Twelve years ago, the opening night of the Indian Premier League (IPL) was a glitzy affair. If the opening ceremony stunned the world, it was Brendon McCullum’s blitzkrieg which gave T20 cricket a new dimension.
On April 18, 2008 at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, Kolkata Knight Riders openers — skipper Sourav Ganguly and New Zealander Brendon McCullum — walked in after Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper Rahul Dravid opted to bowl.
McCullum struggled against Praveen Kumar in the first over. But against Zaheer Khan, he was in a belligerent mood, hitting the bowler for 4, 4, 6 and 4 in sequence. It was a spicy appetiser to his unbeaten 158 -- the highest-ever in Twenty20 history.
This innings also proved to be the cornerstone for Kolkata Knight Riders’ thumping 140-run victory over the home side. Knight Riders posted 222 for three in 20 overs and in reply Royal Challengers mustered only 82 in 15.1 overs.
READ: KKR's Brendon McCullum runs amok in Bangalore
And at a time when the 2020 edition of the tournament has been suspended until further notice, McCullum -- who is now Knight Riders’ head coach -- walked down the memory lane. In a chat with Knights Unplugged, on www.kkr.in, about the blitzkrieg in 2008, he said: “I never really got too nervous throughout my cricket career, but on that occasion, I’ll admit I was very nervous. I think none of us really knew what this tournament (the IPL) was going to be like.”
“We all loved the idea of it, we loved the fanfare, but all the eyeballs of the cricketing world got turned towards Bangalore that night. I feel so lucky and privileged to have had the opportunity (to be a part of that spectacle)
You talk about sliding doors, and moments in your careers and in lives. That night, my life changed completely in the space of those three hours or actually, even an hour-hour and a half,” McCullum said.
As he walked in to bat with captain Ganguly, McCullum wasn’t sure of how things will pan out. “Why was I the one who got that opportunity to be able to go and face (the) first (delivery) with Sourav Ganguly? How did I get a chance to play in the first game, have the first opportunity to bat in such a huge tournament for world cricket? How was I even able to grab that opportunity? How much luck did I have along the way? Honestly, I don't know the answers to any of these, but what I do know is that it changed my life forever.”
By his own admission, it changed his family's life forever. “I feel very blessed and very humble and very lucky. What I did that night was something I didn't think I was capable of achieving. I couldn't have done it without my teammates, that's 100% sure. It was just a surreal moment in time where you just look back and say, ‘How lucky was I?’,” McCullum said.
Does he recollect any specific reactions from his teammates or the owners on that night?
“I was just a young kid back then, so I was so in awe of Shah Rukh Khan who was such a mega star. I was so out of my depth even just around the superstars in my cricket team, let alone the megastar who owned our cricket team! I don't remember many reactions in detail,” he said.
READ: Away from 'carnage of IPL', Brendon McCullum finds comfort at home
He, however, remembers what Sourav Ganguly told him that night.
“Dada said: ‘Your life is changed forever’, and I didn't quite know what he meant at the time, but (in hindsight), I 100% agree with him. Shah Rukh, in the months which followed or the days and the weeks and the months which followed, he said. ‘you'll always be with the Knight Riders.’
There were times when I was with KKR, and then I got released, but we always finished on really good terms. I was always very grateful, and thankful for the opportunity that the franchise had provided for me. So when an opportunity arose again (for the role of head coach), I thought: ‘Well, Shah Rukh did say to me ‘You'll always be very involved with KKR’ and this, I guess, is another opportunity’,” he said.
Currently, how is he dealing with social distancing and the lockdown?
“I guess we are all dealing with it in different ways, and every country has its own issues at the moment. It has definitely passed things slowly. I’m trying to enjoy the time that I’m getting at home with the family, because in a funny way, we are all forced to really spend a lot of time with our loved ones which is fantastic.”
“We probably don’t stop and take as much time to appreciate that. When we are on the other side of this pandemic and hopefully, we haven’t lost too many lives, and things are returning to normal in the schedule of all of us cricket coaches, commentators and people all around involved in the game, it's going to get pretty intense. So I’m trying to just enjoy the break for now,” he said.