March 23, 2013

Press-conference piffle, and the Professor's leanings

Andrew Hughes
Mohammad Hafeez leaves the field after being run out, South Africa v Pakistan, 1st ODI, Bloemfontein, March 10, 2013
Mohammad Hafeez: can't keep to the straight and narrow  © AFP
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I imagine that going to a pre-match press conference must be like visiting a distant relative you don't really get on with: there's a lot of uncomfortable shuffling, sporadic polite coughing, and interminable small-talk, punctuated by tumbleweed silences.

Journalists pretend to be interested in the carefully vetted opinions of young men in tracksuits, whilst cricketers half-heartedly feign an interest in explaining how they'd very much like to win the imminent fixture.

So reading second-hand accounts of such events has never struck me as a particularly worthwhile way to spend three minutes; time that might better be spent boiling an egg, half emptying the dishwasher or learning to count to ten in Albanian.

But as I'd nothing better to do on Thursday, I thought I'd give it a whirl. I also reasoned that this particular pre-match run-through of the bleeding obvious might be slightly less tedious than usual because the soft-to-heavy going in New Zealand meant no one had lost the series yet, so the captains might be induced to dabble in entertaining mind games.

Sadly, I was to be disappointed. Brendon McCullum said he wanted to make history, but making history isn't that hard. All you have to do is say something; for example, that you want to make history; have a third party write it down and hey presto: in future everyone will have to use the past tense when they talk about it. Well done, Brendon.

But if Brendon McCullum is the George Foreman of press-conference piffle, Alastair Cook is the undisputed champion. He wrestles with a cliché. He tussles with a platitude. He fumbles with banality. He's so polite he makes Alec Stewart seem rude.

We did learn that KP has been "putting his body on the line"; which is a rather dramatic way of explaining that he's got a bit of a twinge in his knee. Cricketers are so easily deterred by pain these day. When I was young, a chap was expected to play through cartilage ruptures, tendon twangs, fractured vertebrae and bubonic plague, with just a cortisone injection and a restorative tot of whisky after breakfast. And 1980s cricketers also had the physical burden of lugging around a beer belly, a mullet and some manner of heavy facial hair.

Anyway, having carelessly dispensed with three non-refundable minutes of my life, I was grateful for some real cricket from South Africa, where Pakistan were levelling the series, and more importantly, I had another chance to see the Tallest Cricketer Ever.

Eat up your vegetables and you'll grow up big and strong. Eat up your vegetables, your family's vegetables, all the vegetables at your local greengrocers, a flock of sheep, a bottle of milk and a gallon of Easy Grow Plant Fertiliser and you'll be Mohammad Irfan. Facing him must be unnerving. You know he's tall, because you had to get your captain to lift you up to shake hands at the pre-match buffet. But it still smacks you about the senses every time you clap eyes on him, like opening your front door to find a lion sitting on your car.

The non-match-defining controversial incident of the day was the dismissal of the Professor, which had been preceded by one of the many delights of cricket: the opportunities it gives us to play detective by intently studying three seconds of endlessly replayed television footage in search of justice. Shaun Pollock and Mike Haysman were like two men attempting to offer an opinion on the length of an invisible piece of string. Did Hafeez veer left or was it more of a lean? Is his left arm heavier than his right arm, causing him to list to port when he runs?

He was finally given out Generally Getting In The Way by Billy Bowden, who decided that he had significantly changed his direction. Given the look on the Professor's face, Billy should also consider significantly changing his direction if their paths cross in the near future.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here

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Posted by Rugsy on (March 25, 2013, 1:55 GMT)

Super stuff, Andrew, laughed my lungs out. The sheer drivel that was trottrd out in Delhi after the one sided drubbing was no less memorable. Dhoni, with the trophy in hand and a huge halo round his head, piously insisted that the word 'revenge' was unknown to him. Doesn't matter what the rest of India thinks. After all, Captain Cool cannot afford to have normal human emotions that will defreeze his icy coolness. Watson was equally irrelevant. First, said the usual stuff about how they were not good enough and then fell face down into Ravi Shastri's neat little trap by assenting that it had been a good learning curve. Learning? Only students who do their homework learn anything Watto. Ask Mickey

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
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. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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