August 4, 2010

A spy, a travesty, a blanket for Shastri

More musings and observations from the last few days gone by

Friday 30th July Breathe a long, deep sigh of relief, crack open a bottle of champagne or offer a prayer of thanks to the appropriate deity; the second Test in Colombo is over! I didn’t see the game myself, although I hear there was one man in a village somewhere near Kandy who watched every ball on television but was struck dumb shortly after tea on the third day and has not been able to speak since.

I wonder what the ICC pitch report for this game will say? Day One: Flat. Day Two: Flat. Day Three: Flat, hint of turn. Day Four: Flat. Day Five: Enormous cracks. Ball turned square. (Just kidding. It was flat.) Yet whatever the report says, you can be sure that no sanctions will follow. We may, therefore, have to take matters into our own hands. I suggest strapping the groundsman into a slightly uncomfortable plastic chair, without a cushion, and forcing him to watch the whole thing again. Twice.

Sunday 1st August England have another Antipodean bowling “coach”, no doubt planted at the ECB by the Australian Secret Service. He has been busy ingratiating himself with the English bowlers, compiling a dossier on their weaknesses (embarrassing school nicknames, food allergies, where Stuart Broad is most ticklish). When the team arrives down under, he will defect to the motherland and hand over his secrets to Cricket Australia. Just like the other guy. (I mean, what kind of name is Troy? Clearly a spy.)

There were subtle clues for those of us eagle-eyed viewers who get twitchy about the old enemy during an Ashes year. For a start, when interviewed by Nasser Hussain this morning, Coach “Saker” seemed reluctant to talk about coaching. Suspicious. When asked who he wanted to win the Ashes, he said “England”, far, far too quickly. And then he claimed that he had been “upskilling” the English bowlers. This appears to be just harmless gibberish, but I suspect it to be some kind of code word that only his handlers back in Melbourne can decipher. He has to be stopped.

Monday 2nd August Today I managed to catch highlights of the weekend’s Caribbean climax. It was a sweaty, drizzly, nervy affair. Barbados first gave the game to Guyana. Guyana had it for a while, but didn’t really know what to do with it, so gave it back. Barbados found themselves with the prize, but polite to a fault, returned it to the men in green, just as the music stopped. With two needed from two balls, Big Benn fumbled around at mid-on as though he were trying to catch an oiled-up frog, and Guyana celebrated.

Teenager of the match and the tournament was Jonathan Foo, the only batsman who played like it was a Twenty20 game, levering long-limbed sixes and fours with a wristy flourish. A few years back, his career would have involved rapid promotion to the West Indian team, failure, re-selection, failure, re-selection and so on, until retiring with an average of 25. At least these days, thanks to the IPL, he might make a few dollars along the way.

Tuesday 3rd August Diminutive genius Sachin Tendulkar has asked for advertising hoardings above one of the sightscreens at the P Saravanamuttu Oval to be covered up. This is a good thing. I’m all for the covering up of distracting adverts. I’d suggest that during the next IPL someone could throw a blanket over Ravi Shastri, so viewers can concentrate on the game. Still, Sachin’s request might not have been successful if it had come from a lesser player. I believe that when Mohammad Ashraful made a similar request during the 2007 tour, he was told to wear higher shoes.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England