Veteran batsman Chris Gayle on Monday backed KL Rahul to follow in India captain Virat Kohli’s footsteps, advising his Kings XI Punjab teammate to “stay in the zone”.

Rahul, following his dismal run during the Australia tour, was suspended for a short while for making sexist comments on a TV show alongside India teammate Hardik Pandya. Having put that phase behind, Rahul let his bat do the talking in the ongoing IPL. Rahul, along with Gayle, have been impressive at the top of the order.

“KL is definitely one of the players that comes to my mind [among the current crop of India players], I hope he produces the goods like Virat [Kohli]. After Virat, it should be him,” Gayle was quoted as saying by PTI.

However, Gayle’s advise for Rahul would be not put himself under pressure. “But it is not necessary for him to put himself under that kind of pressure, he needs to be himself, stay in his zone and try not to compete with anyone.

“You have a lot of talent [in India], I could go on and on and most of them don’t even get the opportunity [to play for the national team],” said the 39-year-old West Indian, who will play his fifth World Cup next month.

Both Rahul and Gayle have been the leading-run getters for Kings XI Punjab this season, having scored close to 450 runs in 11 games.

The Jamaican, who is into his second season with the franchise, has proved his detractors wrong once again. Ahead of the 2019 IPL, he was in devastating touch in the One-day International series at home against England, smashing two hundreds and as many half centuries in the five-match series.

“I have been here for two years [with KXIP] and it has been phenomenal,” he said.

“I love the Punjab style. I am getting to work with a great bunch of people and hopefully we can do something special for the franchise. The aim is get to the playoffs and take it from there.”

Gayle said he is also highly impressed with captain Ravichandran Ashwin, who has not played limited overs cricket for India in the past two years with wrist-spinners taking centrestage.

“I don’t know what happened there [When asked why Ashwin is not in India’s limited-overs setup],” he said.

“He has been a phenomenal bowler for India. He is a very passionate bowler, equally passionate as captain and someone who strongly believes in his ability as well his team’s. It is very good to see that in a captain,” Gayle added.