April 3, 2013

Backing the no-hopers from Punjab

And other important IPL analysis you won't get elsewhere

There has been a distinct lack of bat-and-ball action in recent days and this rare gap in the cricket fixture continuum has been hard going. Whilst I've enjoyed reading about Kolpackshire's prospects in the Empty Seats Siesta Bring Your Own Thermos Championship, and about how Bankruptchester will cope now that they have sold their wicketkeeper to finance a hospitality oblong at deep backward square leg, it was with some relief on Monday that I turned over the picture of a semi-nude Michael Atherton in my Glamorous Cricketers Of The Nineties calendar to unveil Graeme Hick sprawled across the bonnet of a Ford Mondeo, signifying that April is upon us. And April, as we all know, is IPL time.

This annual shebang has grown from its modest begins as a gargantuan circus of hype to its current status as Supreme Intergalactic Orgy of Expensive Cricket, and the list of those who are not to be admitted under any circumstances has also grown. This year it consists of:

Lalit Modi
Little Lalit, sinister pet pterodactyl and part-time minion
Sri Lankans

I'm not invited either, but I will be lurking in the shrubbery and hoping to catch as much of the party as I can by peeking through a grubby window that is occasionally obscured by the unwanted presence of nervous onlookers making small talk (or ITV 4 as it is better known.)

I shouldn't be too critical of ITV4's coverage. It has Simon Hughes on it, one of the all-time great Hugheses. It sometimes features Mandira Bedi, who I find immensely entertaining, like a tactless aunt who could say something embarrassingly hilarious or hilariously embarrassing at any moment. And above all, it's free. One of the joys of the IPL is that you don't need to rob a bank or pawn your children in order to afford to watch some top-class cricket.

Sadly, I couldn't see the opening ceremony, but I did read the previews and it sounded fun. Inevitably the teeterers were back, thanks to the successful lobbying of the Amalgamated Union Of Balancers and Auxilliary Circus Acts to have stilt-walking made compulsory at all major international events (watch out for men in sequins stumbling around with the aid of relatively high wooden poles to no great purpose at the next G20 summit.)

It also promised a pit bull terrier*, an idea clearly purloined from England. It is surely no coincidence that the highlight of the opening ceremony at last year's Friends Provident Nobody Cares Gymkhana was Giles Clarke and his bichon frise, Allen, performing outside the tombola tent to a medley of Abba hits. I'm sure the IPL's pit bull is impressive, but it will have to go some way to top Giles' hip gyrations during the "Money Money Money" segment.

So who to support? Having successfully guided Kolkata to the title last year, this time I will be putting my psychic energy behind the Kings of Calamity, the Perennial Pointphobes from Punjab. I like that Adam Gilchrist is not going gracefully, in fact, he's not going at all. I like that they can find room for Mr Angry Pants, Praveen Kumar, and for my favourite pirate cricketer, Dmitri "Earrings" Mascarenhas, and I like that they think they can win the thing with a collection of has-beens, maybes and definitely-nots. They're my kind of no-hopers.

* It has been suggested that the pit bull terrier in question is a human being, who has voluntarily named himself after one of the least attractive mammals on the planet. I'm an easygoing chap but I can spot an April fool a mile off and I'm not falling for that one.

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