Chris Gayle went unsold in the first two rounds of the Indian Premier League Players’ Auction earlier this year. And after just two knocks in the 11th edition of the tournament, team owners and management staff would be wondering where they went wrong.

How could you not retain him? Fine, he is ageing. How can you let him go unsold? Because of inconsistency? And, you let him go the second time, too? Oh, come on, don’t you know he is the Universe Boss? The title might sound a little over the top when you consider his international record in Tests and 50 overs. But this is T20. This is IPL. Here, he is an outlier, a god.

He reminded the Chennai Super Kings of his T20 prowess by smashing his second fastest IPL 50 off just 22 balls to lay the foundation for KXIP’s thrilling four-run win on Sunday evening.

And Sunrisers Hyderabad would want to forget the 38-year-old’s Thursday evening assault on their bowlers during his unbeaten 104-run knock that handed Kane Williamson’s team their first loss in the tournament.

He paid dividends to Ashwin’s gamble

Ravichandran Ashwin is like that movie with too many twists. Some of them make sense. Some don’t. He has worn full sleeves to bowl. He has spoken about developing mystery deliveries. He has bowled googlies. He bowls leg-spin these days.

Predictability, he hates. Gimmicks, he loves.

But the decision to bat first at the Mohali wicket (no captain had chosen to bat first before this match) wasn’t entirely a gimmick. It was his trust in his top order to put a lot of runs on the board and his bowlers to restrict the opposition.

Ashwin’s a man of stats. He perhaps knew, hitherto, his team had been the best in Powerplays (batsmen had scored 11 runs an over, bowlers have given away 7.72 runs per over) and that he could build on that start to clinch the match.

But their bowlers can’t be counted upon always. Against Royal Challengers Bangalore, they failed to defend a target. They kept Chennai Super Kings just four runs away from a win after strangling them at the start. They aren’t Sunrisers Hyderabad bowlers. Sunrisers have Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rashid Khan, Chris Jordan, Shakib Al Hasan. Sunrisers hadn’t let a team score more than 150 this tournament. Sunrisers have the best bowling unit in the IPL.

For Kings XI Punjab to win this contest here, they had to accomplish a few firsts: a) First team to beat Sunrisers this season; b) First ever victory against them in Mohali; c) First team to win this season after electing to bat first.

And, Chris Gayle ensured Kings XI accomplished them with a first of his own: the first century of this season. He’s also became the first to get to 21 T20 centuries. He’s also the first to get to Nos 20, 19, 18, 17... Second to him on the highest T20 centuries list are Brendon McCullum, Luke Wright and Michael Klinger with seven.

He sledgehammered Rashid Khan

Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan is a prodigy who possesses the tricks to tie down the batting behemoths in this format. In T20s since 2017, he has 99 wickets from 69 matches. In 30 of those matches, he has taken more than two wickets in a match, with an economy rate of 5.60. A sub-six economy rate in T20s these days is like a one-rupee-coin telephone booth: you’d be surprised to know if they actually exist. Also, he’s the world’s No 1 bowler in T20s, and arguably, the world’s best, too.

And, then, there’s Gayle. You know his credentials.

So, the meeting of unstoppable force and the immovable object was heavily anticipated.

Fifth over, it happened. Kings XI were trudging along at 6.25 runs an over. The pressure was on Gayle and Rahul to score. And, Kane Williamson, sensing a wicket opportunity, brought on Rashid.

And, Rashid almost removed Gayle off his first ball. The ball – it kept low, evaded Gayle’s vicious cut, kissed the toe of his willow and proceeded behind the wickets. Wriddhiman Saha is usually brilliant behind the stumps but this was all too quick even for him, he couldn’t catch. He missed the chance. He gave Gayle a life. And, you aren’t supposed to do that if you want to win matches.

The next ball, a full toss, Gayle deposited over deep mid-wicket. The next ball, a googly, Gayle missed. Cat and mouse. Gayle and Rashid. Popcorn stuff.

But in the next ten balls, Gayle won the battle. Five of those, he blocked and pushed. The remaining were out of the park. Four of those big hits came in the 14th over, off consecutive deliveries.

Rashid had conceded four sixes in an over only once in T20s before this. But wasn’t that a glitch in the universe? For, Rashid’s a bowler, who’s seemingly incapable of having a bad day.

But these were his numbers against Gayle: 0,6,0,0,6,1,0,1,6,6,6,6,2,0,1,0.

He is the universe boss

Gayle said after the innings, “A lot of people thought I’m too old. After this innings, I have nothing to prove. Time waits for no one but I’m not here to prove anything to anyone. I just want to move on, enjoy my cricket.”

The numbers show that Gayle’s an outlier in T20s. The question was if he can do it for one more season. A 22-ball half-century in the first game, a century last night. Enough evidence?

It’s not that Chris Gayle will not fail in this IPL. But when he doesn’t, balls fly over the ropes, bowling figures look ugly, confidence lowers, hopes shatter, teams lose, and for not picking him, the owners of those teams would perhaps rue.