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The lot of the Indian cricketer is not always an easy one, and on Tuesday they found themselves in a familiarly perilous position. On the one hand, as Ravi Shastri helpfully suggested to the Indian captain, it was imperative that the players should relax and not get too tense about the whole thing. It’s only a game, after all. On the other hand, this was a match that they absolutely had to win! By at least 20 runs.
But for this spectator, much of the tension was removed from the situation due to the prominence given to the words “net”, “run” and “rate”. Now, individually, these are three perfectly honest and dependable words. I feel I know them, I can trust them. But put them together and they become as palatable as a mojito served with tomato juice and a slice of garlic; a cocktail of definitions that somehow doesn’t quite cause the right neurons to fire in the Hughes brain.
I realise, of course, that there will be large numbers of readers spitting out their coffee at this shameless display of mathematical inadequacy, readers for whom calculating the net run rate is as straightforward an affair as brushing one’s teeth or remembering the names of one’s children, but there it is. My name is Andrew and I can’t add up. Admitting you have a problem is the first step, they say.
But for the benefit of those of us for whom maths is a form of torture (I am far from convinced, for example, that the Spanish Inquisition had nothing to do with the invention of quadratic equations) there must be a simpler way to determine which of four identically pointed teams can progress to the next bit of a competition. And, more importantly, this being Twenty20, there must be a solution that is a lot more showbiz.
One obvious method is to give precedence to the team from the country that has the best flag. On the face of it, this would appear to give Sri Lanka an unfair advantage. But we could get round that problem by having the players design their own team flags, thus rewarding the hitherto overlooked cricket skills of needlepoint and cross-stitch. (I understand, for example, that Roelof van der Merwe’s embroidery is the cause of some jealousy in the South African dressing room).
If that’s not your cup of char, we could instead institute Commentary Bingo in which a miked-up Ravi Shastri would stand in the centre of the pitch commentating on highlights of a game replayed on the big screen. Captains would be given little cards on which would be printed a range of well known and loved phrases, such as “Bang!” and “That’s gone!” and “This one could go down to the wire!” The first captain to fill up their bingo card would leap out of his deckchair and shout, “Cliché!”
But if you prefer that the issue be decided in a more athletic fashion, I have come up with the definitive tournament tiebreaker. The deadlocked teams could line up in a relay race over an obstacle course filled with wacky pitfalls. For example, players might have to carry large rubber banknotes across a tank of mud and place them in the pocket of an enormous inflatable tax inspector, or kayak their way across a lake full of custard whilst a man in a Ray Price costume hurls foam swear words at them.
Now that, as chief executives like to say, is cricketainment.
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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. Providing his ransom demands continue to be met, he has promised never to write a whimsical book about village cricket. @hughandrews73