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The Confectionery Stall is taking a week off to prepare its latest XIs - the Test-Star-But-One-Day-Flops XI versus the ODI-Legends-But-Test-Match-Muppets XI. In its place, Dr Stumps, part-qualified unlicensed cricketing Agony Aunt, answers your queries.
Dear Dr Stumps
I am a long-standing cricket fan, and, although the Test game is my first cricketing love, I do not mind Twenty20 as a format. However, I have found it impossible to find any excitement at all in the Champions League T20. I have watched some of the games, and seen at times what ostensibly looks like "good cricket", but it has left me unmoved. Am I normal, or just a hollow shell of a human being?
Yours sincerely, Vice-Cardinal Ethel Herzchelowitz, Vatican City, aged 92
Do not worry, your feelings are perfectly normal. Cricket has chosen to force its followers to pick and choose which shards of the game they follow, so choices must be made. If you do not have an umbilical tie to one of the various teams who have qualified for the tournament through the various random procedures available, or are not a blood relative of one of the players, owners, mascots or scantily-clad interpretative dancers, it is biologically natural to find franchise-based T20 as emotionally engaging as reading a telephone directory in a darkened shed.
Furthermore, even if you are a parent, spouse or child of one of the star competitors, you may struggle to remember which of his various teams your loved one happens to be representing this tournament. The footballing model from which cricket's Champions League takes its name and inspiration is itself a flawed, if highly lucrative, competition, geared largely towards the ongoing dominance of a cabal of hyper-wealthy megaclubs. Teams seem able to depart from or ascend to this elite only through spectacular financial mismanagement, or the acquisition of a publicity-hungry billionaire owner. However, at least the players are attached to only one club at a time. And the matches are not, due to logistical necessity, played out largely on neutral grounds thousands of miles from the supporters of both teams.
Twenty20 has proved to be predictably popular, but also more strategically interesting than might have been expected. But it is psychologically and spiritually advisable for 21st-century cricket spectators to be selective in which tournaments they allow themselves to care about.
Dear Dr Stumps
My friend and I cannot agree on whom we think Azhar Mahmood is playing for at the moment. Can you help us?
Regards, Miley Cyrus, Skegness, aged 19.
I will set my research team onto this complex task and report back next week. Some have suggested Azhar is representing the Auckland Aces, but the evidence is inconclusive and requires considerable scientific interpretation.
The rumour is that when Azhar's T20 captains run over to him at the end of his run-up, they are not encouraging him, boosting his confidence, or advising him on field placings, but reminding him for which team he is playing.
Azhar's all-round skills, which have flowered late in his career in the T20 arena after failing to find consistency and fulfilment in the international game, have sparked rumours that he is currently in talks with, amongst others, Real Madrid, the New York Yankees, the Swedish national handball team, Harlequins rugby club, the Bolshoi Ballet, the International Monetary Fund, and the Rolling Stones over short-term contracts for 2013. Cristiano Ronaldo is also said to be mulling over "a very tempting offer" from the Barisal Burners.
Dear Dr Stumps
I was chatting with my wife the other day when she pointed out that there have now been four different winners in the four World T20 tournaments, and that six different nations have appeared in the four finals. She added that, in the last two tournaments, neither finalist from the previous tournament has reached the final, whereas in the 50-over World Cup, this has only happened twice in nine tournaments (in 1987, when neither West Indies nor India progressed to the final, and 1996, when England and Pakistan both packed their bags after the quarter-final stage). Perhaps, she suggested, this is because the birth of the T20 World Cup coincided with an era in which no team has dominated any format, whereas the 60-/50-over World Cup has spanned the eras of the great West Indies team (winners in 1975 and 1979, finalists in 1983), and the all-conquering Australians who won four of six tournaments from 1987, including three in a row from 1999, and were losing finalists in another. Or perhaps, she self-counter-argued, the shorter format will always be unpredictable and slightly random, with form counting for little in one-off matches, with any team vulnerable to a one-off Marlonsamuelsian explosion of strokeplay from a single opposition player that can be more ultimately decisive in T20 than in the longer formats, and with little time for chasing teams to consolidate and rebuild after losing wickets. She concluded by suggesting that, in T20, Panic is always padded up and ready to stride to the crease, adding further to its unpredictability. What do you think?
Lots of love, Barack H. Obama, Washington, aged 51.
It sounds like you have found yourself a top-quality wife.
Dear Dr Stumps
I am Felix Baumgartner. I have just jumped out of a hot air balloon from 24 miles above the earth's surface. Being so high above this famous planet of ours made me feel almost supernaturally humble, and gave me a perspective on human life that few have been privileged to experience. Do you think the ECB should consider sending Kevin Pietersen and the rest of the England squad to the edge of space? Writing as someone who knows what it is like to plummet earthwards at the speed of sound ‒ much as England's Test form has this year ‒ I believe a jaunt to the stratosphere will help them ensure there is no repeat of their recent self-inflicted Twitter-aggravated hyperspat. They will realise that we are all but specks in the universe, so we might as well put our petty differences aside and work for the common good.
Felix Baumgartner, on the ground again, somewhere in the middle of New Mexico.
Congratulations on (a) deciding to jump out of a balloon from a ridiculous height, (b) jumping out of a balloon from a ridiculous height, and (c) returning safely to a sensible height. The only things preventing the ECB, and other cricket boards, from sending their players into space are the hectic global cricketing schedule, which makes fitting a meteorologically propitious launch date into the unending stampede of cricket a logistical impossibility, and, currently, financial cost.
Recent years have seen more and more cricket teams go on team-bonding expeditions, and a space trip would in all likelihood render a side all but unbeatable. (Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, for example, never once lost a top-level doubles match on the professional tennis or badminton circuits after their 1969 moon jaunt.)
Mercifully, the Kevin Pietersen Reintegration ProjectTM has borne fruit, and various members of the England squad have pledged to welcome the much-discussed batsman back into the dressing room with open arms. (It should be borne in mind, however, that Roman senators once welcomed Julius Caesar with open arms, and he ended up with some career-ending injuries.) (And it should also be borne in mind that not all fruit is sweet and juicy. Even fruit that looks sweet and juicy.)
New captain Alastair Cook has long been marked out as a potential skipper, and, as a little boy dreaming of one day captaining England, must surely have imagined spending his first six weeks in the job answering questions about a playground-level squabble whilst playing no cricket at all. He, more than anyone, must be relieved that he has helped to hold a pillow over this tiresome issue until the twitching stops.
Dear Dr Stumps,
Whom am I playing for today?
Kindest regards, Azhar Mahmood, 37.
I have no idea.
Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writerFeeds: Andy Zaltzman
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Andy Zaltzman was born in obscurity in 1974. He has been a sporadically-acclaimed stand-up comedian since 1999, and has appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4. He is currently one half of TimesOnline's hit satirical podcast The Bugle, alongside John Oliver. Zaltzman's love of cricket outshone his aptitude for the game by a humiliating margin. He once scored 6 in 75 minutes in an Under-15 match, and failed to hit a six between the ages of 9 and 23. He would have been ideally suited to Tests, had not a congenital defect left him unable to play the game to anything above genuine village standard. He writes the Confectionery Stall blog on Cricinfo.