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Since this is an IPL blog, I probably ought to talk about some of the weighty IPL matters being debated in the media. Will the franchise model continue to be viable in the current economic circumstances? Do the disappointing ratings show that the IPL has reached saturation point and that new marketing strategies are required? How exactly does Sunil Narine get his hair to do that sticky-up thing?
But more interesting than all that is the news that the Delhi Daredevils have been turned into comic-book heroes. Led by Captain Reckless, the cartoon Double Ds include such favourites as Super Ego, battling evil with his Twitter Ray; the Mighty Australian Flea; Incredible Ten Foot Man; and boy wonder Roelof, who vacuums the Daredevils’ secret lair while they’re out on a mission.
I understand that the premise of the comic is that Sehwag and chums are defending the earth from aliens by challenging them to a game of cricket, perhaps a slightly optimistic portrayal of our first encounter with extra-terrestrial beings. They might, after all, prefer football or crown-green bowls or tiddlywinks. They might eat the stumps. They might want to carry off Billy Bowden for further examination.
And by agreeing to settle things over a game of cricket, aren’t these aliens taking a rather cavalier approach to interplanetary conquest? Unless, of course, they are counting on some local assistance. No doubt, within minutes of their spacecraft touching down, Chris Gayle’s agent would have been in touch, and Kieron International could probably bring a lot to the Martian line-up.
But whilst Delhi may be superheroes battling to protect the planet from T20-loving aliens, when it comes to payday, they are distinctly second rate. The recently published list of global sports payrolls puts them fifth in the IPL pay league, behind Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune and the most expensive cricket team on the planet, the purple-trousered, gold-trimmed Kolkata Knight Riders.
And Kolkata’s own superhero, the reason they are not dabbling in their familiar mid-table ambiguity, poised fascinatingly on the cusp of success before plunging tragically into failure, is the aforementioned Narine. If you haven’t seen him, he’s a next-generation Mendis, the Mendis Extreme. He’s got all the same features that the original Mendis has, but everything is cranked up to maximum.
He was at it again on Saturday. Kolkata were hanging on against Pune but the Warriors only needed 22 off 12. My nerves were frazzled, my throat was raw from shouting helpful suggestions at Yusuf Pathan (as I recall, immediate and unconditional retirement from cricket was a consistent theme), and my wager on Kolkata, the safest bet of a weekend treble, was in dire peril.
No problem. Sunil removed his KKR baseball cap (specially adapted with extra headroom to accommodate the eccentricities of his coiffure) and proceeded to calm the troubled waters with six of his best fizzers; the kind of deliveries that have batsmen prodding nervously as though the ball is an explosive device that will detonate if they hit it too hard. Four runs off the over and the world made sense again.
Super Narine has saved the day so often, he should start wearing a cape and get a giant S embroidered on his shirt. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a very reasonably priced mystery offspinner from Trinidad and no one can pick him yet.
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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