April 6, 2013

The epic battle in the Twitterverse

Is between those who want to watch noisy cricket and those who'd rather hear birds er tweet

Like Luke Skywalker wandering into the Mos Eisley cantina, when I joined Twitter recently I found it a little bewildering. There are some angry, angry people on there, even in the section where the cricket tragics gather - near the toilets, not too far from the band. I've grabbed myself a corner seat, kept my head down and observed the rum goings-on, keeping an eye on the chap with the oversized rabbit teeth who has obviously taken a dislike to me.

As a fairly lazy kind of individual, I don't tweet very often. It's so hard to know what isn't tweetworthy and what definitely isn't. But the industriousness of other twitterers is eye-opening. Lalit Modi has a strike rate of tweets per minute that even outdoes the official ball-by-ball IPL feed. His Lalitness clicks on the little blue button so often that I'm struggling to keep up with what he's saying, or at least, I would be if I was reading them.

I've also had a ringside seat at a mass squabble that is becoming a springtime tradition. Yes, once again its hurricane season in the cricket tea cup as two communities count down with barely suppressed excitement to completely different events. One has asked Santa for a copy of Old Bore's County Preview Almanack. The other is hoping for a Kolkata tea cosy. Come the big day, nerves get frayed. Hair is pulled. Cyberspace is thick with sarcasm and league envy.

But, children, there's no need for the hissy fits. We can all get what we want. If you want to watch some of the best players in the world throwing themselves about in front of tens of thousand spectators, a purple and gold clad Brett Lee tearing in and uprooting off stump first ball, or Murali bowling to Ponting and Tendulkar, then you can. If that's not your bag, you can sit in the cold and watch Derbyshire.*

Of course, if you're British and you want to catch the IPL, you'll have to go through ITV 4 first. In an effort to deter us, they've lined up all of the world's worst adverts. Are you a woman? Then you must like washing machines. Do you have a Y chromosome? Then I just know you're going to love this car being driven through a non-specific European city in the dark. Are you elderly? Well it's chairlifts and Elgar for you.

And so it goes on. Do your worst, ITV4, you won't get me to turn over. I've got a mute button the size of a large postage stamp and I'm not afraid to use it.

Now normally I'd also have my button thumb going like the clappers during the game itself. But this year I'm trying an experiment. Instead of silencing Ravi and chums the moment they open their mouths, I've decided to give them a chance. And they are rewarding my tolerance with some choice tomfoolery.

A television commentator is employed to tell us what we've already seen, so in superfluous the moment he clears his throat. Shouts of "Wow!" or "Crikey!" or "Look at that!" can wear thin after a few seconds, so they need to come up with new ideas from time to time.

One thing they can offer is technical insight. In Wednesday's opening game, the booth's resident neuroscientist** trumped all that tedious talk of averages, strike rates and so on. He'd been studying the pre-tournament MRI scans and was able to confirm that the in-coming Johan Botha had a massive cricket brain. Sadly, six balls later, Johan was out buttock before wicket playing a silly shot, and had to drag his massive cricket brain back to the bench.

Undaunted, Commentator X was dabbling in fortune-telling in Thursday's game. After a stately start to their innings, Pondulkar was ticking along nicely before Sachin went for a little jog and didn't quite get back in time. As we watched the replays, we looked to the experts to guide us. The commentators confidently predicted that Tendulkar would not be out, and, what's more, that it would be a good decision. All eyes went to the screen. Out said the screen.

Keep this up chaps, and I may never mute again.

* In the interests of balance, I should point out that other shires are available. Lots of them.

**16:24:42 GMT, April 8, 2013: The piece originally named a commentator here, who was later revealed to not have been at the game in question. The error is regretted.

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