April 19, 2014

Why Bangalore won't win the title

Because the cricketing gods won't let 'em, that's why

"Now I know how Netherlands feel every time they play England - invincible" © BCCI

India's annual intercontinental multi-billion-dollar leather-sphere heaving contest is underway and already we are able to draw some conclusions.

First, that transferring a raucous colourful cricket circus to the edge of the desert is a little like relocating the FA Cup final to Venus. The venue may be ideal - no traffic congestion, minimal local taxation and plenty of room - but it is hard to deny that what you gain in parking space, you lose in atmosphere.

There is something about playing sport in a desert that sucks atmosphere from an occasion like a camel enjoying a post-trek drinkie. The opening game was, well, quiet. Normally at these things, you can't tell what the stadium announcer is shouting about, but on Wednesday I could hear every syllable of his repertoire, which mainly involved reminding spectators of the names of the two teams they had paid to watch.

There were times during Mumbai's innings when all that could be heard was an occasional half-hearted cheer drifting across the pitch as Rohit Sharma nudged another single and the scoreboard cranked on slowly. I felt my chin drawn inexorably downwards, my eyelids drooping, and I began to daydream that I was somewhere else entirely, watching Sleepychester attempting to deny Nowhereshire a third batting bonus point.

Second, that Mumbai, in addition to being the blingiest franchise, boasting the highest proportion of gold lame per square inch of shirt, are also masters of satire. The way in which Rohit and Ambati crawled towards their target against Kolkata was so satirical, it was almost sarcastic. I'm not sure what they were protesting about - the inadequate fluffiness of the dressing-room towels, perhaps - but I'm sure we'll find out.

Third, that equipping umpires with face cameras is not a winner. It requires the poor chaps to wear elaborate backpack straps that give them the appearance of middle-aged tourists who have accidentally wandered into a field on their way to the museum. Inevitably, this facial adornment will at some point end in an unfortunate bathroom incident, when a hapless official forgets to turn off his face-cam, giving spectators an umpires-eye view of his mid-innings ablutions via the big screen.

Fourth, that Bangalore will almost certainly not win.

This may appear to be a foolish statement. Haven't the chaps in tomato-ketchup red just brushed aside Delhi without even needing the assistance of Sir Christopher Gayle, Earl of Biffington and Lord High Commander of the Thwack?

Well yes, but beating Delhi by eight wickets is a little like thrashing your seven-year-old nephew at chess: a bit of a morale booster, no doubt, particularly if your nephew is one of those precocious, annoying seven-year-old nephews, but not evidence that you're ready to start issuing Twitter challenges to Garry Kasparov.

Then what about their array of batting monsters? As well as the Mighty Gayle, there's Virat Angry Pants, Yuvraj The Flail and ABC De Violence. How can anyone resist these Titans of Tonking, these Leather-Lashing Leviathans?

That, I'm afraid, my Bangalore-supporting friends, is the problem. The cricket gods do not like this sort of thing, any more than the Greek gods did. Remember what happened to the Argonauts? A hand-picked collection of heroes, superheroes and sons of deities, they were widely tipped for success. But the gods had other ideas and lined up all kinds of unpleasantness for them: giants with six arms, sirens, dangerously unstable cliffs, harpies, fire-breathing oxen, skeleton warriors.

By the time they got to where they were going, the Royal Challengers Colchis were a pretty bedraggled bunch; several of them had given up and gone home, and Virat of the Argonauts was only able to get his hands on the prize thanks to the collusion of a woman who held a prominent position on the Colchis Fleece Protection Organising Committee.

Since such corruption is no longer permitted in Indian cricket, Bangalore will not be able to evade the wrath of the cricket gods. You have been warned Virat. If you want to succeed, try not to play all of your best batsmen at once. Oh, and if you come across an enormous bronze statue who looks a bit cross, my advice is to run away.

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