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What We Remember

Brendon McCullum hitting 158 not out in the IPL opener

An innings that announced the future

Sambit Bal
Sambit Bal
On that cloudy April evening in Bangalore, Brendon McCullum's rambunctious, blockbuster of an innings did far more than getting the Indian Premier League to a rousing start: it projected the IPL's image in the most vivid and lurid colours to the widest screen possible. And it was, to those who cared to look, the projection of the game's future itself.
It could be said, with both hindsight and foresight, that the genius of the IPL lay in the flight of the ambition and the conceptual adventurism, and, irrespective McCullum's innings, the tournament would have been a smashing hit. But it was the picture-perfect encapsulation of the IPL's founding spirit.
Neither T20, nor the attendant frills, were by themselves new, having been part of the English domestic scene for five years, but the IPL was still a shock to the game's organic conservatism. It introduced private enterprise; a franchise model; an auction where players went to the highest bidder; and most of all, the idea that a domestic tournament could surpass bilateral cricket in profile, fan following, profitability, and allure to cricketers.
McCullum, at a price of US$ 700,000, was among the big beneficiaries, and he certainly made the best possible repayment at the first available instance. You could argue even ten years later that it was a freakish outlier performance - that score has been bettered only once in the IPL and it took Chris Gayle (175 not off 66 balls in 2013) - but what McCullum seeded that evening was a mantra: that anything was possible if the fear of dismissal was removed and the mind was solely committed to hitting the ball.
Bangalore is a small ground, but the weather was heavy and the ball nipped around enough to induce two false shots and a leave from McCullum in the first over, but 47 came off the next three, with Zaheer Khan's first over being smoked for 18, including an intended thump over midwicket that flew over third man for a six off the outside edge. Ashley Noffke was then marmalised for 23 in his first, with sixes pinged to opposites ends: first over square leg and the second over extra cover.
So crushingly violent and so fiercely unremitting was his assault that Rahul Dravid, who captained Royal Challengers Bangalore, recalls (watch video) that they were caught like rabbits in the headlights. There were three more overs that produced over 20 runs, McCullum hit more sixes (13) than fours (ten), and the night ended with the Royal Challengers Bangalore owner berating his team at his post-match party. "I wanted to buy Brendon McCullum," he is said to have screamed in the presence of Mark Boucher, the wicketkeeper-batsman his franchise had ended up buying.
That the IPL would change a lot of things in cricket had been anticipated even before a ball had been bowled. By the time the night ended, it was possible to see how.

Sambit Bal is editor-in-chief of ESPNcricinfo @sambitbal