Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) opener KL Rahul has said Chris Gayle is hungrier than ever to score runs and the mood he is in this Indian Premier League (IPL) season is "trouble" for the rest in the eight-team tournament.
Gayle had gone unsold twice during January's auction before he was snapped up by KXIP at his base price of Rs 2 crore towards the end of the two-day process.
The West Indies big hitter's stocks fell after an ordinary season with the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in 2017 as he had managed just 200 runs at 22.22. Unsurprisingly, Gayle was benched by newly-appointed KXIP skipper Ravichandran Ashwin in their first two matches of the ongoing season.
However, the 38-year-old made his intentions clear in his very first outing for his new franchise Sunday, April 15, when he smashed a match-winning 33-ball 63 against Chennai Super Kings.
Enjoying each other's company: Rahul
Gayle has not looked back ever since, amassing 229 runs, including a century, in just three matches. The left-hander has forged a lethal partnership with Rahul as both the openers are among the top-five run-scorers this season.
Rahul and Gayle combined well once again Saturday, April 21, as they stitched a 116-run opening stand to help KXIP crush Kolkata Knight Riders by nine wickets in a rain-hit game.
"Last year, we played together [for RCB], but we didn't have many memorable partnerships. This year, Gayle has come into the IPL very hungry and wanting to perform," Rahul told Zinta during an on-field interview for IPL's official website.
"We all know when he [Gayle] is in that kind of mood, it's trouble for everybody else," he added.
"We have just been enjoying each other's company in the middle. We are having a laugh in the middle, we are not taking too much stress about situations. We just enjoy ourselves and that has worked well for us.
"We keep telling each other to hold our shape and not try to hit the ball too hard."
Gayle, Rahul vow to keep Orange Cap in KXIP
It's still early days in the 11th edition of IPL but the race for the Orange Cap (most-runs scored) has already heated up. RCB skipper Virat Kohli is on top of the list 231 runs at 57.75 from five matches.
Gayle is just two runs behind Kohli while Rahul trials his national team captain by just 18 runs. However, the Karnataka batsman has the best strike rate (183.62) among the top five.
Rahul is willing to let Gayle have the Orange Cap but not anyone else from other franchises. The 26-year-old added he is loving the opener's role at KXIP.
"We were just talking after the game. he said 'I deserve the orange cap'. I said 'it doesn't really matter until and unless it's between the both of us. Let's keep the orange cap in KXIP and not let it go to anybody else'," Rahul said.
KXIP, who are sitting pretty on the top of the points table with four wins from five matches, will take on strugglers Delhi Daredevils on the road Monday, April 23.