January 12, 2010

Who gives a toss about anything but the toss?

Andrew Hughes


The tri-series: an avant-garde celebration of the essential absurdity of human endeavour © Associated Press
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Some have suggested that the Tri-Nations Tournament in Bangladesh is a less-than-gripping addition to the cricket calendar. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Triangular Extravaganza in Mirpur is an avant-garde celebration of the essential absurdity of human endeavour as seen through the medium of cricket.

Just as the abstractionists once stripped the figurative arts down to bare lines, so the Bangladesh Cricket Board has daringly done away with all that is superfluous in our sport. By insisting on playing the second half of every match in a paddy field, the 50-over game has been reduced to its essence: the toss.

So let’s have no more negative talk about this immensely significant, if ever so slightly damp, competition. I have enjoyed every minute of the Isosceles Cup and I have already planned my schedule for the final on Wednesday:

07:40 Secure my seat in front of the television 07:45 Cheer the arrival of the titles sequence 07:50 Whoop enthusiastically as the captains trudge out to the middle 07:52 Shout ‘Heads!’ or ‘Tails!’ as the mood takes me 07:52 Gaze open-mouthed in suspense as the coin hangs in the air 07:53 Listen intently as Dhoni (or it may be Sangakkara) utters those now familiar words, “I think we’ll have a bowl.” 07:54 Turn off television and go back to bed.

The Hypertridimensional Shield has, in addition to rendering overs 1-100 entirely superfluous, enabled me to watch some players I don’t see enough of. Amit Mishra is a case in point. Of the roughly 27 spinners employed by India during Sunday’s game, Mishra was the only one who caused the ball to rotate on its axis, and after a week of plucky tailenders hanging around forever, it made a pleasant change to see the batting duffers flail about like giraffes in a tar pit.

Skittling out the tail, of course, is part of the game that has gone out of fashion, like gentlemanly conduct or employing wicketkeepers who can catch. Which brings us to the curious case of Akmal, K. We learned this week that during the Sydney Test, the hapless keeper had been kept up nights trying to put his baby to sleep. But slow-motion footage obtained from the team hotel revealed some glaring flaws in his baby-rocking technique, described by Channel 9’s lullaby expert Ian Healy as "pretty ordinary". I’m afraid that the time has come for Mrs Akmal to seriously consider drafting in a replacement babysitter, at least for the remainder of the tour.

As for Kamran’s wicketkeeping, I don’t see what the problem is. I’m with the PCB on this. Five thousand dollars to teach someone to catch would have been an outrageous use of public money, money that could be better spent on desk stationery, name badges, executive trouser presses and the like. If absolutely necessary, I’m sure Ijaz Butt could be prevailed upon to give a demonstration. I mean, how hard can it be? Crouch like a frog, watch the ball, catch it if possible; it’s no big deal. And it’s not as if Kamran is getting the important stuff wrong. His chatter is some of the inanest and most annoying on the international circuit and that’s all you can ask for in a modern keeper.

Anyway, I hope the selectors see sense and retain him for the final Test, because he deserves to feature in the inevitable consolation victory. Yes, you read that correctly. By the strange laws of cricket physics currently affecting the game, it is blatantly obvious that Pakistan are going to triumph in Tasmania. I am as sure as if they were batting second in Dhaka. It’s their turn.

It is a lesson in the new cricket realities that the England management must absorb. I was somewhat dismayed at the weekend to see a twinkly-eyed Geoff Miller breathlessly extolling the virtues of his shiny new cricket team, with its multi-tooled bowling attack and devastating batsmen, reminding me of a 10-year-old boy telling all his friends what Santa had brought him. Long experience teaches us that Christmas Day’s glittery new toy is usually defunct by the time the snow begins to melt.

So delicately poised is the international balance of cricket power these days that for those who think they’ve reached the top, the taxi carrying nemesis is likely to be pulling in even before hubris has stepped onto the pavement. It would be far better, Geoff to describe your boys thus: "I believe England have the part-time batsmen to ensure that a likely defeat can be turned into a draw on a reasonably regular basis." Not sexy, I’ll grant you, but it might just satisfy the cricket gods and stave off the inevitable reversal in Johannesburg.

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Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by Randy from Kandy on (January 14, 2010, 16:35 GMT)

@Rooney.. hahaha.. good one there. But Andrew this article hasn't brought out the best in you I'm afraid. One thing certain about the Mirpur track is that it was a sporting wicket, better than those belters in India. And the dew all but evaporated as teh series progressed, the final was virtually devoid of dew.

Posted by Tallgrass on (January 14, 2010, 16:05 GMT)

Well said chat. Another white is right article. Should have stuck to watching england getting thrashed by south africa instead of sitting up for the trinations.

Posted by Andrew Hughes on (January 14, 2010, 12:52 GMT)

Thanks all for your comments

Chat, I watched the entire game. It was indeed an enjoyable contest. I would hope that you would recognise that my comments on this subject were tongue-in-cheek. I am not (by any stretch of the imagination) a journalist, serious or otherwise. I simply write as I see, as a cricket watcher and hopefully provoke a few chuckles along the way.

I'm not sure why you mention the English county season, given that this is January. If you'd read any of my earlier posts you'd have realised that English county cricket (by and large) bores me rigid. You are undoubtedly correct that there are other venues where winning the toss is vital. But this was not intended to be a global survey of the effect of climactic conditions on day night games.

Posted by Chat on (January 14, 2010, 5:49 GMT)

I hope you did not switch off the TV - because there was no dew! The spinners got grip, and spin, often very sharp. It was a good contest. Besides, why take this issue up only now. I remember world cup matches, far more important, being played in early season wickets in England. Win the toss and put the opposition in and see them collapse against seam bowling, and in the afternoon, it is a walk in the park for the other team. If we are serious about getting fair conditins, we should deal with the issue in a scientific manner, as opposed to the ad-hoc approach of biased journalists. Journalists have a lot of influence in effecting change. But it is unfortunate that they do not use that power wisely.

Posted by Billa on (January 13, 2010, 16:58 GMT)

No way can pakistan win in hobart with their superb fiending. . Pakistan is second only to india as far their fielding is concerned.

Posted by Rooney on (January 13, 2010, 16:46 GMT)

Sangakarra deservedly wins the man of the series award for consistently winning the toss on all 5 games

Posted by Anay on (January 13, 2010, 15:26 GMT)

ha ha...........very funny stuff.it's time india n sl stop playing each other..........

Posted by uday on (January 12, 2010, 21:01 GMT)

'I believe England have the part-time batsmen to ensure that a likely defeat can be turned into a draw on a reasonably regular basis'

hahahah, good stuff, as always

Posted by AG on (January 12, 2010, 19:38 GMT)

I am as sure as if they were batting second in Dhaka. Hillarious...

Posted by Shekhar on (January 12, 2010, 17:12 GMT)

ha! exactly Andrew. Akmal brothers should share the baby sitting responsibilities - the outfield at Mirpur should be trimmed to make it look like the pitch, and players should dive on it to show thier protest against playing the same oposition everyday - england should open with graeme onions in the 4th test, he will really take the shine off the SA new ball on the expected green top.

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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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