September 26, 2013

Things to live for over the next few months

The Ashes are over, but dry your tears, there's oodles of fantastic cricket to come

Welcome back to the first Confectionery Stall of the 2013-14 international cricket season, a schedulers' smorgasbord that will involve (in no particular order of importance to the future well-being and happiness of humanity):

* The short-awaited Ashes rematch, which may (or may not):

(a) reveal that England's 3-0 win in the summer was a hideous injustice, in which a deflating team sneaked the key moments in an otherwise pedestrian exposition of its own decline, and in which the regenerating Australians deserved scoreline respectability, if not parity;

(b) reveal that England's 3-0 win in the summer was a hideous injustice, in which the clearly dominant home side could and should have won by more, had it been properly challenged by an even semi-competent opposition at the crucial moments of the series, and in which the Australians proved that, even at their best, they have become such strangers to victory that they would barely even nod politely at it if they walked past it in the street;

(c) reveal nothing about England's 3-0 win in the summer;

(d) make the world appreciate the benefits of not having back-to-back Ashes series thrust upon it; and

(e) involve Ian Bell being lifted to the heavens in a flaming chariot.

* The long-awaited South Africa v India showdown, which may (or may not):

(a) reveal the true strength of India's new generation of batsmen;

(b) reveal the true strength of South Africa's world-leading team;

(c) happen;

(d) reveal quite how hideously scarred the future of international cricket is likely to be by infantile political squabbles; and

(e) hideously scar international cricket by falling victim to an infantile political squabble.

* A cavalcade of unforgettable ODIs that will be talked, written and sung about for as long as human beings can still be bothered to communicate with each other.

* The announcement of a major Hollywood blockbuster based on the recent rain-besoggened ODI series between England and Australia that gave the English summer the tediously drawn-out anti-climax that, given the schedule, the administrators were clearly hoping for. Possible castings: Dame Judi Dench as Woman Having a Snooze in the Crowd; Sean Connery as Umpire Rob Bailey; former wrestler Hulk Hogan as ECB chairman Giles Clarke.

* Pakistan playing a pleasing amount of Test cricket, for once.

* Runs.

* Wickets.

* Catches.

Forthcoming tweaks to the ODI regulations include opening bowlers being allowed to ride in to bowl on horses

* Further tweaks to the ODI regulations, including: the use of a watermelon instead of a cricket ball for a new two-over Powerplay, to be taken at some point between the 24th and 26th overs of the innings; allowing opening bowlers to ride in to bowl on a horse; the use of professional Roy Orbison impersonators to sing "It's Over" after each six balls; and each drinks break containing one bottle that has been laced with a psychotropic potion that makes the player think he is a cross between Lalit Modi and the BCCI, and start chasing himself around the outfield.

* Graham Onions totting up his county championship statistics from the last two seasons, and muttering to himself: "Mmmm. I still don't get it."

* Graham Onions buying a pair of stilts and a sombrero, tottering onto the outfield on Boxing Day morning at the MCG, and shouting: "Please can I have a game? I'm tall. And I'm Mexican. I've now done everything the selectors wanted."

* Further tweaks to the DRS, including: allowing TV umpires one "Rogue Call" overrule per innings, in which the standing umpire's decision is overturned despite all the technology confirming it was correct (a formalisation of the system that has been trialled recently, with mixed results); the use of body-language experts to adjudicate on whether the batsman did or did not snick the ball to the wicketkeeper (or first slip, in some cases); and teams being given extra reviews if they ask nicely.

* Azhar Ali hitting Dale Steyn for six sixes in an over in the first Test in Abu Dhabi in October.

* Cricketers dawdling. Because they can get away with it. Umpires doing nothing about cricketers dawdling. Because they can get away with it. Administrators playing Solitaire on their computers, checking their emails, and looking out of the window at a pigeon.

* Some magnificent things happening that no one had predicted.

* The entire crowd at an international match in Australia consisting of recuperating fast bowlers in their early 20s.

* Australia forging a new birth certificate for Ryan Harris in an effort to convince him that he is, in fact, only 22.

* Ryan Harris becoming convinced that he is, in fact, only 22, and promptly breaking down with a major injury that requires 18 months out of the game.

* Alastair Cook denying that his tactics were excessively cautious after England spend an entire day of the Adelaide Test hiding underneath some shields in the Ancient Roman tortoise formation.

* Michael Clarke denying he was too reckless after declaring at 0-0 on the first morning in Brisbane, claiming: "We have to force a result."

All of the above will happen. Guaranteed. I look forward to Confectionery Stalling about it, and more, over the next few months. Particularly Azhar Ali's six sixes. (I do realise that if that does now happen, questions will be asked. Quite aggressively.) (I also realise that that "if" is so big as to be visible from space with the naked eye.)

Over the next few weeks in India, I will also be performing Cricket Versus the World, a stand-up comedy show in which I attempt to decide which one of Cricket and the World we would miss more in the event of Armageddon. I begin at the Canvas Laugh Factory in Mumbai on 3 October ¬¬¬- more details in my next blog, and on the @ZaltzCricket twitter feed. I will be doing blogs and video pieces during the tour, and excerpts from the gigs will be posted on ESPNricinfo.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer