August 17, 2011

The Robert De Niro of Indian cricket

The man who is Fred Trueman in Mark Ealham’s body
37

Saturday, 13th August I was wrong about Praveen Kumar. I thought he would be squad-filler, a scorecard padder-out, the man who dries the handkerchief with which Zaheer wipes his brow. I knew him as a growly plodder, a dibbly dobbler, a bit of a tail-end thrasher. Typical Twenty20 star, you know the type: all goatee and no chest hair.

I was wrong. After three successive Waterloos (or if you like, a Waterloo, a Trafalgar and a retreat from Moscow) he is the only one still standing, albeit with a wonky ankle. That injury is not surprising, considering he has hit the bowling crease 951 times already this summer in exchange for 15 of the toughest wickets runs can buy.

He’s like Fred Trueman in Mark Ealham’s body. He trots in off a few gentle steps, offers a Pringle-esque unfurling of the right wrist, followed by a Ray Lindwall follow-through and the stare of an angry father who knows you’ve been hanging round his daughter. He’s the Robert de Niro of Indian cricket. He’s tougher than Ganguly and cooler than Dhoni. Praveen for captain, I say.

Sunday, 14th August England are top. But people will soon be trying to knock them off their perch, as if they were a row of jelly bean-filled parrot-shaped pinatas. So how to keep it real? Or for those of us used to years of disappointment, who find this outbreak of unmitigated English success makes us dizzy, how to keep it unreal?

Andy and Andrew have already set some new targets. Win in Pakistan. Win in Sri Lanka. The Test Championship. The 2012 Balti Pie-Eating Trophy. KP has a new book of word searches, and Alastair Cook has been challenged to reach Level 3 of the hit console game, Super Mario Takes No Risks In Attaining His Goal.

But there is a nagging feeling that we have forgotten something. It is there in Michael Vaughan’s patriotic ramblings, as he pauses momentarily in the middle of explaining how England are the greatest team ever. What is it? Did we leave the gas on? Did we forget to feed the fish? Oh no, now I remember. We haven’t beaten South Africa.

They are the forgotten contender. The other Klitschko. And I imagine that somewhere near the tip of the world’s warmest continent a collection of burly men are probably getting quite annoyed about it. I imagine Mr Steyn and Mr Morkel sitting by their pool, pet crocodile splashing happily at their feet, a couple of antelope on the braai.

“D’ya see that Morne?” “Ja Dale.” “Think they’re No. 1, eh, Morne.” “Ja Dale.” “Well we’ll show them next summer, won’t we.” “Ja Dale.” “The only recall Bell will be getting is the ambulance to take him home from hospital.” “Ha Ha Ha, good one Dale.” “Shut up now Morne.” “Ja Dale.”

Monday, 15th August After the epic defeat comes the post mortem. As an Englishman I’ve been through this sort of thing before, so I can offer some advice to the BCCI. Trust me, you can get through this. There is, however, a shopping list of psychological props that you’ll need to tick off before you can get closure.

1. Someone to blame. This is the easiest part and much preferable to blaming, say, a system, a culture or a lack of planning. Prime candidates are usually unpopular fringe players or, if you have one, a foreign coach, who almost certainly doesn’t understand how things are done round here, because he is foreign.

2. A minor administrative shuffle disguised as a bold fresh statement of intent for the nation’s cricket. I suggest changing your stationery contract and firing the guy who repairs the photocopier in the chairman of selectors’ office.

3. A country to model yourself on. Australia’s currency in this market is devalued these days. But Sri Lanka managed to put up a decent fight this summer and they seem like fun. So practise saying after me: “I wish we were more like Sri Lanka.”

4. Diversion. Like toddlers, the press are easily distracted. They’ll soon stop complaining if you show them a shiny new toy. What’s that, Mr Manohar? It’s Champions League time again! Hooray! Test cricket? Never heard of it!

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • waterbuffalo on August 29, 2011, 16:34 GMT

    "I wish we were more like Sri Lanka" Hahahahaha! This No. 1 business is overhyped, if England went to India in 4 months, their bowlers would probably be ground to dust (apart from Swann and Panesar) India could win that series, but England stand a better chance in SA than India ever will, I was surprised that India couldn't play the short ball at all. Steyn and Morkel would've sent 6 of them to hospital.

  • Tania on August 19, 2011, 6:27 GMT

    Brilliant shopping list!

  • Alfred on August 19, 2011, 0:00 GMT

    Love the last part...

  • Ashwani on August 18, 2011, 4:50 GMT

    Amazing. I laughed like mad in office at "all goatee and no chest hair".

    I am amazed that you don't have a facebook fan page. Silly, seriously.

  • Luke on August 18, 2011, 2:01 GMT

    I presume Level 3 would be 300 points? :P

  • Madhu on August 17, 2011, 22:32 GMT

    Hilarious! " It is there in Michael Vaughan’s patriotic ramblings, as he pauses momentarily in the middle of explaining how England are the greatest team ever. What is it? Did we leave the gas on? Did we forget to feed the fish? Oh no, now I remember. We haven’t beaten South Africa." Awesome :D

  • BigIndFan on August 17, 2011, 21:13 GMT

    The poolside convo was the best! There is no true No.1 yet. How many of these teams have won consistently at home and abroad? If Ind are imposters who got there by playing a lot at home what did Eng do just now? What did SA do when they played the imposters - choke and unchoked by Kallis?

    It will take a lot to get to the Aussie heights before any of these teams can claim that they are world champions. Till then it will be a 3 or 4 way circus but hey that is a lot of fun! It was quite boring when Aussies used to dominate!

  • Anonymous on August 17, 2011, 20:24 GMT

    Test cricket carnage will be soon forgotten in the melee of IPL carnival.

  • Karim on August 17, 2011, 19:18 GMT

    Great article! Very hilarilous!

  • Deepak Kumar on August 17, 2011, 18:52 GMT

    Good one Hughes,likes u say,both of these guys have not beaten SA last time..So we'll see next june or july for that matter..

  • waterbuffalo on August 29, 2011, 16:34 GMT

    "I wish we were more like Sri Lanka" Hahahahaha! This No. 1 business is overhyped, if England went to India in 4 months, their bowlers would probably be ground to dust (apart from Swann and Panesar) India could win that series, but England stand a better chance in SA than India ever will, I was surprised that India couldn't play the short ball at all. Steyn and Morkel would've sent 6 of them to hospital.

  • Tania on August 19, 2011, 6:27 GMT

    Brilliant shopping list!

  • Alfred on August 19, 2011, 0:00 GMT

    Love the last part...

  • Ashwani on August 18, 2011, 4:50 GMT

    Amazing. I laughed like mad in office at "all goatee and no chest hair".

    I am amazed that you don't have a facebook fan page. Silly, seriously.

  • Luke on August 18, 2011, 2:01 GMT

    I presume Level 3 would be 300 points? :P

  • Madhu on August 17, 2011, 22:32 GMT

    Hilarious! " It is there in Michael Vaughan’s patriotic ramblings, as he pauses momentarily in the middle of explaining how England are the greatest team ever. What is it? Did we leave the gas on? Did we forget to feed the fish? Oh no, now I remember. We haven’t beaten South Africa." Awesome :D

  • BigIndFan on August 17, 2011, 21:13 GMT

    The poolside convo was the best! There is no true No.1 yet. How many of these teams have won consistently at home and abroad? If Ind are imposters who got there by playing a lot at home what did Eng do just now? What did SA do when they played the imposters - choke and unchoked by Kallis?

    It will take a lot to get to the Aussie heights before any of these teams can claim that they are world champions. Till then it will be a 3 or 4 way circus but hey that is a lot of fun! It was quite boring when Aussies used to dominate!

  • Anonymous on August 17, 2011, 20:24 GMT

    Test cricket carnage will be soon forgotten in the melee of IPL carnival.

  • Karim on August 17, 2011, 19:18 GMT

    Great article! Very hilarilous!

  • Deepak Kumar on August 17, 2011, 18:52 GMT

    Good one Hughes,likes u say,both of these guys have not beaten SA last time..So we'll see next june or july for that matter..

  • MC Abdullah on August 17, 2011, 17:30 GMT

    Uproariously funny. I am still laughing!

  • Ahmed on August 17, 2011, 17:16 GMT

    he did his best. but dont worry about india's ranking in icc. India will invite Bangladesh or Zimbabwe or any baby team to play a test and will get their #1 team position.

  • RK on August 17, 2011, 17:12 GMT

    Drew Hughes should be fired for writing a stupid article. Only Brits can mince well with words to come up with such trash!

    Drew - do me a favor. Go get drunk in a pub and never write anything you think is funny. It ain't unfortunately.

  • R Hyder on August 17, 2011, 17:03 GMT

    Day 4 post-lunch was the most fun I've had watching test cricket this summer. This when the game was effectively over but for Kumar's rage at the fancy dress silliness around him, especially once Anderson had thudded into that bottom thumb. His magnification of every moment spent out in the middle during the series is probably the best thing to happen to cricket in a long while - real personality, embellished by no-nonsense grit and bravura hardly lost on Indian fielders feeling holes burning into their backs every time he's worked off the square. Not for him the facile exonerations of a five-day meander. You can see Kumar grow every day he takes on his limitations and know he's not going under any time soon while endearingly, this most relentless of goers is prepared to have a chuckle at his own intensity. Cricket could do with a few Praveen Kumars. Cricketer of the year for me already.

  • Shrikar D on August 17, 2011, 16:46 GMT

    As much as I'm disappointed by my team's abject surrender to England over the last few weeks, it's probably fair to say that beating SA in SA should confirm Team England's #1 status. That comment about the ambulance was hysterical!

  • Lord Emsworth on August 17, 2011, 16:32 GMT

    In your shopping list of post mortem Props your forgot to mention "Dont play old men" unless of course you are playing against a 'Home for the aged' first eleven. Dravid probably drank a portion from Merlin...

  • Bhabani on August 17, 2011, 16:24 GMT

    It is fun. Dale and Morkel conversation is awesome.

  • Romesh on August 17, 2011, 15:55 GMT

    Absolutely hillarious... PK for captaincy.. LOLZ.. !!! Morne and Dale by the pool with their croc.. I would second Prashant on commentary.. Do give it a shot !!

  • Rishi on August 17, 2011, 15:21 GMT

    Seems like there is a resigned feeling among the folks all over the world that India cannot be beaten in India. Anyways this current Eng team I have to say is just awesome. Better than SA in terms of consistency with the Bat and they have a far better tail. SA batting ends at 6. When India became no 1, they did so by not just play in India. They went to WI, Eng, OZ, NZ, SA, SL and now Eng again where they were found short of breath. They did well but the aging warhorses and lack of depth in Bowling is beginning to show. Time for Eng to rule the Roost!

  • hitman57 on August 17, 2011, 14:32 GMT

    "you talkin' to me?" crocodiles at dale/morne's feet around a poolside. You finally made me laugh on your article after a long, long time.

  • MrPrez on August 17, 2011, 14:22 GMT

    This is a competitor for best page 2 article ever! Stunning article, loved "Typical Twenty20 star, you know the type: all goatee and no chest hair." Oh, and thanks for remembering SA- we get next to no exposure!

  • Bilal Athar on August 17, 2011, 13:26 GMT

    It is ironic that they haven't beaten South Africans.All they have to do is form a team of Strauss, Bell ,Trott, Pietersen ,Prior and the other South Africans in the English set up and beat them.

  • Kalyan on August 17, 2011, 13:00 GMT

    I think people are writing off India too soon after one series loss to England at home. The same England they beat on their way to no.1. Let England come to India and let us see whether they stay no. 1.

  • suchit aggarwal on August 17, 2011, 12:38 GMT

    indian team need to change the coach

  • suchit aggarwal on August 17, 2011, 12:37 GMT

    indian team need to change the coach

  • Harsha on August 17, 2011, 12:36 GMT

    @TheGrissom :

    "they only got there because of the volume of test cricket that they played of which the majority was played in India."

    And still they say test matches are dying...what a shame!!! :P

  • Alex Farooque on August 17, 2011, 12:25 GMT

    Thanx for the chuckle. It was quite good in fact. On a serious note, (shall I say it? Oh well, I guess I will anyway), India has never been real number one. They ascended to the top because Australian cricket started to show cracks. Rest of the world at the time wasn't amazing good and the last one as TheGrissom mentioned was the amount of Test cricket Indians played at home.

  • Theena on August 17, 2011, 12:16 GMT

    Lord that conversation between Steyn and Morkle cracked me up.

  • Sumeet on August 17, 2011, 9:53 GMT

    Awesome stuff Andrew. Keep it up. PK is an honest trier, but if he becomes the pace spearhead for India in test matches, i know something is wrong. The conversation between Steyn and Morkel was amazing, and i hope Mr Srinivasan is reading your points!

  • Prashant on August 17, 2011, 9:10 GMT

    This one is the best in recent times by some distance. Why don't you do podcasts too? I will love to hear from you. Besides you can be a perfect commentator. You are seriously away from being prejudiced against any.

  • zaky on August 17, 2011, 8:57 GMT

    Oh wow! Dale and Morne at the poolside...I laughed my head off!

    glad too see that at least someone remembers us Saffa's.

  • Haroon Abdullah on August 17, 2011, 8:20 GMT

    As always, this guy cracks me up. Keep it up.

  • Rupam on August 17, 2011, 8:04 GMT

    lmao.. funny article.. had me in spilts

  • Abin on August 17, 2011, 7:56 GMT

    Lol....tht was the best Article i've read from you Andrew....congrats to English cricket team for their outstanding acheivement....the Aussies would be swearing under their breath now...;)

  • TheGrissom on August 17, 2011, 7:41 GMT

    So England are number 1. But like Andrew says - they havent beaten South Africa. The true number 1 side. And they never will. Now that SA has a proper spinner in Tahir along with Steyn and Morkel Englands only hope is to face SA with 2 of the 3 injured or just returning from injury. But at least the imposter has been dethroned. India were never a world beating side - they only got there because of the volume of test cricket that they played of which the majority was played in India.

  • Ahmed on August 17, 2011, 7:11 GMT

    Usual absolutely hillarious stuff....

  • Darshan Gopinath on August 17, 2011, 7:02 GMT

    Absolutely awesome stuff Andrew!!

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  • Darshan Gopinath on August 17, 2011, 7:02 GMT

    Absolutely awesome stuff Andrew!!

  • Ahmed on August 17, 2011, 7:11 GMT

    Usual absolutely hillarious stuff....

  • TheGrissom on August 17, 2011, 7:41 GMT

    So England are number 1. But like Andrew says - they havent beaten South Africa. The true number 1 side. And they never will. Now that SA has a proper spinner in Tahir along with Steyn and Morkel Englands only hope is to face SA with 2 of the 3 injured or just returning from injury. But at least the imposter has been dethroned. India were never a world beating side - they only got there because of the volume of test cricket that they played of which the majority was played in India.

  • Abin on August 17, 2011, 7:56 GMT

    Lol....tht was the best Article i've read from you Andrew....congrats to English cricket team for their outstanding acheivement....the Aussies would be swearing under their breath now...;)

  • Rupam on August 17, 2011, 8:04 GMT

    lmao.. funny article.. had me in spilts

  • Haroon Abdullah on August 17, 2011, 8:20 GMT

    As always, this guy cracks me up. Keep it up.

  • zaky on August 17, 2011, 8:57 GMT

    Oh wow! Dale and Morne at the poolside...I laughed my head off!

    glad too see that at least someone remembers us Saffa's.

  • Prashant on August 17, 2011, 9:10 GMT

    This one is the best in recent times by some distance. Why don't you do podcasts too? I will love to hear from you. Besides you can be a perfect commentator. You are seriously away from being prejudiced against any.

  • Sumeet on August 17, 2011, 9:53 GMT

    Awesome stuff Andrew. Keep it up. PK is an honest trier, but if he becomes the pace spearhead for India in test matches, i know something is wrong. The conversation between Steyn and Morkel was amazing, and i hope Mr Srinivasan is reading your points!

  • Theena on August 17, 2011, 12:16 GMT

    Lord that conversation between Steyn and Morkle cracked me up.