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Tuesday, March 29th Fast bowling comes as naturally to the human body as trying to carry a baby hippopotamus on your head whilst hopping backwards up a down escalator. We like to romanticise it, we talk about a fast bowler gliding on air to the wicket or accelerating gracefully, easily, like a panther in pursuit of prey. But close up, it’s a brutal business; all twisting tendons, splintering bone and grinding cartilage.
For Shaun Tait the journey to the crease is an agonising one. You and I couldn’t feel that much pain unless we spilt beer on the shoes of a nightclub bouncer. Even then, we’d probably only try it the once. But Tait does it again and again and again. He’s like one of those magnificent steam-powered contraptions you see at English county fairs, an impressive feat of engineering that could fall apart at any time.
Thank goodness then for Twenty20, a sanctuary where we can see endangered cricketers in their natural habitat, and where we hope Shaun enjoys many more years of stump-shattering, sightscreen-denting, helmet-clanging slingery.
Wednesday, March 30th
Ricky Ponting is to play on after handing in his stripes. This has not been normal procedure for decommissioned Australian captains of recent vintage who, having overindulged themselves at the banquet of victory, have tended to leave the table altogether lest they explode in a messy shower of success, champagne and baggy-green material. But Ricky has been dining on scraps of late, rooting in the bins of world cricket for whatever he can find, and he’s still hungry.
So now that we know he wasn’t the new Allan Border, what kind of captain was he? Well, his coin-flipping technique was much admired. He looked smart in a blazer. And he had the ability to lose his temper in any situation… Ah look, let’s be honest, he wasn’t a great captain. But that’s not his fault. For a long time he was as good as he needed to be. His main line of work is demolishing bowlers. And he’s still pretty good at that.
Thursday, March 31st I don’t envy Ashish Nehra. Contemplating what it will be like to take the field in a World Cup final must be a little like trying to come to terms with the infinity of the universe. It probably makes your head hurt and causes you to feel like a tiny pathetic speck of dust in the vacuum-cleaner showroom of existence. On top of that, he has a broken finger. At some point in the next 48 hours he might have to decide: play or don’t play. What would you do? Wouldn’t it be selfish to take the field if you aren’t at your best? Wouldn’t you be letting your team-mates down?
A broken finger probably hurts like hell. It will probably inhibit his ability to field. He might not even be able to catch the ball. But it’s the World Cup final. Look at Murali. He wouldn’t even be able to get to the ball in order not to catch it, but you try stopping the little guy with the wonky wrist from taking the field. His hamstrings are tighter than a whalebone corset, his groin is dodgy, his knee doesn’t work and it almost certainly hurts when he does that. It’s the World Cup final. He’ll be playing.
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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