Champions League 2009 October 18, 2009



The scoop: when it finally came, it didn’t come off © Getty Images

Jimi Hendrix first set light to his guitar at the end of a gig in March 1967. The crowd loved it so much he started to do it regularly. It soon became such a part of his act that if he didn’t take a cigarette lighter to his Stratocaster, the paying public felt short-changed. Now maybe it is the wild hair, the earring or the outrageous talent, but Tillakaratne Dilshan is starting to remind me of Hendrix. Yes, yes, yes, we were all thinking, as he nudged and tapped his first few balls around today, that’s all very well, but when’s he going to do the funny down-on-one-knee scoopy thingy? That’s what we’ve paid our money for. But when he finally pulled out the party piece, it proved his undoing. So is he going to feel obliged to do it every time? Or could he come up with another gimmick to trump the Scoop? Maybe he could set fire to his bat?

Dilshan couldn’t save Delhi yesterday and nor could Virender Sehwag, despite some trademark carnage, which, as ever, was either going to end in a new batting record or a catch on the boundary. After 47 effortless runs, he holed out, and so the sole remaining IPL franchise crashed out of the Champions League.

In fact, the evening game was something of a cricketing Götterdämmerung in which the last two Indian teams failed to do the sensible thing, instead taking one another down like two stubborn elephants squabbling over a bag of peanuts whilst the rope bridge they are both standing on starts to fray.

It may have come as a surprise to the cynically minded, but it appeared that Bangalore really wanted to win, despite having been effectively dumped out of the tournament by Victoria’s defeat earlier in the day. Little Roelof van der Merwe spent most of his time in the field either covering his face with his hands in disbelief or roaring like a 10-year-old doing his fiercest African lion impression. A made-up team? Only in it for the money? Don’t you believe it.

The afternoon match was a more frenetic event. Maybe it was the delayed start, the fewer overs, the doubts over the team line-ups, or the two wickets in the first over, but I soon felt exhausted. It was like one of those mornings when you are late for work, the phone is ringing, you can’t find your keys and everything is a rush. For three-quarters of the 33 overs it was a thunderous, ugly but exhilarating tussle. The Cobras won and were the better team, but somehow Victoria made more of an impression. There is nothing half-hearted about them. They bat like butchers playing golf and in Peter Siddle and Shane Harwood they have two red-blooded and slightly frightening grunters.

And a word about the crowd. The warmth, excitement and sheer noise generated by those attending at the Chinnaswamy Stadium made this the best day’s viewing of the tournament thus far for the armchair cricket connoisseur. The festival exuberance, the fireworks and the chanting for Sehwag and for birthday boy Kumble turned the occasion into an intoxicating blend of carnival and political rally. It was quite a show. Let’s hope next Friday’s final can match it.

Happy Diwali. And Happy Birthday Jumbo.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England