May 17, 2014

Punjab's extended honeymoon

Andrew Hughes
When you're playing Punjab, no one can hear you scream  © BCCI
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So after several weeks of this interminable contest of hype and excess involving a collection of overrated and overpaid individuals who think that a few days' work per year entitles them to a lifestyle of five-star hotels, limousines, and having their photos taken with celebrities, the Indian general election is finally over.

To accommodate the vote count, the IPL has been put on hold for two days, presumably because politicians, like jealous old thespians, don't like having to share the stage with a younger, more talented and infinitely more popular cast.

Normally this business of closing down the nation's top cricket tournament to allow a bunch of power-hungry men to enjoy their 48 hours of fame would be a bad thing. But on this occasion the interruption is welcome. If watching the IPL is like climbing a mountain, then this is the point in the annual ascent when your companions have ceased to chatter excitedly about the breathtaking view and are now only able to produce involuntary wheezes and agonised mutterings as you stumble towards the summit, feeling increasingly dizzy and wondering if you're nearly there yet.

Fixture congestion is a problem. Contests that deserve to be savoured are packed in more tightly than rush-hour commuters on the subway. Most T20 tournaments are organised this way, because administrators think the format is disposable and forgettable, like fast food, but even burgers and fries with triple-hype shake take a little time to digest.

So to be given a couple of days off is like a climber finding a bench near the summit. It's a sort of involuntary strategic time-out, a chance to rest our brains and contemplate the points table. And the first thing the weary fan will notice is that Punjab are still top.

You might have thought the early success enjoyed by Preity's chaps was a temporary phenomenon, like Cinderella's pre-ball transformation, and that sooner or later Glenn Maxwell and David Miller would turn back into expensive pumpkins, but no. The orchestra's still playing, the ball is in full flow, it's well past two in the morning and Cinderella is still in possession of both glass slippers, as well as a fetching orange cap.

Punjab were at it again on Wednesday, although things didn't start well. Thanks to their opponents' innovative use of the wide and the full toss, Hyderabad had stuffed an enormous number of runs into their scorecard, and as Naman Ojha and Karn Sharma walked off the field, looking suitably pleased with themselves, the beaming Hyderabad backroom staff lined up for a session of high-fives to commemorate their almost inevitable victory.

A few minutes later, a portly bank manager wearing expensive bifocals walked out to open the batting for Punjab. Having forgotten his shirt, he'd borrowed Virender Sehwag's, and he even looked a bit like Sehwag when he swatted his first ball lazily over mid-on.

"He's clinical, precise, masterly," said the commentator, and viewers had to agree as the Sehwag impersonator hit the next ball clinically and precisely into the palms of the bowler.

But against Punjab it's not a good idea to take wickets because that merely hastens the arrival of more punishment. Next over, Wriddhiman Saha punched Dale Steyn for four, Manan Vohra hoicked him for six, and after Saha and Vohra tired of smacking the bowlers around, they let Maxwell and Miller have a go. An hour or so later, George Bailey lashed Steyn for a symmetrical 20: six, four, four, six, and the game was up.

The Hyderabad crowd groaned in despair, and not just because the scoreboard was displaying the word "Baileyistic" - the sort of pun that ought to constitute a disciplinary offence in scoreboard-operating circles. The home side had been pulverised, like seven others before them, and although there is some way to go in this campaign, I can reveal that a snap opinion poll conducted in the Hughes household (sample size: one) predicted a red-white-and-silver landslide on June 1st.

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

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Posted by KapilsDevils1983 on (May 19, 2014, 10:49 GMT)

Amazing Andrew, simply amazing!

Posted by   on (May 18, 2014, 10:14 GMT)

Great Piece of article .

Posted by RambunctuousRex on (May 18, 2014, 7:57 GMT)

I was watched the second Punjab V Bangalore match at the Bangalore stadium. Cheering every Kings boundary and celebrating every Bangalore wicket in the midst of a near-total Bangalore crowd - Priceless :) High point: Going delirious when the finger went up for Virat Kohli as most others sat around shell shocked ;D

Posted by McWheels on (May 17, 2014, 21:21 GMT)

"... it's well past 2 in the morning and Cinderella still has both glass slippers..." Imaginative and quite unpleasantly accurate for King's XI's opponents. Kind of like Sri Lanka of De-Silva and Gurusinghe vintage. You set it, we'll chase it. And I don't think I've ever not seen Preity at a game, this year or any other. It's clearly a nice place to be and about due they had their time in the sun.

Posted by SagirParkar on (May 17, 2014, 11:41 GMT)

Mr Hughes, you are a talented man.. or rather a talented funny man.. and because you like cricket and the IPL, you are more than welcome if you ever decide to visit India to watch cricket.. however, i'll need notice because i live in Aus now :)

anyways, needless to say, i appreciate your work tremendously !

Posted by ramli on (May 17, 2014, 8:11 GMT)

But, KXIP still lost two matches ... they could do so on June 1 either, with the lack of experience being in play-offs ... it is a lottery as far as winning IPL title is concerned for KXIP

Posted by RambunctuousRex on (May 17, 2014, 7:14 GMT)

I am a Punjabi and a Punjab supporter since IPL started, and their success in this tournament has me both excited and nervous - nervous because this seems all too good to last - but I'm hoping it does :)

You're spot on about politicians, and even more spot on about horrific puns on the scoreboard :)

Great piece - incisive and funny as usual :)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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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