May 28, 2012

Through rivers of sweat we swim

A sea of yellow

So, after all that, we were stuck with Chennai Perishing Super Kings in the final again. And it was being held in Chennai itself, the capital city of yellow. Every shade of yellow t-shirt was represented in the crowd, from dubious mustard through overripe banana to bilious canary, and even the bails were a kind of lemony-amber Super Kings hue.

Inevitably the home team was soon enjoying itself, like it was 2010 all over again. One big shot from Suresh even provoked the scoreboard operator to flash up what has to be a contender for the worst pun in IPL history: “It’s Raina-ing Boundaries.”

As the total hit three digits, Shahrukh Khan removed his sunglasses and rubbed his eyes, in the hope that he was dreaming, or perhaps because the insurance for his shades did not include a clause for perspiration damage.

Yes, besides yellow, sweat was the other popular theme. It was everywhere, dripping from noses, chins and ear lobes, running down the aisles and threatening to drown those sitting in the front row. Brett Lee sweated so much that all the blond ran out of his hair. After a few overs, I was suffering from sympathy perspiration and had to retreat to the kitchen for a damp face towel and a packet of frozen peas.

Eventually Gautam gave Super Narine the ball, but it was beyond one man to stem the yellow onslaught. Offered the challenge of bowling to Raina, Hussey and Dhoni on that pitch, even Hercules would have shrugged and retired from the hero business. Sunil went for 37, and 15 minutes later, with Gautam sitting glumly on the Kolkata bench and 180 odd runs still to get, I decided I’d had enough.

Rather than watching the Knight Riders collapse, I thought I’d catch up on some non-IPL news. I found some live coverage of what looked like vegetable gardening from Trent Bridge, which was a pleasant change of pace. I learned that the euro is in a bit of trouble, that Mark Webber had won a car race, and that I was running low on semi-skimmed milk.

A few minutes later I wandered back into the living room to check on the carnage in Chennai. Kolkata’s total still only had a 1 next to it, and stranger still the 1 was preceded by 100. Shahrukh Khan was leaning on the railings, rocking back and forth, and Gautam, who still hadn’t taken off his pads, was playing furiously with his upper lip.

Four overs to go and Yusuf “The Path” Pathan strode to the crease. Jacques Kallis, who by now was sweating so much he could have powered a small hydro-electric facility, showed him what to do, biffing the ball, and one of the Husseys who had foolishly attempted to intercept it, over the rope for six. A couple like that, Yusuf, and the game would be over.

But Yusuf 2012 doesn’t roll like that. Instead, he gave us another two-ball chameleon cameo: it’s almost as though he isn’t there and then he isn’t.

Into the penultimate over and Kolkata were still faltering. It was at this point that Ben Hilfenhaus for some reason decided it was time to bring out the waist-high full toss. Now, in my playing days (ten of them, unevenly spaced between 1991 and 1999) I did let slip the odd waist-high full toss or six, and I could have told you Ben, that, barring the odd miracle, the usual resting place of the waist-high full toss is in an adjacent field.

Yes, he got Kallis caught on the boundary, but then the next one was a no-ball, the third one was clipped lovingly over short fine leg and 16 needed off seven had become 9 off six.

So, the final over. Dhoni organised some tedious arm-waving conferences, the crowd sweated any remaining moisture out of their bodies, and Gautam and I supplemented our calcium intake with fragments of fingernail. But we need not have worried. Bravo’s slow long hops were even easier to hit than Ben’s full tosses, and Tiwary heaved Kolkata to victory.

Cue a certain amount of jubilation in the Hughes living room, a chorus of dogs outside my window, fireworks in Chennai, and Shahrukh, in addition to offering us an unscheduled glimpse of his right nipple, rattling the railings of the upper tier so vigorously that he was in danger of bringing the MA Chidambaram Stadium down around him. Even now he may still be there, roaring his triumph at the heavens. I don’t blame him.

And just like that, it’s all over. Like astronauts returning to earth, those who’ve been on planet franchise for the last seven weeks may need to lie down in a quiet room for a few days to acclimatise to life after IPL. I hear there is other cricket going on. But it’s not quite the same. See you again next April.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England