12 years on: Kartik Murali recalls McCullum's opening IPL salvo

The first match of the IPL between host Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders, transfixed India’s cricket-crazy population of 1.2 billion.

Kartik Murali sprints off in celebration after dismissing James Hopes during the final ODI against Australia at the Wankhade Stadium in Mumbai in 2007. (File Photo)   -  AFP

Twelve summers ago, a cricketing phenomenon that would go on to shape the sport and the television coverage of it, made its debut at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore.

The start of the Indian Premier League (IPL) marked the beginning of an era that saw monetary rewards and off-field razzmatazz rival those of European and South American footballers.

The glorious run of Team India in 2019

The first match of the eight-franchise Twenty20 league, between host Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders, transfixed India’s cricket-crazy population of 1.2 billion.

And in that game came an innings that was the perfect template for what was to become the modern, unquiet brand of cricket: Brendon McCullum’s 158 for KKR.

Languid, terrifying and revealing: the former New Zealand skipper’s innings was all these and more.

“In the years that followed, I knew I had been part of something special,” said former India spinner Murali Kartik, who was in the KKR playing XI on that historic night. “Post that game itself, we realised that this was going to be something big because of what one man, Brendon McCullum, did on that day. He was just sensational. Nobody even came close to him; I reckon the next best score was 20 (by Ricky Ponting).”

McCullum’s frenetic 73-ball unbeaten 158, studded with 13 sixes and 10 fours, left Kartik and teammate Ajit Agarkar gobsmacked in the dugout.

Brendon McCullum celebrates after smashing a brilliant century against Royal Challengers.   -  K. BHAGYA PRAKASH


“I just took two catches and cheered from the sidelines... We didn’t have to do anything else because of the way McCullum played! I remember chatting with Ajit during the match... We were wondering if we should be happy that Baz was scoring so many runs or be scared because it was our turn to bowl next (laughs)...

"There are games where you make 120-130 and the opposition also starts slowly... But when you get to a big total like we did that night (222/3), even the opposition batsmen will go hammer and tongs at our bowling attack, smashing sixes and fours,” recalled Kartik.

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KKR romped home by 140 runs that night, leaving RCB shell-shocked. Kartik said the fanfare amid heaps of expectation and the elaborate opening ceremony all added to the glitter of the “most sought-after” T20 league in the world.

But, over the years, the IPL has had an impact beyond the T20 boundaries, felt Kartik.

“IPL’s influence on Indian cricket cannot be limited to T20s alone. Look at what it has done to the youngsters across formats... The boys are exposed to high-quality, world-class cricketers, and having rubbed shoulders with them in the IPL, they are not overawed when the time comes to take them on at the international level. It has helped the Indian players improve their attitude towards fielding and fitness. We’ve been phenomenal in those two departments lately,” he said.

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