Searching for a new measure
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Gayle's knock was spectacular. But was it exceptional?
The Indian Premier League's is an ecosystem that breeds — or to be more accurate, only allows — superlatives. So we may be well advised to take Aaron Finch's remark with a pinch of salt. Chris Gayle's knock of 175 in the service of Royal Challengers Bangalore, said Finch, while summing it up as the losing captain of the Pune Warriors, was "simply the best I have ever seen". Indeed, along the way to his 175, Gayle notched up the fastest century in any form of cricket, off just 30 deliveries, and the spectacle drew gasps of awe. But is awe-inspiring synonymous with the "best"? Doesn't context count for anything?
In the context of Twenty20 cricket, as it is currently, the answers are yes and no, respectively. The performance, clearly, is all. Tell me honestly, while watching the Chinnaswamy stadium encounter between Bangalore and Pune, how many of the previous matches and how many of the shots played earlier could you really recall? That Tuesday match was the 31st match in an IPL season of 76 scheduled matches. Do you see yourself looking back on that fixture and marvelling, wow, that Gayle innings certainly turned the tide for the Challengers, and how? Do you even see yourself instantly recalling, a couple of years later, which team Gayle helped along? Or to put it more kindly, even if you see Gayle's 175 as a momentous milestone for cricket — and it is a milestone — where in the hierarchy of achievements would you place it?
Time and matches pass so swiftly in an IPL season that excess is requisite for a cricketer to stand out and call attention to himself. It is, you could even say, the nature of this abbreviated form of cricket. After all, looking back on that 2007 World Twenty20, when India's surprise victory won the BCCI over to the marvels of a form of cricket it had so far scorned, what do you remember about India's run? Barring Dhoni's canny captaincy in giving a quaking Joginder Sharma key overs to bowl, that over of Stuart Broad's which Yuvraj Singh dispatched for six sixes, right?