The Kolkata Knight Riders take on the Chennai Super Kings at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata today, which means Brendon McCullum, in CSK colours, will be looking to give his side another one of his trademark explosive starts. But there was a time when he played for his rivals; in fact, in the very first match of the IPL, he created history while batting in KKR purple.
Eight years on, this is as good a time as any to look back at the frenetic start to the IPL’s existence, when McCullum was the undeniable star of the night.
A sense of the occasion
When the IPL was conceived, it was still early days in T20 cricket. Not all countries had warmed up to it with equal ease. But in India, it almost challenged the fanfare of the movie industry, with celebrities seeping in and out of cricket.
The first day of the tournament had as much glitz and glamour as the cricket, maybe more. Had it been a normal day of cricket, considering a normal day of T20 cricket is rarely normal, it would still have been lost amidst the gala and carnival-like festivities. However, one man made sure that the match would be remembered more than any of the movie celebrities who graced the occasion.
That game wouldn’t go in the annals of IPL as a great one; it was terribly one-sided. But McCullum’s first innings gave the crowd a spectacle to remember; he created memories with his bat that simply don’t fade away. You might even say he was propagating the ‘Axe Effect’ with his unforgettable performance!
A sense of entertainment
McCullum was opening the innings along with the Prince of Kolkata Sourav Ganguly, while their owner Shahrukh Khan owned the isles with his kingly presence and high spirited cheer. But the Kiwi is not an ordinary batsman. Unlike most cricket players, he is naturally aggressive and he is a natural entertainer.
You have to take just one glimpse of him on the field to understand that. He knows how to win the crowds like a gladiator – The Gladiator.
In the first game of the IPL, against a little known bowler called Ashley Noffke (who has remained little known since), McCullum gave the crowd unbridled entertainment. He got a short one on leg stump that was flat batted over square leg for a six. A full one was tonked beautifully over extra cover inside out for another six, in what turned out to be a 23 run over.
Back then, that was novelty. McCullum was the crowd’s knight already, in shining armour and with a flashing blade.
KKR ended the first six overs at 61 for one, Sourav Ganguly the only man dismissed. A few quiet overs ensued before McCullum pulled another slog sweep off Sunil Joshi. Ricky Ponting joined the game with a six and four off Jacques Kallis, and the momentum was right back.
McCullum, almost asking ‘Are you entertained?’ hammers a one-handed six over long-on off Joshi. Kallis got no respect either, as McCullum moved across the crease like a ballet dancer, hitting two fours down the leg-side.
Just when the crowd had settled into a tempo, Cameron White was given the ball. His leg-spinners and seam-up deliveries acted as the perfect catalyst for McCullum’s aggression. A boundary hammered to midwicket and two other fours – one to fine leg and another to long off – showed that McCullum hardly cared about the approaching 100.
He then smashed a six, pulling one over midwicket that settled beautifully in the stands, for a 24-run over. He got to his century off 52 balls with a couple, and the crowd roared so hard, the whole of Bangalore could hear it.
The final tally was 158* for the man who had made sure the crowd understood what T20 entertainment meant.
A sense of numbers
It is important to put the innings’ numbers in perspective too. McCullum scored 158 out of the 222 that KKR managed in 20 overs, the next highest score being Ponting’s 20. David Hussey, Ponting and Ganguly, the three batsmen to reach double figures for KKR apart from McCullum, all scored at a strike-rate of 100 or less.
The whole RCB team was bundled out for 82. None of the RCB bowlers had an economy below 8.5, Sunil Joshi the best at 8.66.
McCullum took just 73 balls – 12 overs and an extra delivery to be precise – for his 158, hitting at a strike-rate of 216. He smashed 10 fours and 13 sixes to completely take the game away from RCB before they could even truly warm up to the tournament.
As McCullum prepares to take on his old team in Kolkata today, we can be sure that he will look to this knock for inspiration. It was the innings that launched the IPL, and a performance that will never fade away from our memory.