IPL March 13, 2010

Dr Owais and Mr Shah

The Middlesex batsman's split-personality, VVS Laxman's no-change personality and Mike Haysman's dew-obsessed one were all to be seen on the opening day of the IPL

The manic version of Owais Shah took over halfway into his innings © Getty Images (file photo)
Wing Commander Strauss is not the only English chap to be AWOL for the Bangladeshi campaign. Some of the SKY stalwarts have stayed at home, recharging their batteries after an arduous tour of South African vineyards. So it is something of a B Team of microphone botherers who have travelled to Chittagong. When I turned on today, Bob Willis was grumbling that England had not selected Tredwell and I’ve no doubt, in a parallel universe, another Bob was grumbling that they had selected Tredwell.

I left him to it, because, much as I love a good old English moan today was not the day for negative vibes of any kind. Our clocks have now been reset to IPL Time and as we all know, Emperor Modi permits no frowns in his kingdom. The IPL hype, emitted by hundreds of media outlets, has been building into a kind of barely suppressed scream of anticipation, only audible to bats and accountants, that today reached a crescendo amid fireworks, sequins and the distant sound of Lionel Ritchie.

Now as you may remember, last time round we Britishers were forced to sit through Mr Modi’s circus in the company of Ronnie Irani. That was bad enough. But for a while this year it looked like we would have to spend seven weeks hunched over our computer screens peering at Youtube. Then at the last minute, ITV4 secured the rights and we all breathed a sigh of relief. At last, a proper television channel who could do justice to the biggest cricket tournament on the planet.

Hmmmm. ITV4’s IPL effort is fronted by one of those multi-purpose presenters who appears to have been parachuted into the studio with a copy of “The Dummies Guide To Cricket”. He has Mandira Bedi to help him but she was trying a little too hard. For instance, at one point, with the Knight Riders in trouble, she suggested that Shah Rukh Khan’s decision to change the team colours to purple and gold wasn’t working. I’ll admit that purple doesn’t really bring out the colour of Ganguly’s eyes, but it’s surely too early to write off the new uniforms just yet.

Meanwhile, out on the pitch, Owais Shah appeared determined to bring a touch of the County Championship to the IPL with a sleepy 17 in 27 balls. But rather like the mighty Shiv, the former Delhi Daredevils bench-warmer has a split personality. After marking time for a while, the mild-mannered Dr Owais transformed into wild Mr Shah and promptly went berserk in an un-Middlesex fashion to smash a match-winning half-century that should secure his place in the team for a few more days.

The game itself was a thoroughly entertaining thrash, complete with regulation tight finish and a number of early entries for “Silliest Shot Of The Tournament” as the Deccan Chargers took it turns to see who could get out in the limpest fashion. Watching VVS Laxman play Twenty20 is like asking a Michelin Star chef to prepare cheeseburger and fries. But at least he had a go. The IPL is like a karaoke night. Yes you can look a bit silly, but you have to get into the spirit of the thing.

Finally, I should mention the sterling work done by horticultural expert Mike Haysman. He was very concerned about the possibility of dew and so spent a great deal of time on his knees fondling the turf. Would there be dew? Would there not be dew? Might it already be dewy but we just don’t know it? The viewer was on tenterhooks. He had, on our behalf, been speaking to Murali Kartik, so was able to tell us what happens to a cricket ball when the dew gets involved. Apparently, it gets wet. You see, the IPL doesn’t only entertain; it informs as well.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England