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The Barabati Stadium, Cuttack is the bluest stadium in the world. The advertising hoardings are blue, the pillars holding up the roofs are blue, the roofs are blue, the walls are blue, the seats are blue, the pencil that Sunil Gavaskar uses to fill out his dry-cleaning expenses claim during the strategic time-out is a pleasant shade of aquamarine.
So it was the perfect venue for Tuesday’s colour-coordinated clash between the Inky Blue Chargers and the Seasick Blue Warriors; a squabble by the seaside featuring two floundering franchises desperate to keep their heads above water.
A sea breeze was stirring the palm trees when Deccan set sail but it wasn’t long before their innings was becalmed. In a bold selection gamble, Kumar Sangakkara had picked himself and then no doubt spent the first ten overs berating Deccan’s captain for going with the out-of-form Sri Lankan. As the toe-end clunks, airy wafts and thick edges accumulated, it seemed rude to stare at the poor chap, so I flicked over to Judge Judy.
After watching a particularly brutal summing up in which a hapless plaintiff was told in no uncertain terms to pull himself together, I flicked back to the cricket in time to see an entirely different Kumar slash one through the covers. Another four followed, then another, and then he was bringing up his fifty whilst Pune’s captain chewed his own fingers nervously.
The rebirth of Kumar the batting god slightly overshadowed his batting partner, but the reputation of Cameron White has also been resurrected in recent days. He went missing for a few months but now has returned unscathed from his journey through the underworld of disappointing averages to wreak a brutal vengeance with his butcher’s forearms, dismembering the Pune bowling to pile up a score that any half-competent team could easily defend.
Sadly, half-competence has been but a dream for Deccan at IPL 5. Coach Lehmann has read them the fable of the Hare and the Tortoise every night before bed time for three weeks now but it hasn’t sunk in and they still keep finding ingenious ways to throw away winning positions. They almost did it again, with another bumper collection of slip-ups and oopsy-daisy moments that kept Pune in it even as the required run rate crept up to double figures.
Everything depended on Ganguly and Clarke, one of those delightfully unlikely IPL partnerships. Their running between the wickets was particularly entertaining, as though a sprinter and a discus thrower had been teamed up in the 4 x 100 metres relay team. I’m not sure what calling system they were using, but it seemed to rely on a combination of eyebrow signals and telepathy.
Inevitably it ended, as most Ganguly partnerships end, with a run-out. Soon afterwards the captain went too, holing out to mid-off and stomping away from the crease, helmet perched askew atop his hair, which was perched askew atop his head. From that point on, Pune’s inability to score quick runs under pressure trumped Deccan’s inability to catch, and the Chargers took another huge step towards their goal of mid-table obscurity.
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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