October 19, 2013

The good, the sad, and the ugly

In other words, just another week on Planet Cricket

It has been an eventful few days on Planet Cricket, the events of which can be divided into four categories: the eye-boggling, the run-crazy, the sad, and the ugly.

First, the news that Pakistan beat South Africa in a Test match. This was a big upset, not perhaps as big an upset as the day when little Attila the Hun threw a seven-hour spear-throwing, slave-murdering tantrum because his cousin, Drusilla the Hun, had trodden on his favourite dolly, but still, it was a big upset.

And, strictly speaking, a completely different use of the word upset.

It's happened before that Pakistan have beaten South Africa in a Test match, of course, but it hasn't happened before with this particular South Africa and this particular Pakistan. If you'd asked me to predict what would happen in the first Test, I might have gone for Mohammad Irfan getting stuck in the doorway of the Pakistan team bus, Misbah batting so slowly that he turned into a tree, and the coach resigning on day three.

But Pakistan beating South Africa? Surely not.

They did it in the traditional manner: irresistible fast bowling, monumentally resilient batting, devilishly tricky spin bowling, and a completely unnecessary panic at the end. At 7 for 3 in their second innings, things were getting silly, but if there are two Pakistani batsmen you would want to see at the crease chasing 33 to win a Test match, it would be old man Younis and even older man Misbah.

Well done to Pakistan, and well done too, to India, who having failed to chase 304 last week, managed to score 362 in Jaipur with so much time to spare that the usual cursory post-match interviews were expanded to a half-hour chat show, and the players staged an impromptu cabaret to give the crowd their money's worth, the highlight of which was undoubtedly MS Dhoni's ventriloquist act featuring his comical sidekick, Sir Jadeja.

And so to the sad. Mohammad Amir wants his ban reviewed. Again. The terms of his punishment are harsh. He is banned from all forms of cricket, including dice cricket, card cricket, cricket cricket (a popular insect-based version of the game), French cricket and imaginary cricket. He is, though, allowed to play the sport on games consoles, since the ICC took the view that most cricket computer games bear little or no relation to the sport.

Still, harshness is implied by the word "punishment". If we were to take the harshness out of the punishment, well it wouldn't be quite such a punishment, would it? When his ban ends in 2015, he will be 23. At that age, I still hadn't quite decided what I wanted to do with my life, but Amir has already had a cricket career, fame, fortune, scandal, a prison sentence, and still has time for a whole new cricket career. It could have been worse.

Finally, the ugly. Darren Lehmann has been opening and closing his mouth in the vicinity of a microphone again, and I suppose as cricket folk, we are duty-bound to pretend to be interested in what he has to say. What do you have to say, Darren? Oh really? Well, that is interesting. Darren thinks that England play dour cricket, and that Australia have worked all their batsmen out, and something, and stuff, and blah blah blah.

As dour as England's cricket undoubtedly is, it is not half as dour as listening to yet another attempt at inducing the deceased quadruped of Ashes hype to twitch a limb through the application of a blunt verbal implement. Enough already. There's going to be another Ashes series soon. Can't you people let us enjoy these few brief non-Ashes weeks in peace?

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