The wait to see West Indian six-machine Chris Gayle strut his stuff was not his franchise Rangpur Riders' alone but also of all cricket lovers who turned up and tuned in for the sixth edition of the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL). Disappointingly, with yesterday's five-wicket defeat to Dhaka Dynamites being Rangpur's last match of the season, that wait remained unfulfilled.
Gayle is the ultimate commodity in T20 cricket and the expectation for him to finally come good -- as he did in last edition's final after a disappointing season with a thumping hundred in the final against Dhaka -- was almost tangible in the lead-up to yesterday's second qualifier.
The self-proclaimed 'Universe Boss' was unable to display his irrepressible prowess throughout the season -- the Jamaican left-hander has managed to score just 203 runs in 12 games with just one fifty and an uncharacteristically low strike rate of 106.84, as opposed to a career strike rate of 147.18. There were also concerns over his fitness as Gayle never looked comfortable even while batting, and also became a liability as a fielder.
In the previous season Gayle was not very successful initially, before he struck hundreds in the Eliminator, which was followed by another blistering hundred in the final to help clinch the title for Rangpur. Those feats only served to heighten expectations.
The likes of South African superstar AB de Villiers, English batsman Alex Hales and even Rilee Rossouw played their parts for Rangpur, each striking a hundred at crucial moments this season. The first two left before the playoff stage and Gayle's continued failures proved costly for the defending champions.
Yesterday, Gayle was cautious at the start as he faced eight balls to score two runs before finally launching a straight six off his fellow Jamaican Andre Russell in the third over.
He struck another six off the last ball of the over -- a flat one over cover, indicating that the big occasion may finally bring the best out of him.
But just when the crowd started to anticipate a flurry of sixes, the left-hander disappointed the jam-packed Mirpur crowd as he was caught behind for a 13-ball 15 while trying to run down a length delivery from Rubel Hossain.
Since the departure of the big man Rangpur lost momentum and were eventually bundled out for a modest 142, which was never enough against a star-studded Dhaka batting line-up.
Most of the big names in this seasons' BPL -- Steve Smith, David Warner, Keiron Pollard, Andre Russell, de Villiers and Hales -- were able to make their mark in the tournament in some way or other, but it seemed a poorer tournament because the biggest name of all failed to set the stage alight as only he can.