World Cup 2011 March 5, 2011

Impromptu cricket matches and an elephant

I arrived in Colombo yesterday to be greeted by (a) my wife and children; (b) more heat than a pasty-skinned Englishman is genetically designed to withstand; and (c) the confirmation that England had definitely lost to Ireland the day before
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I arrived in Colombo yesterday to be greeted by (a) my wife and children; (b) more heat than a pasty-skinned Englishman is genetically designed to withstand; and (c) the confirmation that England had definitely lost to Ireland the day before. Just in case I had not heard the news, immigration officials, taxi drivers and hotel staff were only too willing to inform me that England had definitely lost to Ireland the day before. They conveyed the sad tidings with admirable enthusiasm.

Colombo is a very different place to London. At home, few advertising billboards feature Thilan Samaraweera. Yet. Nor are there multiple impromptu cricket matches taking place in any available space – I saw at least six on the journey in from the airport to the city, which is around 5.99 more than you will see on the average journey into London from Heathrow. Nor is it common in the capital of England to see an elephant in a temple by the side of the road casually munching his afternoon snack and watching the traffic whizz by. As first impressions of a country go, it was an impressive effort by the Tear Drop Island. (Although I acknowledge that, if you absolutely hate cricket and think elephants are a living skewer in the eye for Charles Darwin, you might not have been so impressed.

Aside from the deep feelings of name-jealousy that all British people feel here – is there a single Sri Lankan with a name as dull as Andy? or a single Brit will a moniker as spectacular as Asoka de Silva’s first-name masterpiece, Ellawalakankanamge ‒ an English cricket fan might feel a tweak of envy at the pre-eminence of the sport in this country. Today, I will see Sri Lanka take on Australia at the Premadasa. I have seen Bangladesh in Dhaka (on a better-behaved and rather chirpier day than yesterday), and India in Bangalore (veering between adulation, resignation, exultation and relief), so after tomorrow’s game I will be able to give you definitive verdicts on which country’s supporters, and stadium PA systems, are the noisiest.

The World Cup saw the flip side of fan fervour yesterday, with the angry scenes in Mirpur after the home team crumbled like a packet of plums under a crunchy baked flour-and-sugar topping. As statements of quarter-final-reaching intent go, this was not the most strongly-worded effort by Shakib’s team, roughly akin to a boxer at a pre-world-title-fight weigh-in confidently predicting that his opponent will probably knock him spark out in the opening round.

Regular readers of this blog will know that, since my uplifting trip to Dhaka at the start of the tournament, I have been rooting for the Tigers to do well and meet the rising expectations of their support. All sports fans also know that the pain of any defeat can be alleviated by “taking the positives” from it. I will therefore attempt to extract the needles of hope from the haystack of ineptitude that Bangladesh served up yesterday.

● Tactically, there was some sense in being dismissed for 58. In cricket, you must seek to nullify your opponents’ strengths. And Bangladesh succeeded in neutralising some of the West Indies’ key players. Kieron Pollard hammered the Dutch for 60 off 27 balls. He did not trouble the scorers in Dhaka yesterday. Kemar Roach skittled the Netherlands’ tail with a hat-trick in Delhi – but Bangladesh utterly neutered his old-ball threat.

● Bangladesh will need their opening bowlers in peak form and fitness in the remaining matches. In this game, not only was Shakib able to protect them from a psychologically damaging mauling at the hands of the West Indies’ power hitters, but he was also able to restrict them to just three overs between them, leaving them fresh as a newly minted egg for the crucial forthcoming matches with the Netherlands and England.

● England had been chastened by their defeat to Ireland. By the time they arrive in Chittagong, they may well also have lost to South Africa. They would be raring to put those defeats behind them. Therefore, Bangladesh’s only hope of inducing potentially deadly complacency in the England ranks is by playing ferociously poorly themselves.

Whether these incalculable benefits outweigh the negatives of being obliterated and embarrassed in front of their home supporters is for others to judge. I still hope, for the sake of the non-stone-hurling Bangladesh fans, that the team can recover, but I am not optimistic. But then, in biblical times, Mrs Lazarus was not too optimistic about her husband’s prospects of being alive enough to buy her a slap-up meal the following Valentine’s Day, but that worked out quite well in the end.

EXTRAS

● The Bangladesh Cricket Board has blamed the bus-stoning on “a small group of overenthusiastic autograph-hunting geologists”. The BCB chairman explained: “They merely wanted to get their favourite rocks signed by the West Indian players who had put on such a fine performance.”

● British Minister For National Sporting Pride, the Rt Hon Scralyard Huke MP, has claimed that, given that his government recently helped to bail out the struggling Irish economy, “we basically own the Irish cricket team – what we saw in Bangalore was, essentially, England beating England. Well played.”

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Buccinator on March 9, 2011, 6:21 GMT

    I believe that ICC should adopt a law preventing a player plays for a another country, soon after playing for one country. There should be a gap of about 4-5 years. Then the ICC Associate countries would start to flourish rather than losing their key players to countries that CAN'T PRODUCE THEIR OWN GOOD PLAYERS!!!!!

  • Chris on March 8, 2011, 22:50 GMT

    Nice on Andy! you should do stand up.

  • Live IPL Score on March 7, 2011, 3:25 GMT

    Wow what an amazing article Andy.

  • Naren on March 6, 2011, 20:25 GMT

    "They merely wanted to get their favourite rocks signed by the West Indian players who had put on such a fine performance"? Hahahahahaha.. Haven't laughed so much in years! Your article made a good read. Thanks Andy! Keep up the good work. :)

  • Andrew on March 6, 2011, 18:27 GMT

    Excellent work Zaltzmeister. Whatever they're paying you they should double it immediately. Are you going to be podcasting as well?

    I can only assume the person who appears to be surprised that you have 'a wife and children' thinks, based on your raffish good looks and easy wit, that you are the sort of person who would prefer a bevy of concubines to matrimonial bliss.

  • Toby on March 6, 2011, 16:45 GMT

    Awesome blog as ever.

  • syj on March 6, 2011, 10:08 GMT

    TO GAVIN, LOT OF WISHFUL THINKING!

  • Ian "Moonball" Davies on March 6, 2011, 8:41 GMT

    Loving the blog - carry on. Wonder if C&D Albion have considered marketing Amla's lid? It would appear that not only does it protect his swede, but the chin strap also acts as a beard tamer, his facial hair being nicely tucked away allowing him to play the pull shot unimpeded. An idea that might fly in specific sectors of the Asian market or should ZZ Top ever take up the leather and willow.

  • Gavin on March 5, 2011, 23:15 GMT

    To Sohel Ahmed;

    Mistaken identity is not an excuse. NO ONE deserved to be stoned. Even the Bangladeshi Police said that it was okay because it was mistaken identity. Gee whiz with such wonderful home fans supporting you, it is a wonder that Bangladesh have anyone willing to play cricket for their country.....

    Don't worry we haven't seen the worst yet. When India choke and lose,it will be more than stones.

  • pradeep on March 5, 2011, 21:07 GMT

    welcome to sri lanka Andy.

  • Buccinator on March 9, 2011, 6:21 GMT

    I believe that ICC should adopt a law preventing a player plays for a another country, soon after playing for one country. There should be a gap of about 4-5 years. Then the ICC Associate countries would start to flourish rather than losing their key players to countries that CAN'T PRODUCE THEIR OWN GOOD PLAYERS!!!!!

  • Chris on March 8, 2011, 22:50 GMT

    Nice on Andy! you should do stand up.

  • Live IPL Score on March 7, 2011, 3:25 GMT

    Wow what an amazing article Andy.

  • Naren on March 6, 2011, 20:25 GMT

    "They merely wanted to get their favourite rocks signed by the West Indian players who had put on such a fine performance"? Hahahahahaha.. Haven't laughed so much in years! Your article made a good read. Thanks Andy! Keep up the good work. :)

  • Andrew on March 6, 2011, 18:27 GMT

    Excellent work Zaltzmeister. Whatever they're paying you they should double it immediately. Are you going to be podcasting as well?

    I can only assume the person who appears to be surprised that you have 'a wife and children' thinks, based on your raffish good looks and easy wit, that you are the sort of person who would prefer a bevy of concubines to matrimonial bliss.

  • Toby on March 6, 2011, 16:45 GMT

    Awesome blog as ever.

  • syj on March 6, 2011, 10:08 GMT

    TO GAVIN, LOT OF WISHFUL THINKING!

  • Ian "Moonball" Davies on March 6, 2011, 8:41 GMT

    Loving the blog - carry on. Wonder if C&D Albion have considered marketing Amla's lid? It would appear that not only does it protect his swede, but the chin strap also acts as a beard tamer, his facial hair being nicely tucked away allowing him to play the pull shot unimpeded. An idea that might fly in specific sectors of the Asian market or should ZZ Top ever take up the leather and willow.

  • Gavin on March 5, 2011, 23:15 GMT

    To Sohel Ahmed;

    Mistaken identity is not an excuse. NO ONE deserved to be stoned. Even the Bangladeshi Police said that it was okay because it was mistaken identity. Gee whiz with such wonderful home fans supporting you, it is a wonder that Bangladesh have anyone willing to play cricket for their country.....

    Don't worry we haven't seen the worst yet. When India choke and lose,it will be more than stones.

  • pradeep on March 5, 2011, 21:07 GMT

    welcome to sri lanka Andy.

  • Anonymous on March 5, 2011, 19:44 GMT

    as usual. reading your articles = reminding oneself life's beautiful..........at times

  • aby on March 5, 2011, 19:43 GMT

    Andy, oh andy, uve done it again. Beautifully written. I wonder how those ideas keep flowing from that strange head of yours!. Hey I would like to request and add a comment that it is such a shame your writings cannot be re-produced in hindi and other regional languages in India!!!! Trust me, your amazing ability to diffuse tension and negatives with 'on the edge' humour would go a long way to hit the Indian general public(non english speaking i mean) and tell them its just a game.Please try speaking to someone about it, the indian crowd deserves to read your articles.Also imagine it could bring peace to a cricket crazy country!

  • Anonymous on March 5, 2011, 18:24 GMT

    I would further modify Amit's comments about the British minister"what we saw in Bangalore was, essentially, England beating South africa-B team. Well played". England Selectors may now recruit more irish players rather than the South Africans. also Queen is the head of state for Canada so why not poach Cheema if he continues to play similar destructive innigs as he did against England-cum-South Africa B.

  • Hasan Siftain Cheema on March 5, 2011, 16:28 GMT

    Andy! good, keep it up... I appreciate if you write some about Pakistan... I still remember when you post that without naming captain pakistan won their first series, its better to not to name captain.. Please more

  • Ankur on March 5, 2011, 15:17 GMT

    Another positive to be taken, Bangladesh wanted West Indies out of the tournament. They put their best foot forward towards cooling them more than the freezer of a 'coolest one' refrigerator in the North Pole. Without their expected warm-up, they would go down in their next three games like freshly-baked cookies standing on a corner. Out of the tournament, win-win situation for Bangladesh!

  • Satya on March 5, 2011, 14:59 GMT

    Funny as usual. The Extras section-priceless.

  • ramesh on March 5, 2011, 14:32 GMT

    aww bad luck with the rain man !!

  • entertained_reader on March 5, 2011, 14:04 GMT

    lol ... i love your articles Andy !!! you have an incredible talent of making events and what not so funny!!

  • JV16 on March 5, 2011, 13:22 GMT

    Andy,

    True to form, your write up is incredibly well written and funny. I loved the "positives" that came out of the Bangladesh disaster. You decorate this site.

    If you do stand-up comedy in Singapore , email me!!

    cheers

  • Jumoke on March 5, 2011, 12:10 GMT

    Kieron Pollard hammered the Dutch for 60 off 27 balls. He did not trouble the scorers in Dhaka yesterday. Way to help us see the bright side Andy lol priceless

  • Rahul on March 5, 2011, 11:52 GMT

    Very well written andy! Loved the over enthusiastic geologists. Sad they lost their rocks, and got meanly tweeted by Gayle in the process!

  • Ravi on March 5, 2011, 11:32 GMT

    What a writeup !! Lets have something similar on india!

  • Kathy on March 5, 2011, 10:43 GMT

    Nice writeup - how do you manage to produce one every day? My fave is still the one about the man with the pink hair though. You'll struggle to chase down your own score of 1000 n.o. there.

    Am watching the Aus-SL match right now and hoping rather than expecting. Also looking forward to tomorrow when the Brits take on my home team, and worried sick that the Proteas will loose. I mean how embarrassing will that be if they get minced by England? Like England being thumped by the Oirish. Mustn't even think that, mustn't go there, ouch!

  • Omkar Naik on March 5, 2011, 10:12 GMT

    “we basically own the Irish cricket team – what we saw in Bangalore was, essentially, England beating England. Well played.”

    Exactly wht i thought when it happened, They play in the same domestic league anyway!

  • Lou on March 5, 2011, 9:59 GMT

    You have a wife and children?!

  • Nadeem on March 5, 2011, 8:24 GMT

    Very well written Sir. The positives from Bangladesh's dismal performance are utterly enjoyable. Especially the last one :)

  • Sohel ahmed on March 5, 2011, 8:00 GMT

    Andy,i was there in mirpur yesterday and i believe bangladeshi fans had nothing against the windies players.It was definitely a case of mistaken identity as the stones were directed at the bangladesh team bus,the fans never meant to hit the windies team bus.As you have said,there were no positives to be taken from yesterday's game and like you i am also not a bit optimistic.

  • Vikram on March 5, 2011, 7:47 GMT

    Andy, you are just making cricket a lot easier to bear for a lot of folks caught by world cup megalomania...more bravados and heartbreaks to come...many will find refuge in Zaltzantics in days to come...carry on!

  • CricketPissek on March 5, 2011, 6:34 GMT

    AZ - with Sri Lanka touring England in the summer, maybe a Lankan journalist/comedian should write a complementing piece to this :) he may well surprised not to find large billboards of Jonathan Trott appearing anywhere on the M4 between Heathrow and Hammersmith. Yet.

  • adnan on March 5, 2011, 6:20 GMT

    The last paragraph is the best. Well done Andy and thanx for your regular updates.

  • amit on March 5, 2011, 5:51 GMT

    hi andy, nice blog, i would like to correct the British minister"what we saw in Bangalore was, essentially, England beating South africa. Well played". England Selectors may now recruit more irish players rather than the South Africans.

  • Val on March 5, 2011, 4:08 GMT

    I didn't know there were so may positives to be taken out of a lost match Andy. May be you should become a freelance post-match press conference specialist. I am sure there will be a huge demand for your talents!

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  • Val on March 5, 2011, 4:08 GMT

    I didn't know there were so may positives to be taken out of a lost match Andy. May be you should become a freelance post-match press conference specialist. I am sure there will be a huge demand for your talents!

  • amit on March 5, 2011, 5:51 GMT

    hi andy, nice blog, i would like to correct the British minister"what we saw in Bangalore was, essentially, England beating South africa. Well played". England Selectors may now recruit more irish players rather than the South Africans.

  • adnan on March 5, 2011, 6:20 GMT

    The last paragraph is the best. Well done Andy and thanx for your regular updates.

  • CricketPissek on March 5, 2011, 6:34 GMT

    AZ - with Sri Lanka touring England in the summer, maybe a Lankan journalist/comedian should write a complementing piece to this :) he may well surprised not to find large billboards of Jonathan Trott appearing anywhere on the M4 between Heathrow and Hammersmith. Yet.

  • Vikram on March 5, 2011, 7:47 GMT

    Andy, you are just making cricket a lot easier to bear for a lot of folks caught by world cup megalomania...more bravados and heartbreaks to come...many will find refuge in Zaltzantics in days to come...carry on!

  • Sohel ahmed on March 5, 2011, 8:00 GMT

    Andy,i was there in mirpur yesterday and i believe bangladeshi fans had nothing against the windies players.It was definitely a case of mistaken identity as the stones were directed at the bangladesh team bus,the fans never meant to hit the windies team bus.As you have said,there were no positives to be taken from yesterday's game and like you i am also not a bit optimistic.

  • Nadeem on March 5, 2011, 8:24 GMT

    Very well written Sir. The positives from Bangladesh's dismal performance are utterly enjoyable. Especially the last one :)

  • Lou on March 5, 2011, 9:59 GMT

    You have a wife and children?!

  • Omkar Naik on March 5, 2011, 10:12 GMT

    “we basically own the Irish cricket team – what we saw in Bangalore was, essentially, England beating England. Well played.”

    Exactly wht i thought when it happened, They play in the same domestic league anyway!

  • Kathy on March 5, 2011, 10:43 GMT

    Nice writeup - how do you manage to produce one every day? My fave is still the one about the man with the pink hair though. You'll struggle to chase down your own score of 1000 n.o. there.

    Am watching the Aus-SL match right now and hoping rather than expecting. Also looking forward to tomorrow when the Brits take on my home team, and worried sick that the Proteas will loose. I mean how embarrassing will that be if they get minced by England? Like England being thumped by the Oirish. Mustn't even think that, mustn't go there, ouch!