Kohli wins, Gayle wanes
Self-styled "Universe Boss" Chris Gayle is having to confront his waning powers after a collapse in form, watching from the bench as Virat Kohli takes on his mantle as cricket's superstar batsman.
Since bludgeoning a 48-ball century in the West Indies' opening match of the World Twenty20 in March, Gayle has failed to get into double figures in one of his worst runs of form in a glittering career.
Although the West Indies won the tournament, Gayle's contribution after his early fireworks against England was negligible and he has also been in uncharacteristically meek form in the Indian Premier League.
After scores of one, nought and seven, Kohli axed Gayle from the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) team at the weekend in favour of Australian rookie Travis Head and again omitted him for Monday's match against Kings XI Punjab.
While he was recalled to open the batting against the Mumbai Indians on Wednesday, he was soon back on the bench after scoring only five before being caught by Rohit Sharma off Tim Southee's bowling.
"The thing is that in this game it is not reputation but your current form that matters," Indian sports journalist V Krishnaswamy told AFP.
RCB skipper Kohli did not spare Gayle's blushes when he spoke of the decision to drop him, denying he was rested after recently becoming a father but instead backing the 22-year-old Head to bring "more solidity".
Such an assessment would have stung a player who has never been coy about his own ability and calls himself the "Universe Boss" on his Twitter account where he posts pictures and videos of his high jinks with Kohli, including their dance routines and appearances at fan fests.
Since the IPL began in 2008, Gayle has been the tournament's top overseas star, thrilling fans with performances such as his unbeaten 175 against the Pune Warriors in 2013 which remains the highest score in T20 cricket.
'Young man's game'
But Krishnaswamy said that the 36-year-old was showing signs of his age.
"In this format you've got to be on your toes. It is a young man's game. Also whether you are a senior or not, you are only as good as your last performance.
"Sure he is a match-winner on his day but unfortunately there haven't been any Chris Gayle days of late."
Gayle's decline in this year's IPL mirrors his poor run in the most recent Big Bash League in Australia where he passed 50 only once and was widely slated for sexist behaviour after flirting with a female interviewer on live television.
But while Gayle's fortunes have waned, those of his Bangalore skipper Kohli have been waxing dramatically.
He has already scored 568 runs in this year's IPL, including two centuries, putting him well on course to beat Gayle's record of 733 for the tournament with a possible seven games still to play.
Lacking the natural six-hitting ability of Gayle, Kohli has sometimes struggled to translate his form in Test cricket into the shortest format.
But the 27-year-old eclipsed all his rivals in the recent World T20 in India where he was named player of the tournament.
Former India opener Chetan Chauhan said that Kohli was now showing an ability to convert good starts into match-winning scores in the manner that India greats Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar used to dominate matches.
"At the moment he is just playing brilliantly," Chauhan told AFP.
"The one charge against him was that he lacked consistency, but in the last six or eight months he has shown that he has got over that and is consistently getting runs."