IPL March 23, 2010

The scream (starring Sanga)

A bloodcurdling cry of despair, hope, challenge and angst brings the IPL thrillingly alive

Kumar Sangakkara reads emotively from Allen Ginsberg’s Howl © Cricinfo Ltd

The IPL is fun, but like any powerful stimulant, it can have side effects. Disorientation is common. We’re into week two now, and to be honest, I’m no longer sure whether the Kings XI Bangalore have already played their home game against Rajasthan Super Kings or whether that was last year. And that’s not all. Last week I felt a powerful urge to bang my head against the wall during a Morne Morkel over, and I find that the sight of a Chennai Super Kings shirt can induce nausea.

But on Sunday I experienced an entirely new IPL sensation: cold, naked fear.

It came during the 18th over of Chennai’s interminable, comic and ultimately futile run-chase. Piyush Chawla had outfoxed big Manpreet Gony with a sneaky googly. The grubby white ball thwacked into a canary yellow pad. And from his ideal vantage point behind Gony’s bottom, the Punjab keeper-captain produced a bloodcurdling wail. It went something like this:

“Aaaarghaaarghaaarghaaaarghaaargh!” (Pause) “Aaaarrghaaaarghaaaargh!”

I fell off my sofa. From the flat below I heard the tinkle of breaking porcelain as my elderly neighbour lost her first tea cups of IPL 2010. From the conifers outside my window, startled pigeons flew skywards in panic, and all across India wild animals lifted their heads at the strange cry. It wasn’t so much an appeal as an unnerving howl of existential despair. With a bit of jumping up and down thrown in for effect.

I am an Englishman and so naturally my first thought after I had picked myself up off the carpet was to write a stiff letter of complaint to someone. Addressing my missive to “K Sangakkara Esq, Captain, Kings XI Punjab, The IPL,” I pointed out that with his legal training, he should be fully aware of the implications of Law 27.4, which states that an appeal in the form, “How’s that?” shall suffice. Since the mangled collection of sounds he emitted on Sunday afternoon contained only one of the letters from “How’s that,” it did not constitute a legally satisfactory appeal. So the umpire could not have given Gony out, even if he was. Which, admittedly, he might have been.

The only good thing to come out of this moment of heart-stopping terror was that I now have a third IPL ringtone with which to annoy people on the train. At the sound of Sangakkara’s howl on Monday morning, several passengers ducked under their tables, whilst the ticket collector leapt from the carriage and was last seen rolling down a grassy embankment with his hands over his ears. I will alternate this ringtone with Danny Morrison declaring, “The Phone. Is Ringing!” (you need to do the accent) or possibly Ravi Shastri yelling “Can you hear me, Mumbai?”

Actually, Ravi had been in an informative mood on Sunday. He revealed that the Mongoose is called the Mongoose because, like a mongoose, it is small and ferocious. This puzzled me a little. The Mongoose is woody, lumpy, and no doubt it can give you a nasty bruise if you drop it on your foot. But to my knowledge wood lacks the capacity for ferocity, no matter how much you insult it. Even those talking trees in The Lord Of The Rings weren’t particularly ferocious. Disgruntled, certainly, but I’d put it no stronger than that.

Anyway, it would have been more entertaining, and possibly more effective, if the former Aussie biffer had got himself a real live mongoose and led it out to the wicket with him, presumably on a Chennai Super Kings official lead and collar. And it would have fitted with the strangeness of the game. Chennai seemed not to want to win, whilst Punjab once again only started playing when the odds were stacked against them. As a plot for a Bollywood film, it’s solid. As a gameplan, it has flaws.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England