What if the IPL had 33 times as many games?
Hello Confectionery Stallers, and welcome to my first post-World Cup blog. I have completed a month-long social reassimilation course following my trip of a lifetime around the subcontinent, and am now, on occasion, almost capable of conducting a competent conversation about something other than cricket. I have stopped asking my wife and/or children to hold pretend press conferences in the kitchen explaining their curious batting Powerplay tactics. I no longer wake up in a cold sweat dreaming that I’m bowling to Kevin O’Brien in my own greenhouse. I therefore feel ready to allow cricket back into my life.
A few thoughts on what has happened during my sabbatical:
1. The unstoppable churn of international cricket has continued. Australia and Bangladesh launched the 2011-2015 cycle with an ODI series that began seemingly seconds after MS Dhoni concluded his victory speech in Mumbai. Even by the stretchiest stretch of even the most gymnastic of imaginations, this was too soon.
It is entirely feasible that, when the next World Cup starts, Mitchell Johnson will come charging in with a ball in each hand, and bowl them at two batsmen simultaneously on adjacent pitches, one to Gautam Gambhir in the World Cup opener, and another to Brendon McCullum in the fourth game of a seven-match ODI series that is a crucial early step in the Australians’ preparation for World Cup 2019.
2. The IPL juggernaut is plowing on, its golden engine chugging on relentlessly, churning out cricket after cricket after cricket. Fifty-four games played, 20 remaining. I cannot claim to have followed the tournament closely, or even distantly. I am still getting over the disappointment of being ignored at this year’s auction. Was I not even worth my $19.99 base price? Even for spare parts?
My family and friends also advised that I take a prolonged break from watching cricket featuring incessant blasts of pop music throughout the game. It has taken me over a month to eradicate the World Cup theme song “De Ghuma Ke” from my brain. I estimate that I heard the song, or snippets thereof, on approximately 8470 separate occasions during the tournament. That is a lie, but the point stands. Merely writing the name of the song has brought the memories flooding back. I may need further treatment. I am still not entirely sure what it means – I assume it was something about slowly building an innings and working the ball into the gaps until your eye is in.
As I wrote at the time, I felt that the ear-assaulting unavoidability of the irrelevant musical interludes on the stadium PA systems neutered genuine atmosphere. However, it should be said in mitigation that, during American hip-hoppers the Black Eyed Peas’ recent “The E.N.D. World Tour”, at the end of every song they played a 20-second snippet of John Arlott’s radio commentary at face-melting volume.
I digress. The IPL team owners and grandees must be casting envious glances at Major League Baseball in America, whose season began at around the same time. The MLB has just ripped through the 450-game barrier, with just under 2000 more matches to go. Plus the up-to-41-game post-season. Each franchise hurls and thwacks its way through 162 games in the regular season, at a rate of six matches per week. Can a window in the international calendar be found for a similar IPL format? If there were 33 times as many games, would it be 33 times as exciting?
3. It was a source of considerable relief that the ICC will reassess its patently bonkers format for the 2015 World Cup. Its proposed 10-team closed-shop retro-style tournament took the concept of cricketing development and clattered it hard in the groin with a 3lb 8oz bat, whilst proudly purring, “Shot, sir. Shot.”
On the evidence of this year’s World Cup, few could argue that there are 14 teams deserving of a World Cup place. Even fewer, however, could argue that there are only 10, and even fewer than that could claim that the qualification process for selecting those 10 should have been conducted without public notification, and been concluded in 2000 before being kept under wraps until the least opportune moment. It should be 12 teams, and not take too long. Although either one of those two would be nice.
A fascinating English summer looms. Sri Lanka, then India. England should be perkier than they were at the World Cup, with their three captains – rumour has it that Strauss will ride Cook and Broad in a pantomime horse outfit onto the field in Cardiff in two weeks’ time. By the time India arrive, after the IPL and a Caribbean tour, they might need some industrial-strength coffee. I’ve been working on my carrom ball, but cannot yet get it down my hallway without it hitting the wall. So it looks like I am facing another summer on the touchlines. But I’ve had my blogging licence renewed, Statsguru is waiting, and my computer will hurl itself off a cliff if it reads much more stuff about British politics. It’s good to be back.
● In an effort to make the pre-Twenty20 era of cricket retrospectively more exciting, the IPL is being officially backdated. The 1976 IPL has been won by the now defunct Visakhapatnam Visigoths, led by Indian Test legend Gundappa Viswanath and part-owned by legendary film director Satyajit Ray and Scottish pop stars the Bay City Rollers. In a tense final in Madras, they defeated the Delhi Daredevils, for whom Geoff Boycott scored an undefeated 23 off 65 balls as his team narrowly failed to chase down the Visigoths' total of 93 for 4, an imposing total for the time. The losing semi-finalists were the Punjab Pranksters and the Chennai Benevolent Dictators, later rebranded as the Super Kings.
● After the batting Powerplay provided considerable tactical intrigue throughout the World Cup, the ICC has announced the introduction of a further Powerplay to spice up the 50-over game. In the new captaincy Powerplay, the skipper of the batting team will captain the fielding side for five overs. He will choose the bowlers, and place the field. An ICC spokesperson commented: “We’ve tested it out in club cricket, and it’s a hoot. To compensate the considerable advantage this gives the batting side, during the captaincy Powerplay the fielding team will be able to jump around and pull faces in an effort to distract the batsmen. These innovations should help cricket become the world’s most-watched spectator sport.”
Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer