December 22, 2012

The international cricket apprenticeship scheme

Is it working as well as it should? Ajinkya Rahane may disagree

Test matches are all very well, but they do drag on, so on Thursday, it was nice to see the return of some exciting cricket. Pune's international debut also gave us a rare sighting of the Lesser Spotted Rahane in full international plumage. Despite being widely considered one of the more successful of its species, the precocious Rahane is only usually seen after dark, attracted by the floodlights and crowds of T20.

On the whole, apprenticeships are a good thing. Take plumbing. You wouldn't want some teenager who's only just learned how to tie his shoelaces messing around with your boiler. Carpenters, ship-builders, camel-trainers, Royal moustache-comb bearers; all have to practice until they have perfected their craft. Even Napoleon had to wait until he'd racked up enough dead bodies before he got to be dictator.

But the International Cricket Apprenticeship Scheme that Rahane has signed up for is starting to look a bit dubious. Yuvraj, Rohit, Raina, Pujara, Yuvraj again and even Jadeja have all been given a go ahead of him. Jadeja is a fine young man. He has curly hair, he can do a bit of everything and he plays for Chennai. But when it comes to dispatching the little leather ball with the long willowy thing, Rahane is surely better.

The deputy Little-Master-in-waiting is also a bit of a whizz at T20, which is, after all, what pays the bills. On Thursday he got a little carried away after some characteristically eye-boggling biffery, but it didn't matter because Yuvraj is an even bigger biffer of the ball. He launched a few in the general direction of the moon and prompted my new favourite Shastri-ism:

"Goes again. Effortless. Flat as a tank."

Flat as a tank? Anyone know what was going through Ravi's brain at that moment? In my experience, tanks are not particularly flat, unless they've been run over by another tank. Perhaps threatened by the arrival of newer younger commentators into the booth, he's escalating the military metaphor race by upgrading from tracer bullets to armoured vehicles.

England lost, as expected, but some of them are beginning to make a name for themselves. Luke Wright, for example, isn't the Luke Wright you used to know; the "four heaves and a miss" hero of yore; he's now an international biffer of distinction and his heaves, though just as reminiscent of the farmyard as ever, are now much more expensive.

Lumb, Hales and Patel might also have had a chance of featuring in the IPL's bargain bin come auction time, but Nottinghamshire have told them they aren't allowed to come out to play in the spring. They have to stay home. This is the equivalent of being told that you can't go to that all-night party everyone's talking about; the one with the free alcohol, the swimming pool full of jelly and the super models, because you promised to visit your grandmother.

Lumb and chums will do their duty, but they'll sulk the whole time, they won't be on their best behaviour and at the first opportunity, they'll be out of there. And who can blame them?

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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