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Focus on Maxwell & Gayle today

Calcutta: Before action began in IPL VII, it was the Royal Challengers Bangalore’s batting line-up which could have been reason for other teams’ envy. At the halfway stage, it’s the Kings XI Punjab batsmen who have stolen the thunder from Virat Kohli’s team.

Oppositions have been demolished with the might of a bulldozer as the Glenn Maxwells and David Millers have plundered runs almost at will. Except for one match, when the Mumbai Indians somehow managed to outplay them, Kings XI have returned winners every single time they have entered the arena so far, in this edition of the tournament.

The Royal Challengers, on the other hand, seem to have lost their way after showing early promise. They began well, but have been inconsistent after the first couple of matches. As a result they only have three victories from seven matches.

So on Friday, when the Kings XI cross swords with the Royal Challengers, at the Chinnaswamy, in Bangalore, it will be an encounter between stunning power which has surprised everybody and failed promise which has shocked many.

It’s needless to say that the spotlight will be on Maxwell and Chris Gayle. While Maxwell has been unstoppable, Gayle has hardly looked his self. If Maxwell has been the key behind Kings XI’s success, it’s a fact that the Royal Challengers have been hit hard by Gayle’s ordinary batting.

When the two teams had met at the Dubai International Stadium in the UAE leg of the tournament, the Kings XI bowlers had kept the Gayles quiet, allowing them to put up just 124 for eight in 20 overs. Though Maxwell didn’t fire in that match, Kings XI didn’t have any trouble in reaching home with five wickets to spare.

On Friday, however, it may be different. The Chinnaswamy wicket is friendlier to the batsmen and so fireworks may be expected.

It is important to note that while the Kings XI is coming off masterly display against the formidable Chennai Super Kings, the Royal Challengers were beaten by Mumbai Indians in their last match.

Kings XI rode a blistering 38-ball 90 from Maxwell to put up a humongous 231 for four in their 20 overs.

The Royal Challengers, on the other hand, couldn’t chase down a 188-run target against the Mumbai Indians. Gayle (38) and Parthiv Patel (26) had begun well with a 50-plus opening stand, but Kohli, De Villiers and Yuvraj Singh could build on the start.

Briefly, Gayle looked like he had got back his rhythm as he smashed three sixes in his short innings. But to be honest, he is still quite a distance away from Maxwell, who leads the IPL VII run-getters’ tally with 435 runs from seven matches.

True, Gayle hasn’t played as many matches after missing the first few games with an injury, but his aggregate of 85 from three games isn’t what is expected from him. Having said that, such is the Caribbean star’s talent and reputation, it wouldn’t at all be surprising if he delivers one of his signature knocks on Friday. Maxwell, and of course Kings XI, must watch out.