In front of the outdoor screen at Cyber Hub, there were no more than seven-eight of us languidly watching the Daredevils-Sunrisers' match. Sidhu was holding court with his minion, Arun Lal tweeting ponderously when the sardar briefly caught his breath. Strategic timeout.
When I returned after the break, and so did Duminy with a wicket, overheard that familiar comment - "strategic time out, fixing ho gayee... out ho gaya". Going by IPL standards, if you can call them that, this year the on-field occurrences have been less strange. Just that Delhi Daredevils won two on the trot. And Mumbai Indians lost four straight games. Not that there's anything strange about either set of results. Mumbai also started slowly last season, and all of Delhi's games have been tight.
Then Chris Gayle's mysterious ways happened. An imperfect ten off 24 deliveries that included a maiden over against Malinga in the batting power play. At the best of times, it's hard to tell whether Gayle is injured or not, so when he's struggling for fitness, it's just gauging how bad his niggles are - but play he must, just as Dhoni rarely misses a match for CSK, Gayle is top draw for RCB, and this was a home game, not to be missed at any cost. Scurrying tight singles for the Jamaican can be no less than a Bolt-like feat these days. A two nigh impossible and a three is a Loch Ness Monster.
Gayle was dropped by his fellow West Indian, Lendl Simmons when on nought (though he did seem to be on nought throughout his innings) and later by Malinga - both fairly straightforward chances. Gayle was subliminally trying to tell us something - "I can't quite remember how to bat". It was painful watching him, so imagine how wretched he must have felt? Here was a dude who smokes sixes like Tendulkar waves to his devotees at the Wankhede, what was happening? Why was it happening?
When Gayle finally fell, RCB's score stood still at 48/2 after eight overs. Nothing extraordinary, just that they were chasing 210 for a win - at an asking rate of 10.5. Later that night, Big B tweeted with an odd choice of words. He used IPL and fixed in the same sentence. Freud smiled.
T 1839 - This IPL is something else this year !! Fixed since 4 pm and still a lot to go ..— Amitabh Bachchan (@SrBachchan) April 19, 2015
Doubt this will be the last time Gayle will go into Henry mode - some will know that in between Christopher and Gayle, there's a middle name. It's like Dhoni was in Singh mode yesterday - 31* off 37. While Henry was doing penance in the first eight overs, Mr Singh had undertaken secretarial duties at the Municipal Corporation in the last ten. Both innings appeared far worse as they were set against batting orgies.
But just as Gayle smashed 96 (56) little over a week ago, Dhoni had his moment earlier the same day with a smacking fifty. Seven sixes and as many fours for Gayle, four each for Dhoni. But in a tournament where teams are often playing two games in barely three days, being on auto pilot is sometimes the default mode - few will recall Raina or Faf's single digit scores from the same match. Dhoni's slower than run-a-ball trek though not in the same ballpark as Gayle's pilgrimage, prompted this comment from the CSK skip, "When I went to bat, I ate up a lot of deliveries." In T20 as in Rock & Roll, it's better to burn out than to fade away.
Tendulkar's only IPL century was in a lost cause. There was a romance to the hundred, everyone lapped it up. But by then, Ramesh paaji (Sachin's middle name) seemed to be in Henry and Mr Singh mode. But play every game for Mumbai he did, how could he not. It wasn't what he did, but the fact that he was there on the field. Sometimes batting for a few overs but fielding for a full twenty. The last I saw him in an IPL game was at the Kotla, MI vs DD. He scored a fifty. It was faster than run-a-ball, his team won that day. The Delhi crowds mostly cheered for him. Each time he bent to field, it was an event. As it is when he waves from the sidelines of the Mumbai Indians' dugout these days.