December 17, 2009

India

The day of the goat-punchers

Andrew Hughes


Harbhajan and Praveen Kumar in the happy days before they moved on to assaulting farmyard animals © AFP
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Well done India, bad luck Sri Lanka, and what a riotous bit of fun that was. Tuesday was the great Carnival of the Bat, a day-long festival in which anyone answering to the description of willow wielder was given the freedom of Rajkot. No request was denied, no whim unsatisfied. Every lunge, swing, dabble, poke and swipe was rewarded with a quartet of runs, sometimes more.

It was frantic, it was silly, it was sport on fast-forward, hyper cricket. At times it appeared that the whole ground had been turned into one of those amusement arcade games, as the batsmen kept pinging the boundary boards in pursuit of ever higher scores, like they were playing pinball.

As well as being thumpingly good television, the fact that the ball sailed so often through the air meant that we were afforded regular glimpses of the pleasing white buildings and trees of Rajkot. We also got a close-up of a poor, battered, greenish-white object nestling on the patterned shamiana. I felt sorry for that ball. I hoped someone would pick it up and hide it away in a darkened room so it could have a rest.

One or two fielders might have wished for the same thing. In an enterprising piece of captaincy, Dhoni had set a short point to Upul Tharanga. Praveen Kumar bowled the perfect ball, just back of a length. Tharanga obligingly fended it towards the recently placed fielder, ever so gently. And plop, Virat Kohli dropped it.

The commentators came rushing in with an explanation, the same explanation, in fact, that had been waved around a lot last week and was starting to look a bit tatty. Kohli, they explained, like Yuvraj Singh and many others before him, was surprised that the ball hadn’t arrived more quickly. I have to question this. As a hopeless fielder myself, I can empathise. But was it really surprise that proved Kohli’s undoing?

Let’s employ an analogy. You’re at your table, waiting for the soup to arrive. After an hour or so, the waiter hoves into view. As he reaches the table, you, unable to bear the tension any longer, make a lunge for the soup dish. “Sorry,” you mutter, sheepishly, “I was surprised.” At the next table, Sunil Gavaskar surveys the wreckage of shattered porcelain and scalded toes and nods sympathetically.

Still, I rather like Kohli. He bats pugnaciously, which is cricket shorthand for being short and aggressive. He seems to have more spirit than some of his rivals, and I can see him overtaking Suresh Raina in the queue for Rahul’s dressing room seat.

Raina, meanwhile, is the victim of persistent rudeness. We all know he struggles with the short ball, but it is the height of bad manners to continue to press him on the subject. Let the man have some privacy, please. But no, every time he approaches the crease, every medium-paced chancer believes himself Thomson incarnate. Net practice is clearly not enough to cure this problem. I suggest that Gary Kirsten arranges for all the doorframes in Raina’s house to be lowered by two feet and “Duck!” be painted onto the inside of his shades as a reminder.

Then there were The Men Who Beat Up Goats. Praveen started it. Having finally persuaded Kumar Sangakkara to commit an indiscretion, PK clenched both fists and roared. But the moment demanded more than a roaring double-clencher. So he took out his pent-up frustration by punching an invisible goat. A few balls later, Harbhajan fooled Dilshan and the Turbanator dealt the imaginary quadraped a fearful round-arm pummelling. It must have been a goat because it was too high for a sheep and too low for a horse. I expect a complaint from the Invisible Goat Protection League is on its way.

And finally, a word on the continuing fish-out-of-water flounderings of Mr Sanath Jayasuriya. The old boy seems determined to bring his batting average down to a more reasonable level so that future generations of hard-hitting Sri Lankan openers won’t feel so overshadowed; which is jolly decent of him. But short of painting “RETIRE” on the outfield in big white letters, it seems that nothing can persuade him to take his dignity and shuffle off into the hall of legends. On Tuesday he was down the order. It made no difference. An excess of footwork, an optimistic forward sally and an inability to locate the white leathery thing, and the old man of the sea was wading back to shore again, looking more rueful than a rue-salesman returning from a slow day at market.

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Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by ASHOK SHETTY on (December 19, 2009, 8:49 GMT)

BCCI not botherd about Cricket they just want make money.making 100 in indian pitches equl to 25 runs in Austreliya,nz england and SA pitches.BCCI now only thinking about IPL.

Posted by Mel on (December 18, 2009, 18:45 GMT)

That comment on Raina reminds me of Ganguly, ouch!!!

Posted by rick on (December 18, 2009, 18:21 GMT)

as always entertaining work.

//Raina, meanwhile, is the victim of persistent rudeness. We all know he struggles with the short ball, but it is the height of bad manners to continue to press him on the subject. Let the man have some privacy, please. But no, every time he approaches the crease, every medium-paced chancer believes himself Thomson incarnate.//

...ROTL

Posted by RB on (December 18, 2009, 18:14 GMT)

So when Aus and SA do it, it is an epic for the ages. But when Ind Srl are at it, it becomes an object of ridicule.

Posted by gmsj on (December 18, 2009, 11:59 GMT)

i think its being forgotten here that Sanath has always comeback in a big way whenever he was written off. Who knows! this series could be his swansong..

Posted by Nikhil Dhar on (December 18, 2009, 5:42 GMT)

The soup analogy... absolutely brilliant! Had me snorting helplessly in office.

Posted by Mohammed F. Ifticardeen on (December 18, 2009, 2:59 GMT)

To me, Andrew tends to go overboard with his humor that it doesnt become funny anymore, to me at least (sorry Andy), but I actually enjoyed this piece. And though i am Lankan and a great fan of Sanath, i too think it is time he retired from the game (actually, he should have done this some time ago. He is past his prime...)

Posted by Shehan on (December 18, 2009, 2:25 GMT)

I kinda have to agree what you said about Sanath Jayasuriya.. but then again, he was asked to do something he isnt used to after 15 years of opening the batting.. Spinners have never been Jayasuriya's strong point. Only after he rips apart the quicks does he do well later on..

But yes that time of retiring is nearing.. and I really hope he does pull up his pride, take in a deep breath and throw in the towel.. But with Jayasuriya, as always, you would never know what to expect!

Posted by Private Praveen on (December 18, 2009, 0:15 GMT)

There should be a statutory warning before games begin in India which says "No Bowlers or invisible animals were harmed during the making of this match".Good one Andrew

Posted by Private Praveen on (December 18, 2009, 0:13 GMT)

There should be a statutory warning before games begin in India which says "No Bowlers or invisible animals were harmed during the making of this match".Good one Andrew

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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