March 31, 2012

England

The shot that ended the world

Andrew Hughes
MS Dhoni speaks to the media, Mirpur, March 10, 2012
"Everyone's always saying we don't play enough practice matches. So we did, for the IPL"  © AFP
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Thursday, 29th March Every cricket watcher knows that the post-mortem after a Test defeat is far more entertaining than a victory celebration. Who wants to listen to sweaty sportsmen being tediously self-effacing about their success when you can wallow in the angry recrimination and existential despair of the unhappy professional pundit?

These decommissioned pros may spend most of their time on air reminiscing, snoring or talking about their lunch, but at times of national despondency, they really come into their own. When England lose, we connoisseurs of cricket misery have a range of choices from Bob Willis, the high priest of woe, through Nasser Hussain’s disapproving parent to Ian Botham, the angry man’s angry man.

But after this latest defeat, I thought I’d give Geoffrey Boycott a try. His style is straightforward, yet strangely compelling. To begin with, he tries a variety of grumbles on for size: Ian Bell’s sweep shot; the theory that the England players “have got nowt between the ears”; the state of the Greek economy. Soon, however, he settles on the grumble de jour and his oratory really takes flight.

At first, the significance of Ian Bell’s sweep shot is not fully appreciated by the listener. But as Fiery amplifies, repeats and reiterates, Ian Bell’s sweep shot takes on a more sinister meaning. From minor technical quibble to serious character flaw to national disgrace, we begin to see the enormity of Ian Bell’s sweep shot, until, after hammering away at his theme for several minutes, we finally come to understand that Ian Bell’s sweep shot represents everything that is wrong with western civilisation.

It was marvellous stuff. I look forward to his stirring explanation of why Andrew Strauss’ forward defensive is symbolic of the decline in British educational standards and the main reason for England’s seven-wicket defeat in Colombo.

Friday, 30th March Every journalist has a “too much cricket these days” piece up their sleeve. If a deadline approaches and they find themselves staring helplessly at a blank page, they know that they can always dig out a few paragraphs about stuffed fixture lists and burned out batsmen because they think that everyone agrees with them.

Normally I don’t. How can there be such a thing as “too much cricket?” Burnout can be a problem for the cricket watcher, as can bruising your knee on the coffee table or picking up a nasty paper cut from the TV guide, but we’re a hardy lot and we tend to shrug these things off as the inevitable downside of a demanding, sofa-bound career.

And yet today I find myself contemplating the unthinkable. I may be on the verge of complaining about the amount of cricket. And the reason? Today’s one-off Twenty20 in Johannesburg. It had crept into my consciousness earlier in the week but I shrugged it off as the product of a fevered imagination. Surely such a thing couldn’t happen.

But there it is. As superfluous as a hot chocolate machine in the Sahara; as out of context as two clowns bursting into the reference section at the British Library and enacting the penultimate scene from the Empire Strikes Back. Aside from pumping a few more litres of carbon into the atmosphere, what will it achieve?

There is a charity involved, but the assorted millionaires of India and South Africa could easily dip into their pockets to support that. Alternatively, a successful charity appeal could surely be run on the promise that if sufficient sums are raised, there would not be an entirely pointless Twenty20 game a few days before the start of the IPL.

But since it seems that we can’t stop the thing from going ahead, those of us who have had a bet on Kolkata to win the IPL would appreciate it, Gautam, if you could refrain from diving, jumping, stretching, lunging or in any way risking your more easily ruptured tendons. And the same goes for you, Jacques.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by Sajid Idrees on (June 3, 2012, 8:34 GMT)

yet another clever piece of work:) You really inspire me to just write, have always wanted to be a cricket commentator, pandit or journalist never had the freedom and exposure tangled between education and responsibilities. The way your articles encompass various aspects covering different perspectives of the subject you undertake in most of your articles is sublime. Good lad you are. Keep writing, I will meet you one day.

Posted by Andrew Hughes on (April 3, 2012, 16:54 GMT)

Thanks all for your comments

No sane cricket fan could object to a tribute to Jacques Kallis, but this game was oddly timed. Abhijeet suggests the match could have been played in India and this makes a lot of sense. A pre-IPL fixture, perhaps an All-Star XI v a Kallis XI would have been a great way to honour the man.

'Areyouserious' is a splendid choice of name, but he has left me confused by his reference to 'your cricket team'. Many years ago, I did make a handful of undistinguished appearances for my village 3rd XI in the South Staffordshire League, but whilst we didn't exactly sweep all before us, I don't think it fair to suggest that we were humiliated. It is gratifying to know that someone has followed my cricket career so closely, but I'm not entirely sure how relevant it is to Jacques Kallis's tribute game. Perhaps he could clarify.

Posted by Sehwag_Is_Ordinary on (April 1, 2012, 7:44 GMT)

Great as usual, so much for the shameless profiteering!!

Posted by CannyIrishman on (April 1, 2012, 5:50 GMT)

I mustn't be a proper cricket fan, as I do not want to watch the same very small number of teams hammering away at each other on a perpetual basis. Alice in Wonderland has its 'Crocodile race' where eveyone just keeps going.... Som eof us also have lives, well away from the dangers of TV paper cuts etc

Posted by Westerner on (April 1, 2012, 5:34 GMT)

lol @ "we finally come to understand that Ian Bell’s sweep shot represents everything that is wrong with western civilisation."

I love Boycs, a true character

Posted by areyouserious? on (April 1, 2012, 4:17 GMT)

Its sad that your cricket team has been humiliated so many times now that you have to take a swipe at charity matches to compensate for their inability

Posted by SM on (March 31, 2012, 20:28 GMT)

"Soon, however, he settles on the grumble de jour and his oratory really takes flight."

"From minor technical quibble to serious character flaw to national disgrace, we begin to see the enormity of Ian Bell’s sweep shot... represents everything that is wrong with western civilisation."

Delightful! Made my day - thank you Andrew.

Posted by karthik on (March 31, 2012, 19:29 GMT)

charity is a charity untill u make a fun out of it instead of seeing it in a beautiful way,kallis made a excellent decision by making a match out,though the match was not successfully ended,sur that some money would have... it would have been better if match was in india as sa team is also coming to india for ipl,ty

Posted by pimp on (March 31, 2012, 19:20 GMT)

bow down to king kallis

Posted by Abhijeet on (March 31, 2012, 16:26 GMT)

Lets face it, organizing a one-off T20 IS weird. Even if it was for charity it could have easily been held in India, where a whole lot of the south african team is going to be in a few days anyway for IPL. It would have given a good match practice for the saffers playing in IPL. I mean if players say its fine, then i guess it is, but still someone in the entire playing/organizing party should have used some part of their brain for once.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
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

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