During the first strategic timeout of Royal Challengers Bangalore's innings in their Indian Premier League match against Rajasthan Royals on Saturday, the Indian broadcaster showed highlights of Chris Gayle's magnificent and record-breaking 175 not out from the previous season. The irony would certainly not have been lost on RCB and its followers, with their score reading 28 for six at the stage.
Bangalore went on to be dismissed for a humiliating 70 runs—the third-lowest total ever in the IPL and lowest by RCB—by a bowling attack that lacked the luxury of any big names.
RCB, on the other hand, had two of the most explosive batsmen in the world—Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers—and the most expensive player in the tournament—Yuvraj Singh ($2.3 million)—at their disposal. More cruel irony.
That RCB have missed the injured Gayle's presence at the top of the order is quite obvious. It is, of course, another thing altogether that one person should not be making as much of a difference to a team's fortunes. One could, of course, argue that this game could be a one-off blip for RCB and that they have looked quite comfortable in their earlier wins, while their only other loss in the tournament, against Kolkata Knight Riders, was by the narrowest of margins.
However, that doesn't take away from the fact that RCB are missing the starts that used to be provided by Gayle and Tillakaratne Dilshan in past seasons. The team's think-tank has tried out three batsmen so far at the top of the order. Nic Maddinson (16 runs in two games) was replaced by Yogesh Takawale (40 runs in two games) for their last two matches, with Parthiv Patel (116 runs in four games) remaining the only constant.
Gayle and Patel could go on to form an envious pair, but until the big Jamaican returns to fitness, RCB should perhaps consider sending a more experienced batsman to open the innings.
The name of AB de Villiers seems the most suitable out of the lot. The South African surely doesn't lag behind Gayle much on the explosiveness quotient and can be banked to provide a flying start to the innings. Considering Kohli is a tested performer at one-down, it makes sense to try pushing de Villiers up the order. He has scored 2,346 runs as an opener for South Africa across all three formats, including four centuries, so it would not be anything alien to him.
Gayle's comeback doesn't seem too far away, but RCB would want to avoid slip-ups like the one on Saturday if they hold hopes of lifting their maiden IPL trophy this season. If de Villiers succeeds at the top of the order, it would give the team a lot of confidence considering they have an able back-up for Gayle. Giving de Villiers, the top-ranked batsman in the world, more deliveries to face might also just be the ingredient that stands between RCB and total dominance in the tournament.