A few bats tucked under his arms, he walked in nonchalantly. Chris Gayle looked at home on the turf that he had virtually owned during the last IPL season as autograph hunters scrambled around near the pavilion gate and whispers of ‘Gayle’ abounded.

And as Royal Challengers Bangalore’s game-changer commenced his first training session with teammates at the Chinnaswamy Stadium ahead of IPL’s latest edition here on Tuesday, all eyes and cameras were on him. The big-built West Indian bided his time in the first net where seamers R.P. Singh and company operated while the team’s spearhead Zaheer Khan was conspicuous by his absence.

There were no immediate fireworks as Gayle offered a straight bat, shouldered arms to a few deliveries and remained cautious. After a while, he ambled into the spinners’ net and, again, stayed defensive. But the self-restraint did not last long and soon he essayed a lofted shot off Muttiah Muralitharan.

A few more mighty hoicks followed against the other spinners and then Gayle trundled off for a brief round against throw-downs.

Besides Gayle, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Daniel Vettori also joined RCB’s practice session under lights.

Earlier in the afternoon, Mumbai Indians had an extensive training schedule that lasted more than three hours. Sachin Tendulkar, Kieron Pollard and the others sweated it out while coach John Wright and his support staff, Robin Singh and Jonty Rhodes, kept a close watch along with chief mentor Anil Kumble.

Later, as dusk descended, Mumbai Indians’ Harbhajan Singh and RCB’s Muralitharan had a mini off-spinners’ conclave before going their separate ways. RCB and MI will clash here on Thursday night.

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