April 25, 2009

IPL

The view from Old Blighty - 2

Cricinfo

From Andrew Hughes, United Kingdom

Andrew Flintoff latches on to a catch at the boundary, Chennai Super Kings v Delhi Daredevils, IPL, 9th match, Durban, April 23, 2009
 © AFP
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Yesterday was a traumatic day for me, the first on which I have been unable to watch any IPL action. It happens to all of us, of course. However much we commit to a sporting event, sooner or later, we are always unfaithful, even if it’s only to nip into the kitchen to make a cup of tea (which is how I missed the very first ball of the opening game). But having tried life without Shilpa, Shane and Sunny, I didn’t like it.

Because, after a little coy toe-dipping and nervous anticipation, the IPL has finally plunged, carefree as a love-struck hippo, into the televisual waters of fate. (This is a metaphor. More accurately, it is a bad metaphor, of which more later). Week one has brought us balls bouncing from skulls, foul-mouthed Bollywood goddesses, fugitive dogs and lots of dancing. On occasions, a cricket match has broken out.

And in order to do justice to this spectacle, the commentators have clearly been told to up their game. There has been a marked increase in punnery; a run on similies and a veritable boom in witty badinage. Jeremy Coney led the way. A Hayden lob to mid-on was described as, “a chip shot...but not a blue chip shot.” In the background, Mark Nicholas and Harsha Bogle spontaneously combusted with mirth.

And though obliged to grasp the corporate nettle with both greasy palms, they have at least tried to minimise the pain with some brain-numbing grammatical gymnastics. Thus we have had DLF as a unit of measurement (“That didn’t register on the DLF scale,”) an abstract noun expressing a quality (“That had DLF written all over it!”), a verb in the past tense (“That’s the first time that Kumble’s been DLFed!”) and as an interjected synonym for a six, (That’s a DLFer!”).

There are some cricket matters though, that continue to stump the imaginations of Gavaskar and Co. In particular, the booth-dwellers seem unable to get past their fascination with Andrew Flintoff’s hands. It appears that he doesn’t have normal hands, like you or I. He has buckets. His hands are like buckets. He has bucket hands. So often is the word bucket used in conjunction with pictures of Freddie that I am unable to think of the one without the other. Last night I dreamt of a film called ‘Freddie Buckethands’ in which the England allrounder, unable to reintegrate into society after his stint in the IPL, exists as a lonely outcast until he finds his true calling as a sandcastle builder at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua.

Of course, dear reader, Freddie doesn’t really have big red plastic containers attached to his wrists. It’s a metaphor, see. Tricky blighters though, metaphors. They tire easily. And rather like Praveen Kumar, they aren’t at their best when bashed repeatedly over the head. I understand that social workers concerned for the health and well-being of this particular figure of speech are flying out to South Africa this weekend to interview Robin Jackman.

But with the endless whirl of thrills and spills comes a certain amount of disorientation. I am struggling particularly to come to terms with the dumbing-down of Jeremy Coney. Once a be-suited, occasionally sardonic but always compelling studio guest on Sky, his transfer to the IPL seems to have necessitated the fitting of a brain implant, via which he can be transformed into a performing clown at the flip of a switch.

The nadir was reached on Thursday. There was Coney, pitchside. Three Chennai cheerleaders stood in front of him. You couldn’t look. Like David Lloyd being asked to review Les Folies Bergere, you knew there was no way this could end well. A little light banter to start with. “How long have you been dancing?” he asked the stationary blondes, who to their credit resisted the temptation to say, “We’re not dancing, we’re talking to you.” With that, the conversational well dried up. There was only one place for the interview to go. Don’t dance, Jeremy, we screamed. To no avail. The camera lingered on the twitching, gurning Coney for just long enough to frame his humiliation. Somewhere across the Tasman Sea, a nation covered its eyes.

But he wasn’t done yet. He popped up again in a control room somewhere high in the stands, to tell us about a camera. This was no ordinary camera. Oh well, alright, it was, but still, it took two men to operate it. Jeremy, adrenalin still pumping, squeezed between the two understandably alarmed men. “Can you make it go blurry?” he asked, jumping up and down like a five year old full of fizzy pop. “Yes we can,” replied the Obama of camera operatives. The screen blurred, mercifully.

This disorientation extended beyond the electronic frontiers of the IPL. At one point last weekend, I found myself watching county cricket. I forget the teams involved. Come to think of it, I can’t recall which competition it was or where the game was taking place. I do remember a sleepy, droning Nasser Hussain; the low hum of distant traffic echoing across rows of empty seats and the sound of someone snoring.

Next thing I knew, it was Monday afternoon and I was waking up on my sofa. I only had myself to blame. Last year, my doctor had advised me against watching county cricket whilst operating a laptop and I had foolishly ignored his advice. So remember, kids, if someone sidles up to you in the playground and offers you free tickets to Northamptonshire versus Gloucestershire in the Sleepy-Time No-One-Gives-A-Toss Charity Knock Out Shield, just say no.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Roy on (May 6, 2009, 9:46 GMT)

Another citi moment for Jeremy was when he asked the Obama of camera to glide the machine along the ground for an aerial view, but the man simply refused to do it. Jeremy kept on asking him to show off the technology, but the camera stayed put!

Posted by sampath on (May 5, 2009, 16:40 GMT)

Andrew keep writing. If only your countrymen had half as much cricketing skills as all of your article writing abilities you would be on top of the cricketing world. People who interpret your writing as anti-IPL are mixing you up with some of your past cricketers turned mediamen! You are doing great.

Posted by Sid on (May 5, 2009, 7:50 GMT)

Hahaha, chestnutgray. Make me think of phrases involving nails being hit on heads. Ravi Shastri makes me want to tear out my own innards. That air of awesome confidence in his pathetic oratory, the shameless bumbling sycophantic delivery announcing the sponsors, ohh the horror. The worst part is that he really thinks he's slick. And before you lame patriots try and crucify me, yea I'm Indian, so best of luck with telling my I'm jealous of "former colonies".

Posted by S Ashwin on (May 4, 2009, 1:59 GMT)

Awesome Stuff Andrew! The first few days, I din;t follow much of the IPL, but now can't keep my eyes of it.

Also, I can't believe people are on Ravi Sashtri's and SMG's case while we have, who in my opinion is the WORST commentator ever... Lakshman Sivaramakrishnan. Today he was out mingling with the crowd and playing the fool instead! Don't production houses monitor blogs/cric info to get feedback on what people are thinking? Sivaramakrishnan's been at it for years!! I must have high BP solely because of Sivaramakrishnan and another friend of his, viewers of broadcasts in India will recognize: Maninder Singh

Posted by Rohit on (May 1, 2009, 11:33 GMT)

hahahahaha...hilarious.. loved the county bit in the end..

Posted by marees on (April 30, 2009, 21:23 GMT)

the point about the bucket hands, is that Flintoff is one of the rare players in IPL not to miss any skiers or low catches or any catch in fact. By repeating the accolade commentators stress on his consistent dependability contrasted against the bumbling inconsistent efforts of most players (except a few like AB De Villiers and Hayden)

Posted by sumit on (April 28, 2009, 8:27 GMT)

I can't believe how many people here are telling Andrew to shove it because he doesn't like the commentary!!

The fact that he is enjoying the IPL is evident - he is one of the few english writers I have read so far who are not embarrassed about lapping up the entertainment (and dissing the county game, while he's at it).

So, to attack him him just because he doesn't like the IPL commentary is not on! Especially since the commentary is universally acknowledged as a bucket of puke.

Shouldn't you be cribbing about things you don't like within things things you like? I think Andrew by virtue of not behaving like a cricketing snob has a ticket to ride..

Posted by chestnutgray on (April 28, 2009, 6:57 GMT)

The thing with Ravi Shastri is that at any given point of time in any match, you know exactly what he's going to say: "just what the doctor ordered" "tracer bullet" "tall man" etc.

Posted by mani on (April 28, 2009, 1:29 GMT)

Don't you look @ your remote controls ? There are buttons labelled "- VOL +" and "- CH +" and "MUTE". When commentary gets horrible (which it does, no doubt), either turn down the volume, or press mute. If still bad, change channel.. ; ipl commentary is BAD, but the t20 deal is good for cricket and fans, (once in a while - becuase 80% of time it is gambling and ends up as no context, only 20% time we have a tight match, just like the one with super over).

Posted by Andrew Hughes on (April 26, 2009, 10:35 GMT)

Thanks everyone for the comments. I must say I am surprised that anyone can interpret what I wrote as anti-IPL. And as for anti-Indian, well that is just absurd. Is it not possible these days to be a cricket lover, without having being labelled as pro-this or anti-that? I am enjoying the IPL. I am even enjoying the commentary, in a strangely warped way.

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