“Boss.. The Universe Boss”
Cricketers are fondly designated with sobriquets highlighting a unique aspect of their game. Chris Gayle, however, did not wait for anyone else and went on to christen himself ‘The Universe Boss’. Given his fun persona, the name always sat on him quite decently but on this day, in 2013, he justified it on the cricket field leaving little doubt regarding the self-bestowed tag.
Playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore in the 2013 IPL, Gayle bossed the Pune Warriors bowling attack, smashing them for an unthinkable and unbeaten 175 at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. He blazed them for the fastest hundred in T20 cricket and the fastest in professional cricket overall - 30 balls. He thrashed them for 17 sixes - the most in a T20 innings. He rocketed RCB to a total of 263 for five, the highest team score in T20s for six years.
The Aaron Finch-led Pune side had just one warning - a rain break which interrupted play after 8 balls into RCB’s innings. Gayle was batting at 9 from five balls having hit Ishwar Pandey for successive boundaries off his first over.
Those five balls and two boundaries were enough for the southpaw to size up the pitch. As he wrote in his book ‘Six Machine’, he told his Caribbean and IPL team-mate, Ravi Rampaul that they will need at least 180 to win this game. Yes, he was talking about the overall team total.
Soon play resumed. Gayle went back with a more aggressive mindset this time. Unfortunately for Pune, it was Gayle’s day. It has been the case more often than not ever since he joined RCB in 2011. He had been the Orange Cap winner the previous two seasons. This season, he had already notched up two half-centuries with 12 sixes in five innings. Whatever he tried, it came off the meat of the bat.
He had begun Pandey’s over with two boundaries before the rain break and added three more to it. Luckily for Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ashok Dinda, Gayle faced only one ball the next two overs. Their good fortunes turned into a disaster for Mitchell Marsh. He bowled all the deliveries off the fifth over to Gayle who wanted to make up for no strike in the last two overs. 6, 6, 4, 0, 6, 6. 28 runs off the over - the most expensive in IPL 2013 till that point. In the twinkling of an eye, he brought up his fifty. Off only 17 balls. Although, it was just a hint of the GAYLE STORM that was about to hit Pune.
Finch is a sane captain. He would have known that you don’t bowl a left-arm spinner to Gayle, especially when he is in that mood. But at the end of the powerplay, he was running out of options. Hence, he threw the ball to Ali Murtaza, a left-arm orthodox spinner playing his first game of the season. Gayle took 17 runs off the over without breaking sweat.
Finch brought himself in the next over and was smoked for 28 runs from his five deliveries to Gayle. A single on the first ball of the over to Tillakaratne Dilshan meant that the record for the most expensive over in the season which was created just three overs ago was broken.
Next over, he took some scraps off the roof of the stadium, tonking Ashok Dinda straight over his head for another maximum to complete his hundred. Down on his knees, arms aloft and a beaming smile - The Universe Boss celebrated another record to his name. 98 off the 102 runs came in boundaries. His opening partner, Dilshan, had contributed only 17 in a partnership of 123 till then.
There were still 11 more overs to go. Gayle, wanting to bat till the end for the team’s cause, slowed down. After scoring 102 in a mere 30 balls, he took 23 balls for his next 50 runs which is not slow by any means but by his standards, maybe a little.
He began the 18th over with a four to break Brendon McCullum’s feat of the highest score in T20 cricket. The 20th over started with a six breaking Graham Napier’s feat of 16 sixes in a T20 innings. Ultimately, Gayle went unbeaten on 175, five runs short of what he had thought would be a decent team total but here he almost notched that up himself.
The swashbuckling opener, in so many ways, has been the Godfather of T20 batting. When a hundred in T20s was an extremely rare prospect, he kicked off the maiden T20 World Cup with a hundred, the first ever in T2o internationals, in the lung opener. During his 175, he even threatened the barrier of a double hundred at one stage.
As the Jamaican states in his book - “25 more runs? I could have made that in an over. It’s only when I look back at it that I realize the 200 was in the making easily. I had no idea of the records I was smashing.”
Still the highest individual score in T20 cricket, Gayle was part of one of the most unforgettable moments in IPL history. Five years later, when Finch came within touching distance of breaking that record, scoring 172 in a T20I against Zimbabwe in 2018, he was asked if he was aware of Gayle’s 175. He amusingly replied, “Yes, I was the opposition captain when he scored that.”