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At this early stage, the IPL narrative lacks a little coherence. No sooner has one sweaty pro finished explaining himself post-match than another pair of bright-eyed captains are strolling out to fling a coin in the air. No team, not even Punjab, can be out of it this early and so there are no big winners or losers yet. As a film script, it needs work; perhaps cut to the knockout stages, throw in a few more last-ball thrillers. And lose the cheerleaders.
Still, if the plot is confusing, there are plenty of compelling characters to keep you enthralled, including two early contenders for the role of unlikely hero. If the IPL were a Hollywood film, perhaps one of those cute animated ones featuring the voice of Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks or Harsha Bhogle, these two gentlemen would be ideal for the parts of the hapless underdogs who take on the mafia or who stumble into a Wild West saloon bar dressed as chickens.
First there is the underrated newcomer, an awkward-looking lanky boy from a small island, with a wonky name. When his name appears on the team sheet of the Rajasthan Royals, everyone scratches their heads. Who is this guy? Kevon? What’s wrong with Kevin? Does he think he’s something special? And what’s he doing? Call that a run-up? Oh boy, he’s going to make a fool of himself, I can’t watch…
Yet against the odds, Kevon and his homely mixture of long hops and full tosses gets wicket after wicket after wicket. He’s unstoppable. He trots to the crease, lets fly a waist-high full-bunger, and before you can say “Surely that’s a no-ball”, he’s celebrating again. The townsfolk go wild and carry him from the pitch shoulder high, the prime minister of Trinidad calls to congratulate him, and Brett Lee strums his guitar as fireworks light up the sky.
Then there’s Dermot. He used to be something once. But they said he was a bits-and-pieces player, they said he couldn’t play Test cricket. So he quit. He wandered off into the wilderness, a maverick loner, an outcast. No one had seen him for years, till he turned up the other day in the commentary box. The crazy old dobbler is determined to make a fool of himself, going on about tactics and batting theory. This is the IPL! No one wants that!
But then something strange happens. The viewers warm to him. Turns out they enjoy being told something they didn’t know or couldn’t have worked out for themselves, rather than hearing what Danny had for breakfast or how much Sunil rates the biscuits he’s been paid to promote. Dermot understands, you see. He knows the art of television commentary is all about choices. When something happens on the field, what do you do?
1. Shout at the top of your voice, “Look, Event A just happened!” 2. Say nothing because everyone can see that Event A just happened. 3. Explain the technical adjustments Batsman X made to bring about Event A.
Ninety-nine per cent of microphone botherers cling to option one as though it were a life raft. Richie Benaud showed us that there is a lot to be said for option two, as does David Gower, although his occasional snoring rather spoils the effect. But Dermot, like Simon Hughes, goes for option three. The other commentators may snigger and call him a nerd behind his back, but he’s trying and we appreciate him for it.
Then comes the twist. Kevon falls in with the wrong crowd, thinks he’s Michael Holding, runs in from the boundary edge and sprains his yorker. Dermot eats too many DLF doughnuts, starts hanging out with Danny and realises that he’ll still get paid, no matter what rubbish he spouts on air. And the viewer discovers that IPL 5 is not, after all, a heart-warming family film, but a bleak, dystopian chiller. With cheerleaders.
Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in EnglandFeeds: Andrew Hughes
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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