IPL April 26, 2011

The man with the orange face

Hello, Mr Warne, it’s good to have you back with us

Saturday, 23rd April So what is burnout, exactly? Is it that feeling you get some mornings, you know, when you’re dog tired, you lack any motivation, you can’t face another day working with the same old people and you wonder if you’ll ever get a break.? Is that burnout? No, of course it isn’t silly. And why? Because you aren’t a professional cricketer, that’s why, so get out of bed and get to work, you idle layabout!

Proper burnout is what happens to the top sportsman when he decides he wants some time off, perhaps because his golf handicap is slipping or he really wants to get started on that house extension. Or sometimes because his contract is up. And burnout is such a powerful phenomenon that it can even be cited before it’s happened. For example, we read today that Andy Flower might be at risk of burnout in the future and so will need a really good deal from the ECB. Unless, of course, he gets the India job.

I suppose fast bowlers like Lasith Malinga might be entitled to complain about burnout, or more accurately, the gradual disintegration of their more important limbs. If Larwood, Hall, Lillee or Lindwall had been forced to tear in, jam their foot into the dirt and twist sideways at speed in three different formats all year round, they’d be retiring from Test cricket in no time. But how exactly do coaches burn out? Laptop strain? Press conference fatigue? Selection anxiety?

Sunday, 24th April What’s the big talking point in cricket at the moment? Chris Gayle versus the WICB? The make-up of the 2015 World Cup? The identity of India’s next coach? All of that is very interesting, I’m sure, but the Long Handle is more interested in the human angle. We want to know about the people behind the news. Specifically, we are fascinated by the incredible smoothness of Shane Warne’s orange face.

The story of his complexion is a modern version of an Oscar Wilde classic. The Moisturiser of Shane Warne stars an ageing but virile spin bowler who is offered the chance to stay young forever, and even to look a little bit younger, if he will sell his soul to a cosmetics company. No worries, says Shane. He agrees to promote a tub of cold cream and uses the money he gets to pay for a bit of facial renovation.

Of course that’s just a fairy story. It couldn’t actually happen. Still, the fact remains that he is becoming spectacularly multi-coloured. The white teeth, the tangerine face, the electric blue shirt; it’s quite a sight. And he can still bowl a bit. On a dusty day in Ahmedabad, he took Kochi apart. They were like unwary purple and orange sheep who had wandered into a tiger enclosure. And, provided you didn’t sit too close to the television and wore protective sunglasses, it was lovely to watch the old boy in action.

Monday, 25th April Kamran wants to play for his country again. Referring to his less than splendid performance against New Zealand in the World Cup, he complained:

“I have one of the highest dismissal rates among all the wicketkeepers who have played for Pakistan.”

That may be, but he benefits from the fact that the stats do not include columns for “Oopsie daisies”, “Sorry, skipper she just didn’t stick” and “I was sure I had that one”.

But then, it isn’t Kamran’s fault that he kept being picked despite the mounting evidence that entrusting him with the gloves was a little like asking your rollerblading-addicted seven-year-old nephew and his pet macaw to mind your porcelain shop for the afternoon.

And having finally de-gloved him it would be a shame if Pakistan decided to dispense with his batting. The Kamran cover drive is something spectacular; it hits you like a slap in the face from a good friend. It is a stunning piece of batsmanship. It would be a shame if that shot were not to be seen again in international cricket.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England