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Wednesday’s action was a little disorientating. KKR versus Kings XI? Hang on, haven’t we already seen this film? A quick flick through the TV guide and a call to the observatory at Greenwich confirmed that I hadn’t fallen through an IPL wormhole. This wasn’t KKR versus Kings XI, it was Kings XI versus KKR, the rematch.
A sequel can be a tricky thing, so the teams of Priety Zinta and Shahrukh Khan played it safe and stuck to exactly the same plot as the first performance. Once again the silvery reds set an inadequate total and once again challenged their eastern friends to fall short of it. But the twist for this show was that the whole game was played out during a biblical plague.
Moths, to be precise, millions of them, twinkling away under the floodlights, fluttering about all over the place, getting into helmets, under baseball caps and no doubt up the nostrils of unwary boundary fielders, and making the whole affair look like it was being staged during the opening moments of a really show-stopping blizzard.
As far as I know, I’ve never tasted raw moth, although I can’t entirely rule out the possibility that the unidentifiable contents of the pies I was fed at school contained the remains of large nocturnal insects of some description. For the IPL bowler at the PCA Stadium, particularly the vegetarian ones, a mouthful of moth must be a continual worry.
But if the moths were the extras, the stars were all batsmen. Adam Gilchrist, the Jimmy Stewart of international cricket, had a key supporting role. He shrugged off a hamstring injury to return to the crease and played some glorious shots; watching him slash a lacerating cut through cover point was like watching an old steam train pulling out of the scrap yard for one more journey, all power and grace and nostalgia.
For the Knight Riders, Brendon McCullum brought the early boundaries and some fine dance moves. His quick step is the envy of ballrooms throughout the South Island, and he was having a grand time, showing off his paso doble and foxtrot, before accidentally pirouetting a Chawla long hop straight to fine leg. Piyush had the courtesy to stifle his grin and Brendon departed, looking as sheepish as a man in a gold helmet can.
But Gautam was still there, the undoubted leading man of the show. On my wall I have three portraits of India’s former vice-captain, capturing his three aspects: Grumpy Gautam, Angry Gautam and Anxious Gautam. Now I will need to get another done illustrating Imperious Gautam. With the run chase going to plan and a fifty against his name, he leaned on his bat handle, Caesar in a mustard coloured helmet, surveying the battlefield.
By this time the film was fast approaching its not very surprising denouement as it became blatantly obvious that KKR were going to get the runs. Even the Kings XI moths were turning on their team, ganging up to fly into Chawla’s ear as he prepared to bowl. Then again, perhaps they were just trying to tell him to move square leg finer or to slip in a topspinner. But their advice went unheeded and Punjab sauntered to defeat.
When big Jacques joined his captain, the game entered a serene phase as they pottered along in Test mode, gliding the ball here and there, cutting an orthodox dash, getting things done as calmly and methodically as librarians taking all of the books in the philosophy section down for a careful dusting and replacing them one by one in the correct order before casually strolling to the exit and turning off the lights, their work done for the evening.
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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