Bangalore, July 20: The next Indian Premier League (IPL) season may be almost a year away, but the Royal Challengers Bangalore franchise is already looking at retaining explosive opening batsman Chris Gayle. The problem is that Gayle's one-year term with the team as an injury-replacement player has expired.
"There are ways to keep Chris [Gayle]. We are obviously working on it and looking at every possible opportunity," said franchise director Siddhartha Mallya to a leading cricket website.
Gayle swung RCB's fortunes in IPL4 by stemming a 4-match losing streak and masterminding a 7-match victory run that took Bangalore into the final of the tournament. He had replaced injured Aussie seamer Dirk Nannes.
According to present IPL rules, contracts for replacement players only stand for a year on the basis of the provision that 5the injured player will return in the following season. New replacement players without three-year contracts, like Gayle are to re-enter the auction pool. The fact that Gayle was the leading run scorer at a strike rate of over 183 in the last edition is likely to stir up a storm when then bidding begins.
Mallya, however, said the Bangalore franchise have touched base with the IPL management about the possibility of keeping Gayle, but would only know for certain after the Champions League Twenty20 in September whether they can hold on to him. Mallya howver, said that the IPL governing council won't release the guidelines until the Champions League is up.
Gayle's entrance helped to placate the Bangalore fans who were appalled at the departures of Rahul Dravid and Ross Taylor from the team. "There was a lot of backlash but there was [also] a lot of backlash when Shah Rukh Khan didn't keep Sourav Ganguly," Mallya said."
Television ratings for the last IPL season may have fallen considerably, but Mallya is unperturbed by the trend. He pointed t the fact that there was bound to be something of a lag after India's prosperous World Cup campaign. He also said that the reshuffling of players in most of the teams augured well for the game. "Then it doesn't become like an English Premier League where only one or two teams will keep winning. It makes it (the IPL) even and it makes it open."
Bangalore were one of the first franchises to pursue social networking, reaching out to aficionados through contests and and now have more than 100,000 followers on their website and over 12,000 followers on Twitter.