Indian Premier League 2016

Why Gayle was dropped for Head

South Australian selected instead of Windies star as Bangalore shake up their side

Martin Smith

08 May 2016, 12:37 PM

Kohli ton, Watson fireworks secure win for RCB

Travis Head's standing as an international quality player continues to rise with the young Australian selected ahead of West Indian superstar Chris Gayle in the Indian Premier League on Saturday night.

The Royal Challengers Bangalore opted for Head instead of Gayle in their thrilling seven-wicket win over the Rising Pune Supergiants, a victory set up by an unbeaten century from captain Virat Kohli.

Report & Highlights: Kohli the match-winner again

Head had a limited impact on the match, coming to the crease at No.5 and scoring six not out from nine balls as he and Kohli secured the victory with three balls to spare.

It was only Head's second appearance this season having impressed with a quickfire 37 during a six-wicket loss to Mumbai last month.

WATCH: Head shines but Mumbai prove too good

The RCB have assembled a squad that is the envy of most in the cricket world, with Kohli joined by Gayle, South African superstar AB de Villiers and Australian allrounder Shane Watson in a powerful top order.

But with no more than four overseas players allowed in the side at any one time, the RCB are still searching for the perfect balance between destructive top order players and polished middle order finishers.

It was for this reason that Gayle was dropped for Saturday night's match, with Kohli opening instead with Indian wicketkeeper-batsman KL Rahul, with De Villiers, Watson and Head following the opening duo.

And with Englishman Chris Jordan leading the pace attack, Kohli said there was simply no room for Gayle in the side.

"No, Gayle was not rested," the skipper confirmed after the match.

Royal Challengers Bangalore
Head and Kohli celebrate the winning runs in Bangalore // sportzpics

"We chose Travis Head in place of him because we felt like we needed more solidarity in the middle order. Travis strikes the ball really well and KL (Rahul) and me are opening well for the team, and Travis can bowl off-spin as well in the middle if need be.

"So that was the plan because (Pune) had three left-handers in the side and if there was a situation where another bowler went for a few runs, you always have someone like Travis who can bowl a couple of overs.

"And he proved himself in Mumbai as well. He strikes the ball really well."

Despite being an imposing side on paper, the RCB have only won around half of their matches with the star-studded trio of Kohli, Gayle and De Villiers in the same XI, winning 36 of 67 games (54 per cent) since coming together in 2011.

And that trend has continued this year; two of the RCB's three wins this season have come without Gayle in the side, with the Jamaican producing just eight runs in three matches so far.

Royal Challengers Bangalore
Gayle has played just three matches in the IPL this year // sportzpics

Kohli says the balance of the side could well change again as the Challengers look to make a late charge for the playoffs, with De Villiers a chance to take the gloves in a further shake up to the XI.

The RCB have been reluctant to put the multi-talented South African behind the stumps in the tournament so far as they are loathe to lose his athleticism in the outfield.

But with part-time keeper Rahul missing some crucial chances throughout the tournament, Kohli says a re-think of tactics is not out of the question.

"Chances have gone down in the last two games ... maybe we need to sit down and think if we are compromising too much on the keeping," he said.

"(Are we) letting go of very important chances at important stages of the game that are costing us games? And we need to understand how many balls AB is actually fielding in a game. If it's not a big number, we would not mind considering that option as well."

The RCB will travel north to Mohali to take on bottom-placed Kings XI Punjab on Monday in a match both sides will be desperate to win to keep their playoff hopes alive.