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Saturday, 7th January Although India’s rickety cart, minus wheels, driver and horses, did eventually come to a crashing halt, the prayers offered to the God of Revenue Maximisation by the SCG treasurer were answered and the mirage of the golden century was still flickering come the morning of the fourth day.
I reckon if you could calculate it, you’d find that Sachin’s failure to score a hundred is one of Test cricket’s most valuable assets. Cricket boards around the world will soon start factoring it into their budgets, wondering if they can get away with charging a “Sachin Century Possibility Premium” when India arrive.
I feel about the Sachin ton a little bit like I used to feel about Christmas as a child. It took so long to arrive that by the time it did, there was no possible way it could live up to the anticipation and you knew that it probably wouldn’t, but still that didn’t prevent you from giving your fevered imagination free rein.
Perhaps when it comes, the century will bring the cosmic cricket forces into balance and herald a new golden age. Jaded old cricketers will throw off their cynicism and come running onto the pitch to embrace. Ian Chappell and Ian Botham will sing “I Got You Babe,” in the centre of the WACA and doves will take off from all directions as petals fall on the outfield. In the days after the century, maybe Pakistan will be allowed to host Tests again, the World Test Championship will return, the DRS system will be made mandatory and Bob Willis will finally get his own chat show.
It is, of course, possible that none of these things will happen and that the event will pass with just a wave of the bat and an extra digit in the records. But you never know. And in the meanwhile, can I interest you in a commemorative signed photograph of Sachin almost scoring his hundredth hundred? Yours for only $99.99
Monday, 9th January I have an apology to make. I have over the months made the occasional cheap jibe at the expense of a certain Sussex performer. I have called him Luke Wrong. I have averred that if he’s an international cricketer, then I’m a Dutchman. I have suggested that he patents the straight up in the air shot, an art in which he even surpasses the master, Shahid Afridi. Well I was wrong. Call me Ronald van Humble.
Today he heaved nine sixes and eight fours in a rampage of willow-wafting that had me so astonished that I fear I may need surgery to return my eyebrows to their correct position. The list of impressive blonds called Luke that I have seen in my lifetime now extends to two and given that Luke Skywalker was, I have to reluctantly accept, a fictional character, the Luke from Grantham is probably at the top of the list.
Tuesday, 10th January Brad Haddin has copped some flak for suggesting that India are fragile and that they break quicker than anyone in the world, but I think a little understanding is called for. Having been a regular in the Australian team for the last three years, he’s seen a collapse or two so he knows what he’s talking about. Indeed, coming from an Australian cricketer of recent vintage, his comments could be taken as a kind of compliment; like one cowboy builder with a record of collapsing structures admiring an even bigger ruin brought about by another firm of dodgy constructors.
Then there is the psychological factor. We all remember from our school days that the loudest name-callers have often borne the brunt of such bullying themselves. People are saying nasty things about Brad; that he can’t catch, that he doesn’t know which end of the bat to hold, that Brad’s a silly name, that he wears his baggy green all wrong, that he can’t tie his shoelaces, that his mother cuts his hair; this kind of thing; so in time honoured schoolyard tradition, he goes and picks on someone else.
No, the Indian players shouldn’t worry too much about the fact that an Australian called Brad is saying these things; they should worry about the fact that he’s right.
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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