Commentary April 9, 2012

Mad axemen on the run from the police

What has week one of the IPL brought

Week one of IPL 5 has been a touch frenetic. Like a kennel full of eager puppies released into an open field, the players have been tearing about all over the place. Fielders have been flinging whatever is to hand at the stumps: balls, pebbles, beetles, water bottles, plastic chairs, and more often than not the ball has gone whizzing past the sticky things, initiating another exciting game of chase and fetch.

And it’s not just the fielders who’ve been hyped up like toddlers after a long car journey. With the eyes of millions on them, some of the batsmen have overdosed on adrenalin, going about their business with the reckless abandon of mad axemen on the run from the police, swinging away as though each chance to smash a cricket ball might be their last.

Take Suresh Raina. One of the IPL’s crack leather dispatchers, he’s always done his thing with a certain style. But when Deccan’s Dan Christian came on to bowl, Suresh went berserk. Ball one he heaved over extra cover with all the panache of a sumo wrestler flinging a sack of potatoes into a van. Ball two he swung at so hard that he nearly knocked himself out with his own bat. Ball three he hit straight up in the air with his eyes closed.

Had he let go of the blade at any stage, it could easily have flown over the boundary and crashed into the commentary booth. Or is that just wishful thinking on my part? I think we can take a good guess at how that piece of commentary would have gone:

“Oh he’s let go of the bat, Suresh Raina!” “That bat has gone a long way, I can tell you!” “When he flings them they stay flung!” “That is a DLF bat-maximum if ever I – “

Yes, while the best players in the world are busy risking hernias and badly sprained egos as they strain to the utmost to entertain us, the IPL commentators are in cruise control, feet up on the desk, brains in neutral, taking it in turns to read us extracts from the Dummies Guide to Stating the Bleeding Obvious.

Take this exchange, which occurred after Manpreet Gony mistimed a shot against Chennai.

“That’s gone a long way up in the air,” revealed Pommie Mbangwa as television footage showed the ball going a long way up in the air.

Fortunately, another former Test cricketer, Craig McMillan, was on hand to give us the technical perspective. What went wrong with that shot, Craig?

“There was too much loft on it.”

I am perhaps being a little unfair in singling out Craig and Pommie, so in the interests of balance, I should point out that all the other commentators are just as bad. And McMillan does have that fascinating accent to keep the viewer interested, although he could prove confusing to IPL newcomers who will struggle in vain to find the fan site of the Dicken Chergers.

From what I can tell, Dicken aren’t very good this year, but they fling themselves about in the field like demented tree frogs, which is jolly entertaining. It’s too early to judge the other teams yet but Rajasthan seem taller than they used to be, Kings XI are reprising their role as tragic failures, and Kolkata are treating my financial investment in their success with complete indifference. So now I know how Shahrukh Khan feels.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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