June 5, 2013

Sri Lanka's time is here

Andrew Hughes
Rory Kleinveldt expresses his frustration, Pakistan v South Africa, Champions Trophy warm-up, The Oval, June 3, 2013
If you want to remain in one piece, don't advise any South African to gargle before a game  © Getty Images

Stand by, cricket chums. The Champions Trophy is almost upon us. Eighteen days of moderately pointless 50-over action in the sun.*

In the gaggle of triangulars, quadrangulars, and franchise leagues, it is the ugly medium-sized gosling that never grew up. A once-vigorous young tournament but now on its last legs; it stands stiffly and awkwardly, an antique stuffed tiger in a dusty corner, waiting to be taken to the charity shop.

Still, it is an international tournament and I can't let one of those pass by without a flutter. Unfortunately, I find myself out of step with modern cricket betting and at a distinct disadvantage, since I am not related to any of the players, the coaches, the physios, or the team astrologists. Instead, I'm going to have a bet the old-fashioned way, by quickly perusing the list of entrants, closing my eyes and plumping for Sri Lanka.

South Africa are favourites, and straight away we have a problem. If I predict that South Africa are going to choke like a man who has attempted to swallow the plot of Dan Brown's Angels and Demons whilst eating a bag of extra dry pretzels, I will attract angry comments. South African supporters do not like you mentioning the C-word, they get quite vexed; rightly so, since it is a lazy stereotype perpetuated by lazy writers. So I won't say it.

Then there's England. Dress like Zimbabwe, so the saying goes, and sooner or later, you'll play like Zimbabwe. England's recent outbreak of failure has prompted the usual calls from the Sky commentary box for lots of drastic changes right now, all of them futile. Unless the ECB have invested their Stanford loot in an accelerated cricketer cloning programme, and can come up with six players in the next three days, they are pretty much stuck with the ones they have (and the ones they can steal from Ireland).

As for the chaps in yellow, I've just finished watching the IPL, which is awash with reserve Australians, so reading down their squad list was a yawn-inducing experience. Coulter-Nile, Warner, Watson, one of the Marshes, blah blah blah. I am not excited.

Pakistan won't win because they have arrived on these shores as a relatively settled side, with a forward-looking, slightly dull squad, and have taken the time to prepare thoroughly for the tournament. This is not the Pakistan way, and will surely fail.

India won't win because their players will feel they have no chance of grabbing the headlines. Even if they trounce Australia by 500 runs in the final, at the very moment MS Dhoni lifts the trophy, a cleaner from the BCCI will be charged with using unauthorised bleach in the gentleman's executive toilets and his arrest will steal their thunder.

West Indies might win, but they have Dwayne Bravo as captain. Given what we saw in the IPL, I fear that he might start dancing in the event of a victory, and I'd hate to encourage that. New Zealand might win too, and that would be lovely for them, but betting on New Zealand to win something is like paying to enter your daughter's pony in the Derby. It may be a lovely pony, but it's only going to win if all the other entrants run in the wrong direction.

So, the moment of truth. I've tipped Sri Lanka for every major tournament since the last time they won a major tournament, and every time they have let me down. I am far too easily seduced by the unorthodox bowling actions, by the excess of syllables, by the presence of Dilshan, by Kumar's cheeky smile. So I'm not going to be fooled again. I have learned my lesson. Sri Lanka it is.

* Readers are reminded that English weather forecasts are not to be taken literally and that rain, sleet, snow, hail and frogs are also distinctly possible.

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

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Posted by   on (June 6, 2013, 7:43 GMT)

I love reading it. The way writer has spiced humor with sarcasm is appreciatory. The bit, Pakistan have come as a forward-looking and well-settled side and this is not the way they play so they won't win. I loveee this bit... Hilarious! and Brit turned into Zimbabwe.. Applause for this writer :D..

Posted by jackthelad on (June 6, 2013, 5:35 GMT)

The actual problem with Sri Lanka is that they will be fielding the weakest team they have had in a number of years (the same can be said of Australia, of course). For both, when great players leave more or less together, it takes time to rebuild (Australia have been rebuilding for five or six years, and still the foundations aren't laid). I'd love to see SL win this last nonsense trophy, but I'd be very surprised if they come near. Whatever the pundits chunter, what England need is KP back fit, and that's not going to happen. South Africa (if Steyn pulls together) must be favourites, but I fancy Pakistan.

Posted by asohk on (June 6, 2013, 5:34 GMT)

Sri-Lankan cricketers not only disappointed you but their local fans as well.Root cause needs remedial measures to put S/L cricket in its former glorious shape. Once opulent SLC now remains as an unbelievably cash strapped entity. Cricket no doubt has turned out to be an another profession, immaterial the amount that they accumulate and players solely depending on cricket.Yet they had been deprived of their dues for a considerable period not on their faults but mismanagement through idiotic investments. This time around we hope a better show from our lads.

Best of luck.

Posted by Amol_Ind_SA on (June 6, 2013, 4:38 GMT)

People tend to mistake SRL for 'chokers' just because they made to so many finals since the 1996 World Cup and did not win any. The fact is, it wasn't a surprise, as they weren't capable of winning any...because it was SA who were capable of winning it and so were the chokers always and lost their place in the final to SRL some way or the other.

Posted by ProdigyA on (June 6, 2013, 3:14 GMT)

@arunan - zim n Kenya too don't do it.. Cause u have so got used to loosing n winning is a bonus for u. This article is a sarcasm, don't take SL seriously.

Posted by vallavarayar on (June 5, 2013, 19:13 GMT)

Fun read though. Especially the new Zimbabwe.

Posted by   on (June 5, 2013, 18:02 GMT)

Excellent article by the writer enjoyed reading it, We Srilankans never get upset when we lose neither don't break cricketers houses when they don't perform well, We just wait for the next match, Even when Srilanka lose to Kenya in the 2003 WC we just waited for the next match to start, and remind you our players played for the country even when they are not paid, Its the time for us Srilankans to bring back the trophy and glory to home.

Posted by   on (June 5, 2013, 16:49 GMT)

You forgot.. The ones they can steal from ireland and especially south Africa. Lol. Great article. Loved the bit about dhoni.

Posted by   on (June 5, 2013, 15:15 GMT)

If Herath perform we will win for sure.

Posted by   on (June 5, 2013, 14:55 GMT)

Superb article. Irony at its peak. Loved it :)

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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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