IPL September 21, 2011

The unique appeal of the Champions League

Where else would you learn of a team called Ruhuna?

Sunday, 18th September To some people the Champions League is like a big fat slug lurking at the bottom of your garden. It isn’t particularly attractive, you don’t see the point of it and you can get through the autumn fine without ever seeing it. But every part of the cricket ecosystem has its place, and to many of us the Champions League has become as familiar a part of the cricket calendar as a Shahid Afridi retirement or Somerset not quite winning a trophy.

It’s a jumble of flavours, a mix of cricket cultures that you just don’t get anywhere else. For instance, if there is a more unlikely cricket match this year than Somerset v Kolkata Knight Riders, I’ll eat Duncan Fletcher’s sunglasses.

And there’s something for everyone. You can have fun spotting players you thought had retired (good grief, Sanath is here!) and learn about teams you’ve never heard of before (welcome to my brain, Ruhuna, I’ll forget about Ronnie Irani to make room for you).

So who will you follow in the race to lose to Chennai in the final? It’s tricky. I don’t like snakes so the Cobras are out, and calling yourselves The Warriors is asking for trouble. Trinidad are a Bravo short, and though it might be fun to follow Somerset or Leicester, they have been shepherded into some kind of quarantine playoff system, designed, quite rightly, to keep the riff-raff out.

But while you’re deciding who to support, you can marvel at the unnecessary innovation. This year’s silly technology is a high-definition camera in a pair of sunglasses, so the viewer will be treated to wobbly footage from the vantage point of fine leg as he shuffles a touch squarer, live coverage of the drinks break, or if the glasses are being worn by a particularly inept fielder, the heart-stopping terror of a mistimed slog sweep heading directly towards our television screens.

Monday, 19th September So Kochi are no more. The IPL just won’t be the same. The Tuskers were my favourite team, partly for their daring choice of colours, partly for the presence of Sreesanth, but mainly for the fact that they nearly called themselves the Indi Commandos (kind of like the A-team with orange shirts). But now it’s all over. They haven’t so much gone down in a blaze of glory as got their ankles tangled up in red tape, pitched over in the board room and knocked themselves out on the coffee table.

I did try to read up on why Kochi were kaput but then I found myself drifting into a daydream and when I woke up it was Tuesday. When did the IPL get so complicated? You need an MBA and a law degree to follow the goings on in franchise land. Perhaps IPL5 should dispense with the cattle market for players and introduce a lawyer auction. A star batsman may help you get to the final, but you need a crack legal team to make sure you’re allowed to play in it.

Tuesday, 20th September Apparently there will be no investigation or post mortem of any kind into the unpleasant events of the summer, thus ending a very brief episode of CSI BCCI in which the charismatic Detective Srinivasan took a brief look at the crime scene and shrugged, concluding that India’s tour clearly just died of old age or something, and anyway it doesn’t really matter. Case closed.

Questioned at a press conference today, he first asked an aide why the “eject” button he was jabbing didn’t work, but was informed that the ejector seats fitted to the journalists’ chairs had been switched off due to doubts about the technology. So instead he called for his Big Box of Excuses and grabbed a few, handing them to his aide to read out while he tucked into a bag of tortillas. Those excuses in full:

“Sehwag wasn’t playing some of the time.”

“The weather was inclement.”

“Don’t forget to tune into the Champions League!”

“Srini for President!”

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England