September 20, 2021 9:00:50 am
Eye-opener: It turned out to be the perfect advertisement for the league. Negativities had swirled around the tournament, regarding its quality and intensity. But with one knock McCullum killed it all, illustrating that there is substance to go with the style, making even sceptics fall in love with the tournament at the very first sight. In the first game itself, the IPL notified the vast potential of the franchise-style T20 leagues.
Star-value: McCullum was famous, but not a celebrity. The 158 not out made him one. Instantly. His fan base swelled, he suddenly found himself lifted to the pedestal of Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe, the Kiwi immortals. His stocks skyrocketed as leagues began to sprout around the world. Followed a purple patch in his international career, and though he did precious little in the rest of his IPL career, he had already guaranteed IPL immortality. Not a single edition has launched without rewinding his knock.
Fan-fare: King Khan, Prince of Kolkata, Eden Gardens, snazzy black and gold jersey, and McCullum’s fireworks made Kolkata Knight Riders an instant blockbuster, among not only the city’s frenzied cricket lovers but also the neutrals. KKR became one of the most loved franchises of the league, its games running to packed houses wherever they would play. McCullum forged them a superstar identity, which multiple-title winning captain Gautam Gambhir chiselled and polished, as they continue to be IPL’s elites.
From the Archives
The Indian Express report from IPL Season One’s KKR vs RCB game —
Cricket’s Flat-World Cup has begun
As fans walked out of the Chinnaswamy stadium tonight, it was hard to say what they would remember of the evening – Brendon McCullum’s 13 sixes, the Kolkata team’s anti-climactic 140-run win, or the fireworks display of Olympic proportions that announced the arrival of the Indian Premier League.
In a tournament that some experts fear may create the biggest division in world cricket since Kerry Packer’s World Series, the ménage-a-trois between cricket, entertainment and business got most of what it had hoped for on the first day. Lalit Modi, the IPL commissioner, was surprisingly booed while he was declaring the tournament open. But looking at the packed house around him, he would not have minded the catcalls.
Crowds had started pouring in from late in the afternoon, trying to find their way to the Black Dog Pavilion, the Royal Challenge Stand, or the McDowell’s No 1 View – all named after brands of Vijay Mallya’s United Breweries stable. The theme extended to the not-so-surrogate advertising on the digital banners around the boundary line.
With Shankar, Ehsan and Loy providing the soundtrack with a series of their Bollywood hits, fans had got their money’s worth even before Rahul Dravid flipped the coin and Sourav Ganguly called “tails.” The golden helmets and pads of the Knight Riders’ openers were the icing on the cake.
It was always going to be difficult for the cricket to compete with the tempo set by the laser show and the highly publicised cheerleaders from Washington. As Bangalore’s wickets tumbled in reply to an imposing 222 for three from Kolkata, the smiles on Mallya and Modi’s face would have been replaced by worried frowns. The excitement in the match will have to complement the pre-game frenzy for the IPL to hold the audience for 44 days. An abject surrender by the home team doesn’t help their cause.
But even from a cricketing point of view, there were some things to celebrate: all of them thanks to McCullum. The 27-year-old from Dunedin – a “heritage city” in New Zealand’s South Island known for its Victorian cityscape – played an innings that will take some beating over the next 58 matches.
Considered overpriced when he was bought by Shah Rukh Khan for Rs 2.8 crore, McCullum took a couple of desperate pulls to get going in Zaheer Khan’s first over. But by the time he had smacked the next two deliveries for a six and a four, he knew exactly what to do with every thing hurled at him.
Ganguly, Ricky Ponting and David Hussey were all relegated to bit parts as he lorded over the proceedings. The crowd was enjoying each shot, but there was also a strange disconnect with the proceedings – when McCullum was on 99, there was no silence of anticipation as the bowler ran in to bowl. It was only when the screen flashed a congratulatory message that fans realised he had reached the three-figure mark. McCullum finished on 158, higher than any score in international Twenty20 cricket, and took his Kolkata team to a winning total.
It was almost ironical that the openers coming out to chase 223 for victory were Dravid and Wasim Jaffer – known for their dogged knocks in Test cricket rather explosive hitting in the game’s shortest format.
The Bangalore team lost its way pretty soon. Dravid fell in the second over, Virat Kohli in the third, Jacques Kallis in the fifth, and by the time Jaffer walked back to make it 24 for four, the game had been decided.
FIRST NIGHT, FIRST SHOW
- Knight Riders whipped Royal Challengers by 140 runs. Like Mallya’s Formula One acquisition, his cricket team started with a resounding DNF.
- Brendon McCullum (US$700,000), who scored a scintillating 158 off just 73 balls with 10 fours and 13 sixes as the Kolkata side put on 222 for three in 20 overs. At times it seemed McCullum was playing a computer game set at easy.
- Wasim Jaffer didn’t do his reputation as a man for the longer version any favours with a 16-ball six.
- The Washington Redskins cheerleading squad were dancing even for Kolkata’s boundaries at the start, not realising they were paid to cheer for the home side.
- McCullum scored a remarkable 71 per cent of his team’s total. He faced 61 per cent off the deliveries.
- “I want to thank the people of India for taking cricket forward to the next level.” — International Cricket Council chief Ray Mali.
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