October 2, 2012

The Not Entirely Unexpected Losers Café

The bodycount is mounting at the World Twenty20

Most tournaments develop slowly; they have a meandering narrative that gives us chance to stop and smell the roses along the way. The World Twenty20 isn't like that. I'm only just getting used to the layout of my Ronnie Hira 3D World Twenty 20 Wall Chart, but the festival of thwackery has already passed halfway and is hurtling towards its conclusion faster than Mike Gatting descending Everest in a bob sleigh.

Today two more contenders were unceremoniously flung from the careering cart of cricket destiny as it rattles along the fixture rollercoaster. If you don't count Super Overs, New Zealand have only lost one of their last three games. But T20 is gladiatorial combat, and just like at the Coliseum, there's no place for polite handshakes and the quiet satisfaction of a hard-fought draw.

And joining New Zealand for commiserations and low-fat lattes in the Not Entirely Unexpected Losers Café at Colombo International Airport's departure lounge are the English, still suffering from Malinga Syndrome; a nervous condition in which you think you can see a small white object hurtling towards you at great speed from an unusual angle and feel an overwhelming desire to run away.

By the time you sneak a look at this blog while you should be working, two more teams will be out. One of them won't be Australia but I can't be any more specific than that because net run rate is involved and net run rate involves more mathematics than a chap should be forced to juggle with just to follow a sports contest. Alphabetical order has its flaws, I'll grant you, but it's a lot easier to work out.

That Australia are definitely not out yet is almost entirely due to the hero of the tournament so far: Shane Watson. He's like a blond Hercules working his way through a list of tiresome chores. Slay the Nemean Lion? Check. Capture the Cretan Bull? Check. Single-handedly carry a team to the semi-finals of a major cricket tournament? Check. Put the rubbish out? Check. Have you cleaned the stables yet Shane? And when you going to get that ironing done? I need my work shirt.

Obviously Australia aren't just a one-man team. They're a one-man-and-ten-lesser-men-team. A one-man-and-ten-lesser-men-team that has also, finally, turned up to a tournament with a decent wardrobe. Usually it's just variations on the theme of yellow, and the problem with yellow is that it always looks garish or sweaty, or sometimes both garish and sweaty at the same time. One year they tried to pretend that yellow and grey was a good idea. It wasn't.

But these new colours are like a fresh identity. Who are those mystery men in black with green and yellow stripes? A mainly black uniform has many advantages. It comes across as purposeful and a little dangerous. It makes them look a lot thinner. And it takes away the only thing that New Zealand had left. Once, they were everyone's favourite surprise semi-finalists. Now they're not even the best international cricket team who wear black.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England