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Wednesday, 7th March Once upon a time there lived a poor princess. Her land was so poverty-stricken that she was forced to sell it to television for a paltry £300 million.
“Oh woe is me,” cried the princess, “How am I to compete financially with my peers? Oh how I envy Countess Lalit, who travels everywhere in a diamond-studded carriage pulled by flying unicorns!”
But one day, as she sat in the Lord’s pavilion, weeping over her spreadsheets, a heavily-tanned knight landed his helicopter on her lawn.
“I’ve got a yacht and I live in a make-believe kingdom. Will you marry me?”
“Oh yes!” said the princess, adding, “Show me the money!”
And Prince Charmless carried her off in the Ponzicopter to the magical land of Stanfordia where they lived in his giant sandcastle, entertaining themselves by throwing custard pies at people who weren’t billionaires.
But it couldn’t last for ever. One day a wicked federal agent knocked on their door and cast a magic arrest warrant. Prince Pyramid was transformed into a giant rat and ran away. His castle became a pumpkin once more and all his servants turned back into former international cricketers who swore they couldn’t remember a thing.
Yet the princess was unabashed and behaved as though nothing had happened, saying:
“I’m keeping the engagement ring and this £2.2 million and there’s nothing that anyone can do about it so there.”
And they all lived happily ever after apart from a few thousand investors and the citizens of Antigua, but let’s face it, they don’t really count.
Thursday, 8th March And just like that, Dravid has gone. He could have carried on, seeing off Sharma and Raina and Sharma and Raina’s nephews and Sharma and Raina’s nephew’s sons, batting on with indefatigable rectitude, stiffening the Indian spine long into his senior years.
Let’s face it, the timorous lumberjacks of the BCCI would never have dared to wield their axes against this mighty oak. But now that he has toppled over, he leaves a gaping hole. Which puny sapling can possibly fill it? They still haven’t found anything to put in the space where Ganguly used to stand.
It was the same when Poseidon announced his retirement. Who will regulate the tides now? Who’s going to stop the sharks from eating the mermaids? How will we get the smell of fish out of the carpet? And who’s going to tell Zeus that it might be time for him to hang up his thunderbolt?
Sachin and VVS should contemplate the experience of Mr Gatting and Mr Gooch. A pair of the finest willow-wavers England ever produced, but throughout their 1994 farewell tour they lumbered around Australia like bewildered brontosauruses who had somehow survived the Ice Age.
And 99 centuries isn’t a bad finish. Like 99.94, it has a certain numerical poignancy.
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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