Saturday night’s clash between the Mumbai Indians and the Royal Challengers Bangalore was undoubtedly the marquee event of the last weekend. Chris Gayle had had the city abuzz ever since his incredible 175 not out against Pune Warriors a few days before. Would he do the same to Mumbai? Could he do better? Could he be tamed?
There is nothing like a sports contest to get the adrenaline pumping and such questions flowing. I made an early exit from a wedding ceremony at the Taj to be in time for the match. To miss even an over with a ‘Gayle’ blowing over Mumbai seemed sacrilege.
I dare say this would have been Mukesh Ambani’s concern, too, as an avid cricket lover—and heightened manifold, as he owns the Mumbai franchise. This was a key match, given its high profile and glamour quotient, but also how the points in the league table would pan out subsequently.
There was some evidence of his new Z security, (the other big story last week), prompting hush-hush discussion about this amongst those already in the stands. But Ambani himself seemed nonchalant about their presence and was in his seat well before the match began, unwilling to miss a ball.
As it turned out, Mumbai’s massive victory was well-deserved, leaving the franchise owners and fans delighted. But as a contest, the match was a damp squib. Gayle himself was the biggest disappointment: a rumble, but no storm. He did hit one six, but the innings was too error-prone on a perfect batting pitch.
The timing was awry because the footwork was too rigid. Had he slept well enough, did he suffer from cramps because of a small bed to sleep in, I wondered, after seeing his stilted approach at the crease.
Far-fetched as it may appear in this day and age, this used to be of concern for tall cricketers in the past. Joel Garner, who stood six-feet-eight-inches in his shoes only played once in India, that in a benefit match almost a quarter of a century ago, and had mentioned he slept on the floor because there was no bed big enough to accommodate him.
The late Tony Greig (six-feet-seven-inches in his prime), who toured India often since his first visit in 1972-73, once told me he loved everything about the country, except the size of the beds and toilets in the hotel. “I had to become like Gundappa Vishwanath (who stands five-feet-four-and-a-half-inches) to live in them.” Greig had also said that on the 1972-73 tour, he would sleep diagonally on the bed. His roommate probably slept on the floor.
Inquiries with the Trident Hotel at Nariman Point, where IPL teams stay in Mumbai, revealed that such discomforts are a thing of the past. The hotel (as all 5-stars across the country), now offers bed extensions which can accommodate even an eight-foot tall person.
Gayle, I might add, is only six-feet-three-inches, which is not much taller than Ravi Shastri and two inches shorter than Ishant Sharma. While Indian cricketers are gaining in stature (in height), West Indians have traditionally been tall. Why, there are several in this year’s IPL taller than him – Darren Sammy and Kieron Pollard (six-feet-five) and Kevon Cooper (six-feet-seven) to name a few who are doing marvellously.
So no excuses work. Perhaps the big Jamaican had an off-day, perhaps he got up from the wrong side of the bed. But on Saturday, Gayle showed no power in his arms or any rhythm in his footwork: unlike the deft work shown by Harbhajan Singh, who did a spontaneous imitation of Gayle’s trademark celebratory Gangnam dance after getting his wicket.
One of my twitter followers mentioned this was India’s answer to Psy called GangBhang. So there Harbhajan, even if the Indian selectors ignore you, you may be on to something really big!