February 23, 2011

Can we have the real Pakistan, please?

What’s going on with all the harmony, discipline and focus?

Saturday, 19th February Shahid Afridi thinks that Pakistan are dangerous. I disagree. A tamer set of green-clad cricketers you will rarely see. Shoaib Akhtar is an ageing rockstar, Younis Khan and Misbah ul-Haq are as sensible as a stout pair of brogues and even the captain is on his best behaviour. They’re about as dangerous as a Sunday afternoon in Bournemouth. And frankly, all this harmony, discipline and focus is dull, dull, dull; we get more than enough of that from the other teams. Loosen up, Shahid, and do something silly!

Monday, 21st February As a species we have achieved much. We have travelled to the moon, carved railways through the sides of mountains, discovered supersonic travel, and eliminated the need to take two bottles into the shower. And yet it appears that, given 2000 years’ practice, four years’ notice, a potential audience of a billion and pots of money, we are still unable to satisfactorily arrange an efficient method of ensuring sufficient people gain entrance to a sporting event in exchange for a small fee.

The range of ways the authorities have found to deter people from attending World Cup games is impressive. Set up websites to handle public demand that then crash due to public demand. Refuse to tell anyone where they can buy a ticket. Don’t advertise where the games are happening until the last minute, like illegal parties. And, thanks to a suggestion from the Mumbai CA’s marketing consultant, a Mr Wonka, the public allocation of 10 golden tickets for the final have been hidden in bars of chocolate to be sold in sweet shops throughout India.

Tuesday, 22nd February I don’t agree with this idea that Associate Members are cluttering up the World Cup. For one thing, it is a dangerous precedent to start excluding teams from competitions on the grounds that they haven’t got a hope in hell of winning them. Where do you draw the line? If such a rule was in place, England might never play in a World Cup again. Ditto New Zealand and West Indies. A few years from now, we could be looking at a tournament featuring just India, Sri Lanka and South Africa. Which might be better, but rather misses the point.

Anyway, you don’t always need a close game to be entertained. Today’s match, for example, had everything. There was an impressive display of formation politeness (“Would you like to catch the ball?” “No sir, I couldn’t, possibly. After you.” “No, you go, I insist”) a coconut shy in the covers, some hilarious clowning around on the boundary, and a lovely rendition of the traditional “Four Men in the Circle” dance. All that was missing were the silly hats, tinkly ankle bells and waving handkerchiefs. This troupe of English folk dancers are sure to be a hit on their six-date Indian tour.

And there was KP, continuing with his tradition of celebrating left-arm spinners. As heroic flaws go, this helplessness in the face of a ball heading towards him from a slightly wider angle is baffling. After all, it took a rare glowing green rock from outer space to bring Superman down. Though, to be fair, Clark Kent’s mission was easier: save the world whilst maintaining anonymity. KP has a lot more on his plate. He has to open the innings in the World Cup but doesn’t quite know how. Do they want him to be Kevin Boycott or Kevin Botham? As sportsmen would say, it’s very much swings and roundabouts being a superhero.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England