IPL April 25, 2009

The view from Old Blighty - 2

The nadir was reached on Thursday

From Andrew Hughes, United Kingdom

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.