On this day in 2008, the IPL kicked off and a 26-year old Brendon McCullum lit up the opener with a breathtaking 73-ball 158 not out for Kolkata Knight Riders against Royal Challengers Bangalore. The ferocity of the assault was such that his score has been bettered only once – by another T20 superstar, Chris Gayle – in 11 seasons of the IPL.
McCullum, who has now reunited with the Knight Riders as their coach, looked back on the evening that changed his life, and the T20 landscape as well.
“You talk about sliding doors, and moments in your careers and in lives,” McCullum told kkr.in. “That night, my life changed completely in the space of those three hours or actually, even an hour and a half.
“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.”
McCullum admitted that he never really thought he had it in him to pull off a feat like that. His first fifty took 32 balls, his second only 21, and his third a mere 17. While he alone smashed an unbeaten 158, the Royal Challengers folded for 82 in pursuit of 223.
“I couldn’t have done it without my team-mates, that’s 100% sure,” he said. “It was just a surreal moment in time where you just look back and say, ‘How lucky was I?'”
McCullum also recalled his then captain and opening partner Ganguly’s reaction to his incredible innings.
“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,” McCullum said. “Shah Rukh [Khan, the KKR co-owner], 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.'”
McCullum had two stints with the Knight Riders, scoring 882 runs in 35 innings at a strike rate of nearly 121. He played for them from 2008 to 2010, then represented the now-defunct Kochi Tuskers Kerala in 2011, before rejoining the Knight Riders for another two-season spell. McCullum then played for Chennai Super Kings, Gujarat Lions and Royal Challengers before becoming coach of both the Knight Riders franchises in the CPL and IPL.