November 21, 2009

Sachin Tentacles, Michael Apathy and scenes from Ahmedabad

 


Bob Willis (right): a thrilling prospect in store for those who eat all their vegetables during the South Africa-England series © Cricinfo Ltd
 

In a world of fast-food cricket, there is something just so about the menu for England’s tour of South Africa. First up was a serving of Twenty20 bites, a frivolous snack to pick at while everyone settled into the affair; then comes a modest portion or two of the 50-over stuff, followed by the main course: a big, fat, filling Test series with lashings of hot controversy and helpings of steamy tension, and the extended postprandials, including victory cigars, a selection of hard cheeses and bitter grapes and, if we are particularly blessed, a pungent slice or two of Bob Willis. Gosh, I am hungry! Excuse me while I pay a visit to the pantry.

Ah, that’s better. Sadly, I missed one of the Twenty20 appetizers as I was making my biannual pilgrimage to the WG Grace Memorial Rest Home in order to pay obeisance to my great aunt. She isn’t as up to date in matters cricket as she should be, a state of ignorance that can be partly ascribed to the fact that she is currently the only person on the planet legally constrained from taking out a satellite subscription, following a particularly belligerent letter to the Sky Studio. In her defence, I must say that David Lloyd’s slacks were distressingly beige and that a man who treads such a fine line sartorially must expect to receive a death threat or two during the course of his working day.

As ever, she was anxious to hear the latest news. I explained to her that the great Sachin Tendulkar was approaching 30,000 international runs. She absorbed this information with great solemnity, nodding several times.

“He reminds me of your grandfather,” she opined, definitively, taking a healthy gulp of her gin.

“Are you sure about that?” I asked, concerned that the oldest surviving member of the Hughes dynasty might be a legspinner short of a balanced attack.

“Oh yes. They could have been twins. Apart from the eye patch and the false leg, Sebastian was the spitting image of your Mr Tentacles.”

“Tendulkar,” I corrected her.

“Yes, that’s what I said. In any case, 30,000 isn’t all that many.”

“Well it sounds like an awful lot to me.”

“Nonsense. Your grandfather could have done that, if it weren’t for the Great War.”

“Grandfather was born in 1936.”

“Yes, but it upset him terribly when he read about it.”

The visit continued in a similar vein, though, as ever, I had to be careful not to mention anything relating to Twenty20, lest she suffered another of her turns. Unfortunately, against medical advice, she had been reading the Times, and inspired by an article by that nice young man, Michael Apathy, who had once been something or other with England, she had taken matters into her own hands. Her contention was that modern cricketers are lily-livered, weak-kneed invertebrates, and that any run scored before the invention of the athletic support was worth two of our modern runs. She had therefore taken her fountain pen to every one of her Wisdens, all of which now show one DG Bradman topping the Test averages with an impressive 199.89, a figure that I have to say is unlikely to be surpassed, even by the prolific Mr Tentacles.

I returned home in time to catch some of the first Test from Ahmedabad. The game had not yet died at that point and there were some memorable passages of play. I was particularly impressed by Ishant’s slower ball to Jayawardene a little while before tea on the third day. Time seemed to stand still as the ball followed its lazy, mesmeric trajectory, as though the laws of the universe had conspired to bring about a slow-motion effect. We caught our breath momentarily. Would Mahela spot it? Naturally he did, for at his best he is the kind of delicate, precise batsman who could probably carry out open-heart surgery with his blade.

These moments may occur in other forms of the game, of course, but they flit away from you. Test cricket invites reflection; it is the ultimate luxury sporting spectacle, displaying all the haphazard rhythms of real life. Unfortunately, as we all know, whilst real life can indeed have its heart-stopping seconds of passion, it also includes a certain amount of grocery shopping, toenail clipping and snoring. Lets hope that Kanpur next week offers us a few more thrills and a little less somnolence.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • nick on November 24, 2009, 19:29 GMT

    Great read! T20 is fun and all, but it is getting frustrating with all the batsmen (irrespective of team /nationality / age) clearing the front foot and taking a ugly swipe across the mid wicket. Thankfully watching the Great Wall's 177 - punctuated by footwork,balance, transfer of body weight, turning of shoulders, flick of wrists offered lot to the fans of unadulterated cricket.

    Technically sound batsmen are fast becoming extincts.

  • Hemant Gandhi on November 24, 2009, 18:42 GMT

    Wait a minute...a slower one from Ishant? I thought his faster one is more noticable and bowled as a 'change', once in a while...no wonder Mahela had no problems playing the 'normal' one.......superb article....

  • sridhar on November 21, 2009, 14:27 GMT

    who is that grandfather of yours...

    and, banks, captain of Marin CC, that ground is too small to hit an odd six or 2 :))

  • Ralahulela on November 21, 2009, 13:58 GMT

    From subtle humor to incredible parallels..Great read..want more..

  • Manoj Sharma on November 21, 2009, 12:00 GMT

    Article was very absorbing. I specially liked the way Andrew described the feelings when a slower one was bowled by Ishant....We all remember some shot or bowling action-whether weird or unique from whatevr cricket we have seen since boyhood, and retain it in our memories.

  • Alex on November 21, 2009, 10:02 GMT

    I take it you didn't like The Ath's column on Thursday then Andrew...

  • Bingo Haley on November 21, 2009, 9:09 GMT

    Droll! The parallels between the Ahmedabad test and some of life's unavoidable turns which take you to "toenail clipping and snoring" is inspired!

  • Michael Banks on November 21, 2009, 8:38 GMT

    Very cool article Andrew - desert dry and subtle humor, very subtle and funny. I have been living in SF CA for 20 years now and enjoy being reminded that the English possess the finest and unparalelled gift for absurdist humor on the planet.

    Yours truly Michael Banks, captain of Marin CC and still hitting the odd six here and there

  • peter casie chetty on November 21, 2009, 6:45 GMT

    Those grand old ladies! What would we be without them. Mahela and a lot of our Sri Lankan cricketers were schooled in two of the biggest and best Buddhist institutions. Ananda and Nalanda. Had it not been for the American Missionary Col. Ollcott men like Arjuna Ranatunga, Marvan Atapattu, Bandula Waranapura in short 75% of them did not come from the British built schools that provided cricketers when the army was a ceremonial one and the National team played friendlies. So thanks to an American the Sri lankan team is up there!

  • nick on November 24, 2009, 19:29 GMT

    Great read! T20 is fun and all, but it is getting frustrating with all the batsmen (irrespective of team /nationality / age) clearing the front foot and taking a ugly swipe across the mid wicket. Thankfully watching the Great Wall's 177 - punctuated by footwork,balance, transfer of body weight, turning of shoulders, flick of wrists offered lot to the fans of unadulterated cricket.

    Technically sound batsmen are fast becoming extincts.

  • Hemant Gandhi on November 24, 2009, 18:42 GMT

    Wait a minute...a slower one from Ishant? I thought his faster one is more noticable and bowled as a 'change', once in a while...no wonder Mahela had no problems playing the 'normal' one.......superb article....

  • sridhar on November 21, 2009, 14:27 GMT

    who is that grandfather of yours...

    and, banks, captain of Marin CC, that ground is too small to hit an odd six or 2 :))

  • Ralahulela on November 21, 2009, 13:58 GMT

    From subtle humor to incredible parallels..Great read..want more..

  • Manoj Sharma on November 21, 2009, 12:00 GMT

    Article was very absorbing. I specially liked the way Andrew described the feelings when a slower one was bowled by Ishant....We all remember some shot or bowling action-whether weird or unique from whatevr cricket we have seen since boyhood, and retain it in our memories.

  • Alex on November 21, 2009, 10:02 GMT

    I take it you didn't like The Ath's column on Thursday then Andrew...

  • Bingo Haley on November 21, 2009, 9:09 GMT

    Droll! The parallels between the Ahmedabad test and some of life's unavoidable turns which take you to "toenail clipping and snoring" is inspired!

  • Michael Banks on November 21, 2009, 8:38 GMT

    Very cool article Andrew - desert dry and subtle humor, very subtle and funny. I have been living in SF CA for 20 years now and enjoy being reminded that the English possess the finest and unparalelled gift for absurdist humor on the planet.

    Yours truly Michael Banks, captain of Marin CC and still hitting the odd six here and there

  • peter casie chetty on November 21, 2009, 6:45 GMT

    Those grand old ladies! What would we be without them. Mahela and a lot of our Sri Lankan cricketers were schooled in two of the biggest and best Buddhist institutions. Ananda and Nalanda. Had it not been for the American Missionary Col. Ollcott men like Arjuna Ranatunga, Marvan Atapattu, Bandula Waranapura in short 75% of them did not come from the British built schools that provided cricketers when the army was a ceremonial one and the National team played friendlies. So thanks to an American the Sri lankan team is up there!

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  • peter casie chetty on November 21, 2009, 6:45 GMT

    Those grand old ladies! What would we be without them. Mahela and a lot of our Sri Lankan cricketers were schooled in two of the biggest and best Buddhist institutions. Ananda and Nalanda. Had it not been for the American Missionary Col. Ollcott men like Arjuna Ranatunga, Marvan Atapattu, Bandula Waranapura in short 75% of them did not come from the British built schools that provided cricketers when the army was a ceremonial one and the National team played friendlies. So thanks to an American the Sri lankan team is up there!

  • Michael Banks on November 21, 2009, 8:38 GMT

    Very cool article Andrew - desert dry and subtle humor, very subtle and funny. I have been living in SF CA for 20 years now and enjoy being reminded that the English possess the finest and unparalelled gift for absurdist humor on the planet.

    Yours truly Michael Banks, captain of Marin CC and still hitting the odd six here and there

  • Bingo Haley on November 21, 2009, 9:09 GMT

    Droll! The parallels between the Ahmedabad test and some of life's unavoidable turns which take you to "toenail clipping and snoring" is inspired!

  • Alex on November 21, 2009, 10:02 GMT

    I take it you didn't like The Ath's column on Thursday then Andrew...

  • Manoj Sharma on November 21, 2009, 12:00 GMT

    Article was very absorbing. I specially liked the way Andrew described the feelings when a slower one was bowled by Ishant....We all remember some shot or bowling action-whether weird or unique from whatevr cricket we have seen since boyhood, and retain it in our memories.

  • Ralahulela on November 21, 2009, 13:58 GMT

    From subtle humor to incredible parallels..Great read..want more..

  • sridhar on November 21, 2009, 14:27 GMT

    who is that grandfather of yours...

    and, banks, captain of Marin CC, that ground is too small to hit an odd six or 2 :))

  • Hemant Gandhi on November 24, 2009, 18:42 GMT

    Wait a minute...a slower one from Ishant? I thought his faster one is more noticable and bowled as a 'change', once in a while...no wonder Mahela had no problems playing the 'normal' one.......superb article....

  • nick on November 24, 2009, 19:29 GMT

    Great read! T20 is fun and all, but it is getting frustrating with all the batsmen (irrespective of team /nationality / age) clearing the front foot and taking a ugly swipe across the mid wicket. Thankfully watching the Great Wall's 177 - punctuated by footwork,balance, transfer of body weight, turning of shoulders, flick of wrists offered lot to the fans of unadulterated cricket.

    Technically sound batsmen are fast becoming extincts.