October 5, 2013

The fall of the Super Bananas

Chennai Super Kings lost two games in three days. Save the tale for your great grandchildren

When did Chennai Super Kings last lose two games in three days? Twenty20 matches come thicker and faster than the Royal Hippopotamus Parachute Regiment on manoeuvres, so it is perfectly possible that such a thing has happened, but I can't remember it.

Well many years from now, when Chennai are winning their 57th IPL, (under clone captain Dhoni v 3.0.1) I will be able to regale my great-grandchildren with the tale of the week when I saw the Mighty Yellow lose once, and then, two days later, saw them lose again. And the twist in the tale? It was their batsmen who let them down.

It began on Wednesday. The all-conquering Custard were in that familiar state of Already Qualified Nirvana. Batting first against Trinidad, they were in a nudgey-pokey frame of mind. They nudged here, they poked there, here a nudgey-poke, there a pokey-nudge. They were nudging poor Badree all over the place. It was death by a thousand nudges.

This obsession with quick singles had the crowd restless, and soon led to the downfall of the mighty Huss, who nurdled himself out against Rampaul by looking for a half-hearted single, instead of an honest lusty boundary. As a famous Japanese haiku says:

Man in yellow shirt
Fishes for little goldfish
Tuna bites his bottom.

But it didn't matter that the Huss was gone, because the Canary Kings are well stocked in the biffing department. Raina was next, and in the sixth over, he hit a six. It was described by one R Shastri as having been hit as clean as a whistle.

If I might digress for a moment, this is an odd expression. Are whistles clean? Surely it depends on the whistle owner. A professional whistler's whistle, I'll grant you, will be well-scrubbed. My daughter's plastic whistle, on the other hand, ended up at the bottom of the garden and was later unearthed while I was digging up rhubarb. It was a very dirty whistle.

Anyway, things were going swimmingly for the Super Bananas, until, out of nowhere, Murali Vijay did what the Huss did, only the other way round, showing once again the delightful symmetry that a left-hand/right-hand opening partnership can bring. Then Raina and Bravo left in a hurry, and that brought us to the comedy run-out portion of the show.

First came Ravindra Jadeja, who was presented with a sharp but gettable single that required him to run in a straight line. Now running in a straight line is a simple business, you'd have thought, but Jadeja is a free spirit. A man with a moustache like that isn't about to run up and down the pitch in straight lines. Instead, he gave us a little curving arc that was a thing of beauty, though his lateral excursion was no help in the matter of not being run-out.

Then came Ashwin. Backing up, he was entangled with Emrit to whom Ashwin's bat became attached. Floundering like a man up a creek without a paddle, the hapless Ashwin was scrambling for the safety of the non-striker's end, when his friend Mohit arrived in the middle of the pitch and gave him a look that said, "You're leaving? After I've come all this way?"

So, spurred by guilt, Ashwin manfully attempted to run to the other end. He made a pretty convincing job of sliding his bat across the crease, although it would have been more convincing with a bat in his hand. Still, the umpire, Shamsuddin, couldn''t be sure off the top of his head what the Laws said about invisible bats, so, just for larks, he asked for a video replay, allowing the whole crowd to enjoy Ashwin's pantomime performance.

All of this calamity had been provoked by Sunil Narine - Ebenezer Scrooge in a chunky gold necklace - who staged another of his famous Dot Ball Festivals. As he wheeled away for four miserly overs, the poor batsmen appeared to be standing in porridge, trying to hit a ball made of treacle with a gingerbread bat. It was messy, and not particularly productive.

That was okay though, the Buttercups were still in the semi-finals. When it really mattered, we'd see what they could do. Exactly the same thing, as it transpired. On Friday, there were identical dismissals for Vijay and Hussey, two more suicidal run-outs, another collapse for connoisseurs of batting calamity to savour, and even the bonus of Badrinath's accidental stumping (for which Dishant Yagnik is surely only entitled to claim ½ in the "S" column).

So while I'm sure normal service will be resumed next IPL, let us all pause to mark these momentous few days in our diaries: a period of time that will forever be known as the week of the great Custard eclipse.

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

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