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Andy Z's A to Z

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B: Bickering

The advent of Twenty20 has either resulted in, or coincided with, an exponential increase in the amount of top-level bickering in the game. The infantile spat over the eligibility of ICL players continues to bore and insult cricket fans across the world, and denude and demean the international game. The Stanford "escapade" prompted the most high-pitched and stroppy outbreak of bickering in English cricket history. Stanford himself now appears set for some extremely prolonged courtroom bickering with the US legal system. There have been IPL bickerings about media access, player availability, scheduling, appropriate dance moves, fake blogs, and much, much more, proving once again the age-old maxim: where there is money, there will be bickering.

May 14, 2009

H: Hoick

The kind of shot a batsman would once have been told off for playing at school, now a staple necessity of the Twenty20 game. Batting was once a craft renowned for the refined elegance of its movements, the dexterous delicacy of its strokeplay, and the balletic nimblitude of its footwork. The hoick cares not for such trifles - limbs and bat may flail in any direction known to physics, as long as the ball flies over or through midwicket. Twenty20, the economic pinnacle of the professional game, has not only brought village-green-style scorecards (58 all out) and bowling analyses (5 for 5 off 3.1 overs) back to top-level cricket, but also the shot-making aesthetics of the drunken blacksmith. The hoick is not to be confused with the tonk (similarly agricultural but straighter), the thwack (wilder swing, aimed anywhere within a 360-degree radius of the wicket), or the heave (less controlled, even more likely to result in shoulder dislocation).

May 13, 2009

P: Pressure

A psychological phenomenon that is present during every single second of an IPL game, and during 95% of those seconds that fall outside the timespan of the games but within the overall timespan of the tournament. Legendary Australian legend Keith Miller claimed that there was no such thing as pressure in cricket - "pressure", stated the champion allrounder and housewives' favourite, "is a Messerschmitt up your a**e". Miller, Brylcreem-coated cricketing leviathan and wartime hero that he was, had, however, never played in the IPL. Therefore, he knew not the various suffocating burdens shouldered by IPL players - ranging from being responsible for the hopes and dreams of an entire cricket-loving city, or publicity-seeking franchise owner, to trying desperately not to be filmed quietly giggling to yourself whilst trousering hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars for (a) not playing very well, or (b) not playing at all. That's pressure. Could any sentient being truly cope with that? (With all due respect to those who risked their lives fighting in mortal combat for the freedom of humanity against the greatest evil history has known.)

May 12, 2009

T: Time-out

The founding ideal of Twenty20 cricket was to condense the once fortnight-long game of cricket (literally once, admittedly, in the Timeless Test of 1938-39) into an easily digestible three-hour snack. However, the IPL has now realised that this shortened time-span, although the format's fundamental attraction which has made it such an attractive commercial opportunity for sponsors, had the effect of limiting the time-span for attractive commercial opportunities for sponsors within it. Hence the introduction of the Time-out, perhaps the most unnecessary development in the history of cricket, a game which effectively has built-in time-outs approximately every thirty seconds (and, traditionally, for meals). The ultimate goal is that eventually, Twenty20 will contain so many advertisement breaks that it will take an entire day to complete. There are rumours that next year's IPL will contain a sponsored 20-minute artificial rain delay on even the sunniest days. A rain machine borrowed from the film studios of a wealthy team owner will be used to simulate an annoying shower after 15 overs of the second innings, just as the match is building to a climax. It is a shame that the IPL, rather than slavishly following American sport in its efforts to facilitate a slower-running game, did not instead institute a two-over Underpowerplay rather than a Time-out, in which all runs scored are counted negatively, to encourage the return of the old-fashioned grinder to modern short-form cricket. An advertisement break could easily be taken whilst the batsmen blocked out tediously for eight minutes. The Underpowerplay would be taken at the discretion of the batting side, who would have to time it perfectly for when its most negative or out-of-form players were well established at the wicket.

May 11, 2009

N: Nurdle

An inelegant but functional stroke, still awaiting IPL commercial branding. Whilst the attraction of sponsoring a six is obvious, will any company be prepared to stump up the cash to be associated with batsmen awkwardly shovelling the ball into the leg side either for a single to rotate the strike, or in the nurdle's more flamboyant incarnation, a risky two? The IPL will be looking for a firm whose core values match up with those of the nurdle - low-risk reliability and unspectacular practicality. Perhaps in future we will hear commentators blast out: "And that's a Prince's Pencils Nurdle to midwicket for one," or "And would you believe it, Simon Katich has pulled off another Sharma's Grey Business Socks Nurdle. Now I've seen everything."

May 10, 2009

D: Dugout

A revolutionary idea in Twenty20 cricket, the dugout saves crucial seconds' worth of time between a dismissal and the arrival of the new batsman - seconds that (it was found after much research) could lead to uncommitted TV spectators being overwhelmed with a desire to channel-surf, go outside and play cricket, read a novel, write a novel, file a tax return, practise growling, see how many eggs they can fit in their mouth at once, start a revolution, or be otherwise distracted. It was also discovered that the time taken by players to cover extra yardage between boundary and pavilion was causing spectators in the ground to lose track of what they were doing and why they were doing it, before wandering out of the ground in a daze and telephoning a loved one to find out. The use of the dugout has negated these problems, and more importantly freed up several minutes of extra time to be devoted to more significant activities than walking to and from the crease, such as time-outs and other commercial opportunities. However, the introduction of the dugout has also diminished the quality of batting in Twenty20. The prospect of having to walk up the pavilion steps through a sea of mutteringly disgruntled spectators after a dismal failure was the prime motivating factor urging batsmen not to get out straightaway and rejoin their friends in the dressing room.

May 9, 2009

X: X-Ray specs

From next year, IPL umpires will be equipped with ICC Regulation X-Ray goggles to facilitate lbw decisions. The specs enable the wearer to see through both pads and legs, but not stumps or ball, which will be coated in a special lead coating. Research suggests that the specs will make decisions up to 10% more accurate, giving umpires 10% more leeway for personal vendettas against batsmen or bowlers they don't like.

May 8, 2009

C: Corridor of Uncertainty

The nagging area between two sums of money in which an international player becomes unsure whether to accept an offer to play in the IPL or concentrate on his Test career. Should he leave it alone and play safe, or go for it and risk making a critical error? The financial range of the IPL corridor of uncertainty ranges from "unrefusably silly" at the top end to "refusably silly" at the bottom. The exact numbers involved vary from player to player, depending on his confidence about being picked for his national team regardless of his IPL commitments, and willingness to pitch up hours before a Test match, asking: "You want me to try to bat for how long? Seriously? Yikes. I need to sit in a darkened room for a day to prepare."

May 7, 2009

X: Xenophon Balaskas

The former South African legspinning allrounder (without question one of Test cricket's all-time top 100 players of Greek extraction) could have been a useful IPL player if (and it is an unquestionably big 'if') he had played in the 21st century instead of the 1930s. He would have been a bargain at auction, but as a wrist-spinner and lower middle order batsman, he could have given useful balance to any side.

May 6, 2009

B: Building an innings

In cricketing times gone by, "building an innings" was a process whereby a batsman would first establish himself, then consolidate, then contemplate accelerating, then take a look at the clock and realise an interval was only 45 minutes away, then consolidate again, then re-establish himself after the interval, then re-re-consolidate, and so on, until the draw was secured. In the 1950s, building an innings was a craft that often took as much time and care as building a canal. In Twenty20, it involves a maximum of a nudge to square leg for a nerve-calming single, a deep breath and a couple of golf-style practise thwacks.

May 5, 2009

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About the author
Andy Zaltzman
Andy Zaltzman was born in obscurity in 1974. He has been a sporadically-acclaimed stand-up comedian since 1999, and has appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4. He is currently one half of TimesOnline's hit satirical podcast The Bugle, alongside John Oliver. Zaltzman's love of cricket outshone his aptitude for the game by a humiliating margin. He once scored 6 in 75 minutes in an Under-15 match, and failed to hit a six between the ages of 9 and 23. He would have been ideally suited to Tests, had not a congenital defect left him unable to play the game to anything above genuine village standard. He writes the Confectionery Stall blog on Cricinfo.
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