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Wednesday, 21st December Every year, at around this time, a respected figure addresses the faithful. As two Commonwealth nations prepare to do battle on the cricket field, what better time for a Christmas speech from fast-bowling royalty. It is time, ladies and gentlemen for HRH Glenn McGrath to give us his state of the cricket nation address.
What does Glenn think of it so far? Well, he’s quite upbeat. He thinks Ricky has got a big score not far away (I assume he means not far away in the future). He reckons the Aussie batting line-up will “do the business” (presumably a different kind of business to the business they did in Hobart, which was the sort of business that Lehman brothers were doing in 2008). And he thinks the Indian team will be surprised by Nathan Lyon (because nothing terrifies those veteran Indian batsmen like an inexperienced spinner).
But that is the beauty of the annual McGrath Oration. It doesn’t have to make sense, and unlike the mealy-mouthed bias that you get from a lot of ex-pros, it is unashamedly and gloriously partisan. And it always makes me smile. Sadly, the interviewer did not press Glenn for his series score prediction, but if I had to hazard a guess, I’d say there was a strong chance of it ending in nil.
Thursday, 22nd December Congratulations to Shakib Al Hasan, who is now officially the world’s No. 1 Test allrounder. He always struck me as the responsible adult in the Bangladesh team, the supervising teacher on a school outing. Tamim goes racing ahead on his bicycle, then gets a flat tyre; Mushfiqur and Junaid wander off and get lost; Shahadat forgets his packed lunch and everyone picks on Ashraful.
Then, along comes uncle Shakib to sort it all out.
He was at it again in Mirpur, gathering 144 first-innings runs, the highlights of which were the late cuts he played off the bowling of Umar Gul, deft as a brushstroke, the kind of shots that produce a contented sigh from the neutral viewer. And then he whipped out six Pakistani batsmen with those deceptive left-arm deliveries that rear and spit out of the dust like angry cobras.
Well done, Shakib. But this isn’t over. And if you’re a Sri Lankan batsman, be afraid. For even as you read this, Jacques Kallis is standing somewhere in the South African veldt, bare-chested, roaring to the heavens, like the Incredible Hulk, swearing to the cricket gods that he will have vengeance and regain his rightful crown. Probably.
Friday, 23rd December The cricket watcher often has to wrestle with ethical dilemmas. Should I disturb my family by getting up at 3am to creep downstairs and watch live Caribbean Twenty20? Should you risk being late for your wedding in order to catch the end of the morning session at Lord’s? When you’re watching cricket on TV and someone scores a century, should you stand and applaud? *
Well here’s another one. When you have no connection whatsoever with a tournament that is being played in a foreign country, how do you choose which team to support? This is particularly tricky in the case of franchise cricket, where there is no history to go on, just a logo, a mission statement and a theme tune.
You could choose the team with the best name. But this isn’t quite shallow enough. These days I find I tend to gravitate towards the team with the most purple in their shirts. Hence my love of all things Kochi, my flirtation with Kolkata (was that really purple or had their black shirts faded in the wash?) and my new-found loyalty to the Hobart Hurricanes, the purplest team in the world.
Due to an administrative error, I had been supporting the Scorchers, but then I remembered that they were wearing orange and so I lost interest. Naturally they won immediately, although I did notice that the boundaries for their game yesterday had been downscaled to the proportions of a medium-sized bowling green. Clearly the tournament needs more sixes. Every day is Christmas Day for batsmen in the BBL.
On that note, Merry Christmas to all Page 2 readers.
* Obviously, the answer to all of these questions is yes.
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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. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73