The King & The Boss have remained on good terms and still break into impromptu jigs. © BCCI
April 24 was an IPL tradition. A tacky green-coloured cake and a facepalming victim – who despite having braved years and years of ovations, crowd intrusions and heavy adjectivization – is still unable to hide his embarrassment at the Wankhede’s newest obsession of public cake cutting as roars of ‘Sachin Sachin’ fuse seamlessly into what this fuss is originally all about, ‘Happy Birthday to you’. But he’d play along to the IPL Governing Council’s random scheduling year after year, speaking about what he’s been up to in life, marvel at how the club culture in the country has grown and even quietly plug in his forthcoming movie. All of this with a match in progress in the background.
Alas, India is no theocracy, and even Tendulkar cannot have His way (or maybe he just did!) when His people have to vote. Hence the date, much like his country’s cricketing hopes, has been handed over to the apprentice.
India is no monarchy either. But in this sovereign land called the Chinnaswamy, there’s a ruthless King, a conqueror, the thrasher of bowling egos, specializing in exhibiting a more-than-friendly dosage of aggression at any point in time. His army though is a social media favourite, and not necessarily for the right reasons. Mocked, bruised, scarred, jolted, written off, meme-d, but they’ve managed to stay alive, even if only by an inch on Shardul Thakur’s diving scale.
.Old-timers insist this king once had a mentor, someone who’d go around calling himself a boss. Correction, THE Boss He was once rendered homeless in auctions of 2011, when Bangalore, equally desperate to get their campaign going, invited him over for refuge.
And thus began an affair, a very public one, where he smashed record after record, wore orange caps after orange caps, tonked balls into Cubbon Park, broke noses in the crowd when he didn’t, and made dancing celebrations on the field the norm.
“I am their biggest draw,” he’d once said. Nobody could dare disagree. The Chinnaswamy was his.
Kohli was a happy spectator to this super-stardom, finding himself more often than not at the other end, celebrating with funky Caribbean moves when not ducking against the thunderbolts launched towards him. But as age caught up with Gayle to slow down his reflexes, Kohli’s legend grew far and wide, churning out purple patch after purple patch.
Sadly, kings and bosses in today’s ultra-capitalist times have an employer monitoring over. It doesn’t help matters either when the team finishes last with a major auction approaching, further restricting retaining capacities. Anyway, the band-aid was ripped and Gayle was cut off.
“He has done a great job for RCB over the past few years but looking at the team dynamics for the next three years the decision was taken. We thought of infusing new people who will give us the kind of balance we require,” Kohli said of Gayle at the start of the last season in 2018.
Subtlety was never Gayle’s forte. He was happy to let the world know of the backstab. “It was disappointing from that end, because they (RCB) had called me. They wanted me in the team and I was told that I will be retained. But they never called back after that. So that gave me the impression that they didn’t want me,” he told TOI, shortly after getting on-board with Punjab.
Now, on the verge of turning 40, he returns, for possibly the last time in a hope to claim this extremely-loyal 22-yard-strip’s bragging rights.
The two may be on great terms personally, may high-five at the drop of a hat despite being in opposite sides and even show the world a small jig when the other muggles barely shake hands. But if there’s one thing a king knows, it is defending his own territory against such seeming allies in foreign colours. And trust a boss in his annual performance review against the former employers, to have a score to wipe out. After all, it’s a battle to settle Chinnaswamy’s ownership.