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Saturday, 6th February While the cricket world is engrossed by a fascinating Test series in Dubai and the Commonwealth Bank ménage-a-trois is just warming up, into our consciousness barges the IPL, like a messenger in a ten-foot-tall peacock outfit interrupting a village wedding to announce via a solid-gold loudhailer that the Maharajah will be holding a bacchanalian orgy and concubine market at the Palace and all are invited.
Or to put it another way, it’s IPL auction time. As usual, some of the world’s finest cricketers were on offer at completely random prices, which is what makes this game show so entertaining. The eager contestants queue for their chance to give the Wheel Of Crazy Money a spin and see what wacky prizes they end up with. Vinay Kumar $1 million! Sunil Narine $700k! Somebody bought Mitchell Johnson! Crazy!
In keeping with IPL tradition, there were a few English bridesmaids, and we now look forward to another post-auction ritual: guessing which of the unsold Englishmen will be the first to declare (whilst wiping away a tear) that they never wanted to play in the thing anyway and that their first priority has always been international cricket/turning out for Nowhereshire/spending April decorating the spare room.
Monday, 6th February So, after a short but spectacular run, the England Test team’s touring show, Carry On Dubai is over. But if you’ve enjoyed their madcap mixture of clumsy footwork and hapless swiping, you’ll be pleased to know that the ECB has scheduled two more spin-themed farces later this year. Chaos In Colombo will open on March 26 and there are high hopes for the autumn production of Nonplussed In Nagpur.
Not all the reviews have been positive, but Andrew Strauss insists that England got better as the series went on and the stats back him up. They lost by a narrow 71 runs today, compared to a massive 72 last time and at this rate of improvement, they should finally be gaining the upper hand towards the end of the 2107-08 series.
Having already used up their stock of excuses, the English media have been a little short of plausible explanations for this unfortunate third outbreak of failure and so have fallen back on sniping about how slowly Azhar Ali bats, which is a little unfair. He may not be a dasher but the drowsiness induced by an Azhar innings is as nothing compared to the powerful sedative effect of a Cook-Trott partnership.
Anyway, enough of the losers, let’s talk about the winners, who are currently at the high point of the Pakistan Cricket Cycle, which is a bit like the economic cycle, or perhaps the life-cycle of the phoenix, and has four stages:
1. Chaos. 2. New captain harnesses the available abundance of talent to secure surprising triumph that promises much for the future of Pakistan cricket. 3. Someone does something silly. 4. Chaos.
At the moment it’s hard to see any of the players or coaching staff coming up with something silly, so I guess it’s over to you, PCB. There’s not a lot to work with, but maybe you could sack Misbah, appoint the Interior Minister’s nephew as opening batsman or even withdraw from the ICC? You’ll have your work cut out to turn this triumph into disaster, but I’m sure you can do it if you put your minds to it.
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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