A few months back I had picked up a copy of Yuvraj Singh's new book, The test of my life. By the time I was through, I had made up my mind to watch this match. I wanted to see Yuvraj on action, for the real fighter he was on the field and in life. I was keeping my fingers crossed, since he'd missed a few games earlier in the season. But my anxiety turned to excitement when I heard Yuvraj's name announced in the playing eleven in the stadium.
RCB was my default favorite to for this game. They were my home team, they were playing well this season, and were close to the top of the table. Before the game during all the office banter, people were convinced about an RCB win. However, I was hoping for a close contest. But at the stadium, watching Gayle cut loose, all those thoughts disappeared. It was a rousing assault from Gayle, loudly cheered by every RCB fan including me.
Watching IPL games in Bangalore is a fabulous experience. The stadium is located right in the heart of the city. My friend and I shut our laptops and work well before noon, hopped on to the Namma Metro train headed for the stadium, and relished a quick pub lunch before taking our seats. We were charged up, and the stadium atmosphere was electrifying. LED video walls, music, cheer girls, DJ, drums - the stage was all set for the Gayle party. The weather was good too - overcast with a gentle breeze that cooled off an otherwise hot summer afternoon.
The fastest century in senior cricket - need I say more. It was a Gayle game from start to finish. He single-handedly crushed the Pune Warriors. Even the rain gods seemed to shy away after an early interruption, as Gayle took charge of raining sixes all around the ground. He took guard outside his crease, and swung his bat destructively, sending ball after ball into the stands. No one seems to have any clue on how to stop him. And as if the batting wasn't enough entertainment, he had the crowd in splits later with some hilarious appeals, dance moves and a couple of wickets.
If I were to change one aspect of the game, it would have been Yuvraj's dismissal. I would have liked it if he'd played a big hand, even though the result seemed a foregone conclusion after the Gayle show.
It was the last over of the game when Gayle got the ball. It seemed Ali Murtaza, who had taken some stick earlier in the day, would have a chance to go after Gayle, but our man had different ideas. Gayle performed his trademark Gangnam-style moves when he got Murtaza stumped. Later, he went down on his knees and pleaded for Ishwar Pandey's wicket, and was almost hit by a low-flying bird after his last delivery. You just couldn't take the spotlight off him on this day.
AB de Villiers was the spectators' man. Whenever he fielded close to the boundary line he waved to the crowd. We greeted those waves with huge cheers. He almost started a Mexican wave which the DJ had been trying hard to initiate right through the game, but it never materialized.
It was Gayle lifting Ashok Dinda out of the park off a free-hit. Dinda sent down a full toss, Gayle stood still to club it straight, and the ball travelled high up over the roof and out of the stadium.
The home fans erupted in joy after boundary hit, especially off Gayle's bat. Gayle never allowed the spectators to settle down. He would lift every other delivery to the boundary, forcing the fans to jump onto their feet and cheer. I could see some people getting tired of jumping and cheering; by the end of his innings, they were just clapping without getting up from their seats.
I would expect a cash-rich tournament like the IPL to make the ticketing process more convenient. I purchased the tickets for the match online but had to visit a redemption store to collect the ticket. I had to wait for close to half an hour since the redemption outlet was also a food counter. Wouldn't it be so much more convenient if bar-coded tickets were issued online itself?
I was amused to see some people dressed like astronauts. I believe they are part of some kind of in-stadium promotion. The spectators were more than happy to click photographs with these guys, and I too got a snap with one of them during the innings break.
All in all, the game was a thrilling experience. Once Gayle started the party everything else just fell in place. The excitement, the crowd, the music, everything added to the Gayle effect. I would give this a perfect 10, as I was privileged to have witnessed one of the greatest T20 innings.
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