Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum will open a T20 innings for the first time in eight years when they walk out together for Rangpur Riders in the 2017 Bangladesh Premier League at the Shere Bangla National Stadium on Saturday. The pair last opened together in the 2009 IPL, for Kolkata Knight Riders. The duo's arrival comes with the added expectation of injecting life into an insipid first couple of weeks in the tournament, characterised by sluggish pitches and a lack of close finishes.
"We know how destructive Brendon McCullum is," Gayle said. "It is a privilege to open the batting with him again. We opened together way back in the IPL. Now, we are joining forces again. It is new for both of us to come in and go for a blast, but we have experience. The expectation is high on us to deliver. We want to try our best and win the game tomorrow.
"Everyone in Bangladesh wants to be entertained by two great entertainers in myself and McCullum. This is why the pressure is going to be on us. But we expect these things. The crowd is going to be very noisy. It is going to be fantastic if we can get off to a start, hitting a lot of boundaries and get the crowd excited. Maybe the other guys can build up from it and see what total we can set or get."
While this will be McCullum's first time in the BPL, Gayle is no stranger. He has played for four different teams - Barisal Burners (2012), Dhaka Gladiators (2013), Barisal Bulls (2015) and Chittagong Vikings (2016) - and is the holder of four tournament records. Gayle has the most centuries (three), the highest strike-rate (171.95) and batting average (54.16) - minimum 10 innings - and the most sixes (60) in the tournament.
McCullum, meanwhile, has already struck nine half-centuries in 43 matches this year. McCullum said he was happy to sit back and watch Gayle do his thing, though. "I'll probably just try and give him the strike and watch him hit sixes," he said.
Gayle for his part was already sounding out warnings to opposition bowlers. "We are both thinking the same. We have to work on our game plan. There's nothing to prove between me and McCullum. We just have to go out there, enjoy it and exploit the conditions and play according to the situation. If a particular bowler needs to be taken down, we will work on it as much as possible."