today. There were couple of good yorkers from Mohit Sharma (in the final over) that denied the win (to CSK)."
"So the way game is going, there is certainty around managing risk and the ability of players to hit and chase down 15, 16 and 18 runs an over," he said.
Asked if there are any areas which CSK is looking to improve in the upcoming games, Fleming said, "I'd love a game where we bowl a team out for 140 and chase it down. But the competition is very even. Wickets at the top are important, we have seen teams that take wickets at the top, so we are going to reassess that and make sure we've got the right combination," he added.