IPL April 24, 2010

Less Lalit, more hot air

The financial controversy in the IPL has meant viewers are denied their daily dose of the Modi and instead get to see more of the blimp

Yo coach, this bat needs some time in the sin bin © Indian Premier League

Earlier in the week, a reader invited me to discuss the unfortunate allegations made against the IPL. I am not qualified to stick my nose into financial matters, so will restrain myself on that score, although I will say that one unforeseen and of course regrettable consequence of the tamasha of the last few days was a significant reduction in Lalit Modi screentime during Thursday’s semi-final, a decline in the televisual value of the Modi that some estimates put as high as 100%.

Instead of the lovely Lalit, we were treated to more views of the blessed blimp (of which more anon) and that towering monument to all that is bling: the IPL trophy. The diamond-studded monstrosity has been hidden away for much of IPL 3, presumably because it might discourage the players, but now that the financial storm clouds are gathering, a tidy solution presents itself. Why not return the trophy to the House of Tat from whence it came for a tidy refund? Let us all hope that Lalit kept the receipt.

The game itself reeked of nervous tension. The pitch at Navi Mumbai demanded a certain amount of digging in, but all the batsmen sooner or later felt compelled to obey the voice in their heads, their inner Sergeant Major, ordering them to charge headlong towards the enemy, no matter how tricky the terrain. Monish Mishra was one of many to do just that and the slow motion replay of his demise was accompanied by an ear-drum popping roar of distorted angst that could be heard in Hyderabad.

And then there were the oldies. No-one can be entirely sure at what point it happens, but somewhere in his mid-thirties, the professional cricketer undergoes a reverse metamorphosis, like a soaring butterfly entering a cocoon to emerge as wrinkly and unspectacular as the rest of us. Matthew Hayden, Herschelle Gibbs and Adam Gilchrist were three of the most thrilling batsmen of their generation. On Thursday they looked like fathers trying to recapture their glory years at a school sports day.

Hayden was all thick edges and mistimed drives. He gave three chances and if Deccan had dropped the third, would no doubt have offered a fourth and a fifth as well. Gibbs meanwhile, wasn’t just batting like a millionaire, but a millionaire intent on squandering his fortune in the shortest possible time. He finally played on to a short wide one that turned out to be not particularly short and not terribly wide. As he left the crease, he shook his head in disbelief, which is a little surprising, given that he’d done something similar on roughly a hundred previous occasions.

And then there was Gilchrist, still at his peak as a keeper, dismissing the bails from the stumps with the alacrity of a glutton slapping away the hand of a fellow diner going for the same éclair. But it is distressing to watch him bat. He lunges and flaps where once he conjured and shocked. As he walked off, he looked disapprovingly at his bat, as though it was a rookie Charger who had let the side down. Twenty20 is the cruellest format and the IPL is no league for old men.

Finally, we all know how exciting the blimp is and that it is imbued with much significance, but is it now alive? With the game swinging Chennai’s way, Ravi Shastri revealed, as the balloon filled our screens for the 94th time, that it might be having a little chuckle, being from Chennai. This got my attention, so I paid closer attention to the bag of hot air (I mean the blimp, don’t be cheeky). I’ve got to be honest, as dirigibles go, it wasn’t particularly chatty. Perhaps it was saving itself for the final. Maybe, if it isn’t too busy, it might like to do a stint in the commentary box?

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England