Tilakratne Dilshan was lumbering along at a strike rate of about 50, almost criminal by T20 standards. Two friends and yours truly were watching the match at their favourite cafe (while another lucky soul enjoyed the view from the VIP stand at the ground) where the cafe manager usually counts the beans both in the kitchen as well as the (underground) betting scene. He turned towards me and said, ‘What is this? Dilshan is just on 10 off 20 balls. It doesn’t make any sense!’ I told him that the man at the other end was unbeaten on 60 odd off 17 balls and that didn’t make any sense either!
Needless to say, that man was Chris Henry Gayle, or as you may know him from Twitter, the ‘World Boss‘. It was just shaping up to be one of those days. An inexperienced Pune bowling attack was put to the lightsaber by this brute of an explosive batting Jedi Master who in the previous game had shown great application to play a fine unbeaten knock to guide RCB home, only to disappoint fans who were expecting the customary ‘Gayle Storm’ – that freak event that hits Chinnaswamy cricket stadium every once in a while causing a spike in windshield insurance premiums. Gayle today in a surreal knock that broke more records at one go than I have ever seen in my life. Well, there was that one time when I was 3 and was left by the Vinyl player as my mom attended to other stuff and I viciously attacked the stack of classic records, but really Gayle was a class apart. Highest Individual IPL score? Goodbye Brendon McCullum! Highest team total in a T20 game? Goodbye Sri Lanka! Fastest hundred in any form of the game? Goodbye Andrew Symonds, Yusuf Pathan, Shahid Afridi and the like! Highest opening partnership? Goodbye Sachin and Dwayne Smith! Most sixes in an innings? Goodbye Shane Watson! 17 Sixes.
Yes, 17 sixes (as Harsha Bhogle put it, a Century in itself) in a single game by one individual – three of them covering more distance than his countryman and good friend Usain Bolt usually sprints over signified something else. Maybe, this is as we say in economics, a ‘Black Swan’ event. So overpowering was Gayle that Pune pretty much gave up with their bowlers other than Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Luke Wright getting tonked for 214(!!) in their 12 overs. Amazingly Kumar had a first spell of 3-0-8-0 (admittedly bowling a bulk of his deliveries to Dilshan) when other bowlers were taken to the cleaners by the Big Man (21 off debutant Pandey, 28 off Mitch Marsh, 29 off ). I have calculated the probabilities carefully and I believe a chicken has a better chance of crossing the highway unhurt than Kumar landing those figures amidst this carnage (which briefly was interrupted by the rain – maybe precipitation caused by the so called Gayle storm?).
It was the Chris Gayle show all through and we were treated to a level of cricket that the IPL has thrown open the door for. You did feel for the Pune bowlers, but then these weren’t exactly pushovers. It’s just that Gayle’s intimidating presence scrambled the frequency of their minds and the consistency of their lengths. Jedi Master that he is, Gayle just waited for every mistake and deposited them one by one into the seats of Chinnaswamy stadium with a madness that would be atypical of the last hour at the nets, as Sunny Gavsakar put it.
Sometimes all you can do is step back and admire such a force of nature at work. Inevitably Gayle turned his arm over in the last over and managed two wickets and also fitted in a comical lbw appeal much to the joy of everyone, including the umpire. As the game ended, Pune’s non striker, Ashoke Dinda went and hugged Gayle. Not the match-is-over-polite-hug but the whoa-dude-are-you- for-real hug.
He flattened every bowler as well every ounce of conventional wisdom today and became joy personified. Sometimes all of it doesnt have to make any sense. It is like watching Chuck Norris in The Expendables 2. Don’t tell me you were waiting for him to show nuanced acting. Have you ever been to the candy store as a five year old and wanted to eat every candy in view? Gayle gave you the cricket equivalent of that today.
Records apart, this innings will always be known for the mirth it brought to the fans who were desperate for something to cheer wildly about after a hum drum game last time around. When things like this happen, you just pat yourself on the back that you were around to watch it unfold. Just like you could call Expendables 2, Chuck Norris featuring The Expendables today at the Chinnaswamy was about the Chris Gayle show featuring an IPL match between Bangalore and Pune.