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All eyes will be on Gayle

Don't be surprised if there are chants of “Gayle, Gayle” at the Wankhede Stadium when Royal Challengers Bangalore take on Mumbai Indians in their Pepsi Indian Premier League fixture today.


RCB’s Chris Gayle during a practice session at Wankhede Stadium yesterday. Pic/Atul Kamble.

Though Mumbaikars will back their home team, they will be hoping to see Chris Gayle on fire. Today’s clash has generated unprecedented interest in the city, thanks to the big-hitting West Indian’s record-breaking, unbeaten 175 against Pune Warriors in their last match.

All eyes were on the former West Indies captain when he came out to practise yesterday. He batted for nearly 30 minutes in the nets whacking almost every ball over the fence. He was particularly harsh on the spinners, except the legendary Muttiah Muralitharan, who was successful in containing him on a few occasions.

So, will Mumbaikars witness another Gayle storm today? Looking at his current form and record against Mumbai Indians, one cannot rule that out. Gayle has three 80-plus scores against MI in the cash-rich league with the last one — 92 not out in their encounter on April 4 this season at Bangalore.

Hit against Mumbai

He struck a magnificent 75 against Mumbai when he was with the Kolkata Knight Riders in the 2010 edition. In his last match at the Wankhede in 2012, Gayle smashed an unbeaten 82 off 59 balls to take the match away from Mumbai Indians as RCB won by nine wickets.

MI would certainly be banking on the expertise of Anil Kumble, who was till last season working in tandem with Gayle at RCB, and the two West Indian recruits Dwayne Smith and Kieron Pollard, who have shared the dressing room with Gayle on a number of occasions.

Smith not afraid of Gayle

Gayle, the highest scorer in the tournament so far with 432 runs in eight matches, has had such an impact that bowlers are scared to bowl to him. However, Gayle’s compatriot Smith isn’t afraid of bowling to him. “It’s cricket and I am not afraid of him (Gayle). It just takes one ball to get a batsman out. He has to back himself to get a hundred. It is just the case of getting the ball in the right areas,” Smith said on the eve of the match.

So, what are the plans to stop Gayle? “You have to be in the Mumbai Indians team to know about that. I can’t disclose it,” he said.

With Gayle in the opposition, it is difficult to assume what is a safe total. Even Gayle’s teammate medium-pacer Rudra Pratap Singh looked clueless when asked how he would have bowled to Gayle. “He (Gayle) is very difficult to stop. Once he gets set, the bowlers will have a tough task in stopping him. The kind of power he has is amazing,” he said.

Ponting’s wishlist
. He rediscovers his form
. Sachin Tendulkar anchors the innings
. Middle order continues to fire
. Lasith Malinga removes Chris Gayle early
. Virat Kohli is dismissed cheaply

Kohli’s wishlist
. He keeps on playing the way he is
. Gayle storm hits Wankhede
. Kieron Pollard goes early
. Batters handle Malinga with ease
. Jaydev Unadkat makes early inroads

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