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Wednesday, 31st August Don’t ever gamble, readers, it is a perilous and painful business, as risky and as futile a pastime as setting fire to your hair and standing in the garden waiting for it to rain. It is like putting a five-pound note into a post box in the hope that it will somehow be delivered back to you and that in the meantime it will have turned into a ten-pound note. At least it is the way I do it.
The failed gambler always has an accomplice, a stooge who can take all the blame. Today his name was Virat. It is a shame when a career that promised so much takes such a disappointing turn. I feel a lump in my throat when I remember watching the wee fella scoring all those runs for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. One day, I thought, one day, I’ll bet on you to top score for India in a meaningless Twenty20 game in the north west of England.
And today his moment had come. What better opportunity for him to emblazon his name across Duncan Fletcher’s frontal lobes than to top-score for India (at 5-1.) So what happened? Nudge, nudge, nudge, swipe, oh dear. There are some things in life you should never try to pull: Steven Seagal’s ponytail; a hippopotamus through a revolving door and a ball short and wide outside the off stump unless you are Viv Richards. Are you Viv Richards, Virat? No, you are not. Don’t do it again.
Thursday, 1st September The mystery of Sri Lanka’s Mendis-phobia is frankly mystifying. The man formerly known as the most exciting spin bowler in the world is now more or less permanently languishing in the Johnny Gleeson Wing of the One-Trick Pony Retirement Home.
He was to be the skittler-in-chief in Sri Lanka’s demolishing of Australia. Instead, his record of squad superfluousness means he is in danger of becoming the new Adil Rashid.
The Sri Lankan selectors seem worried that batsmen will work him out. Well yes, they might. Some of them already have. But in the meantime he might pick up a wicket or two. He might even get better with experience. He averages 32.48 which is only 0.48 worse than Stuart Broad and 1.91 worse than James Anderson, who is, as we all know the new Dennis Lillee.
Instead, in order to ensure their impact spinner doesn’t lose his impact, they are going to keep him in his packaging like an unwanted birthday present. So today we had the spectacle of Sri Lanka, with a mystery spinner up their sleeve, being skittled out by the other team’s mystery spinner, who isn’t really a mystery spinner, but is a spinner who proved something of a mystery to the home side. It’s all very confusing.
Friday, 2nd September Earlier this summer we learned that Hotspot was rubbish. Now Simon Taufel, umpiring superhero, is to refer Phil Hughes’ Hawk-Eye-aided dismissal to the ICC’s Hindsight Committee on the grounds that it looks a bit dodgy to the naked eye and can we really trust this gizmo anyway. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Technology was going to sort everything out. Instead, it is getting horrendously complicated.
We have applied the tin opener of accuracy to the can of decision-making, and now our cricket kitchen is full of worms. Accuracy is like a drug - 96% was okay last year, but the accuracy addict always wants more. Hawk-Eye was fine, we thought we could handle it, but now it doesn’t give us enough of a buzz, we want more, shinier, faster technology, which not everyone will want to use straightaway and which will anyway turn out to be less than 100% accurate and will in turn need to be replaced and so on.
So I have an alternative. We simply need to clone Taufel, who is as accurate as Hawk-Eye and doesn’t even need to be plugged in. An elite panel of Taufels will then be able to umpire the whole international calendar to a high standard. And we could have a wardrobe full of Aleem Dars standing by, just in case.
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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