In Kannada, the local language of Bengaluru, ‘gaylee’ means ‘to tease’. And like most Indian languages a word has different connotations at different times. To mock, to poke fun, are some of the other meanings. At the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Sunday, many of these connotations were played out to the hilt, perhaps inadvertently.
In November last year, when South Africa’s AB de Villiers played his 100th Test in Bengaluru, the rousing reception he received from the crowd was simply unbelievable. Chants of ‘ABD, ABD’ were so loud, constant and intense that his wife, mother and father sitting beside the media box were moved to admit to us that not even in their home country would he have got such a fantastic reception.
Now cut to the present ICC World T20 Championship. West Indies’ opener Chris Gayle proved that if there was one non-Indian cricketer that the Bengaluru crowd loved and worshiped more than ‘ABD’ then it surely had to be Gayle – the Boss of the T20 Universe!
His sensational hundred against England at the Wankhede had already brought back memories of the many pulverising innings he had played at the KSCA Stadium, including that never-to-be-forgotten 175 not out in 66 balls (13x4, 17x6) for RCB against Pune Warriors in the IPL.
The sheer anticipation of seeing another Gayle epic was rampant and tickets sold like hot cakes immediately after the England bashing. So much so that Brijesh Patel, secretary of KSCA, admitted that they had never been sold out so quickly for a non-India match.
On Sunday, hours before the start roads leading to the venue were clogged with Gayle fans, many in West Indian colours but some also carrying RCB flags! The police and security personnel, used to such ‘fanatics’ during IPL and India matches, wisely opened the gates hours in advance and thus by the time the match started the stadium was packed to the rafters.
Gayle was the main show. Gayle was the side show and Gayle was the cynosure. The spectators went berserk even watching him limbering up before the start of the match. The eternal showman that he is, Gayle was not averse to non-verbal communication with his fans and that set them off even more. The other West Indies players and opponents Sri Lankans were mere props to the Gayle show, or so it seemed.
At the toss when the West Indies opted to field the collective groans and shouts of ‘Oh, No’ could have lifted the roof off the stadium. Such was the magnitude of the desire to see Gayle wield his punishing willow.
Initially when Sri Lanka batted the crowd, now solidly and vociferously into the match, cheered West Indies’ every success. But as the Lankans slipped to 47 for five there was a sudden shift in loyalties. Thisera Perrera and Angelo Mathews, who started piecing together a recovery of sorts, were enthusiastically egged on.
The only reason for this abrupt shift of loyalties was the realisation that unless Lanka posted a challenging total there would be all too little to see of Gayle.
When Lanka reached the 100-mark there was a great cheer: the spectators were sure that they could see Gayle get “at least a 50”. He went off the field during the Lankan innings but not too much importance was attached to it. He’d done this often in the IPL.
But what really agitated the spectators was when he did not come out to bat. Was the target of 123 too little for West Indies to launch Missile Gayle? they wondered. Nevertheless, the constant chants for the batsmen to get out and make way for Gayle would not go away.
Gayle too played along. His walk from the dugout at the edge of the boundary to the dressing room on the first floor was greeted with a loud cheer as this could only mean that he was getting ready to bat. A few minutes later when he came down padded up the whole crowd virtually rose to declare the batsmen at the crease out. They were eager on watching only Gayle in action, the result of the match, etc was of no consequence to the fans.
And when the clamour for the dismissal of the batsmen at the crease died down it would be revived by the giant TV screen on the ground flashing in between overs that Gayle would bat next or show images of him padded up at the dugout. There would be an instant roar of approval from the spectators.
However, when a wicket fell and some other batsman was sent in, howls of protest and loud jeers rent the air. It was quite a spectacle quite unlike anything seen on an Indian ground, or anywhere else for that matter.
On one occasion, when the decision against batsman Andre Fletcher was reversed and he was asked to continue batting, Gayle made a great show of going out to bat and the reserve umpire, Ian Gould of England also played along by dragging him back from the field of play and pushing him into the pavilion.
It all made for great entertainment but the fact remained that the capacity crowd which had gathered for only one reason –to see Gayle bat – would go home teased and disappointed.