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Dolphin at fine leg, please

Cricket's tradition of stoppages for odd reasons is getting a boost with the IPL

The Mumbai Indians watch the dog hold up playChennai Super Kings v Mumbai Indians, IPL, 1st game, Cape Town, April 18, 2009
This dog will go down in the annals of the Almanack © Getty Images

One of the joys of cricket is the number of weird phenomena - animate and otherwise - that have the capacity to stop play. Football gets interrupted by floodlight failure and blizzards. Wimbledon has been known to fall prey to streakers. Snooker's Crucible Theatre in Sheffield has played host to disruptive moths. For sheer weirdness, though, cricket takes the biscuit. So it's a pleasure to report the Indian Premier League is currently upholding a noble tradition. And it's not often you will read that sentence in the weeks ahead.

The Wisden Almanack's index of unusual occurrences regularly adds one or two instances a year. In the recently published 2009 edition, the culprits are revealed to be a fox and - don't ask - an umpire's gearbox. Yet, only two days and four matches in, this year's IPL is threatening to add a chapter of its own.

On Saturday we had Bruno the dog, whose 11-minute stay out in the middle put the efforts of several of the Rajasthan Royals batsmen later in the day to shame. Then there was the music maestro on his drums in the corner of the ground, merrily bashing away and encouraging the crowd to feel the beat, while the players wondered who exactly was supposed to be providing the entertainment.

But if canine and DJ aren't a wacky enough pairing for you, how about the duo that, in quick succession, turned the opening over from Kolkata Knight Riders' Ishant Sharma to Adam Gilchrist of the Deccan Chargers into a minor farce?

Dangling precariously from three bits of wire that connect the Newlands media centre with the main stand diagonally opposite is a remotely operated camera that, about 20 metres up in the air, moves back and forth like a less sophisticated R2D2. The idea, obviously, is to give viewers a new angle - a kind of bird's-eye view without the helicopter.

But as Sharma hared in, so did the camera, zooming into Gilchrist's peripheral vision as it made its journey from deep mid-on to short midwicket. Distracted, Gilchrist pulled away, complaining to the square-leg umpire, Mark Benson, who was quickly on his walkie-talkie.

Sharma tried again. And again Gilchrist stepped away. The problem this time was a small procession of cheerleaders, who had appeared from nowhere to trot innocently behind the bowler's arm. They may still have been unaware of their impact as they lapped up the applause of the crowd.

Take three. In came Sharma, but the small robot in the sky was hot on his heels once more. For a third time, Gilchrist made his apologies and pointed out to Benson that, well, the chat on the walkie-talkie really hadn't had much effect and could he please do something about it? Whatever Benson said next seemed to work: the camera disappeared back to the long-on boundary, where it obediently stayed put.

The IPL loves its gimmicks. But in the first two days, three of them - the DJ, the camera and the cheerleaders - have slowed things up. Another interruption, the dog, made a gentle mockery of its security operation. And we haven't even got to the time-outs yet. Port Elizabeth becomes the tournament's second venue later today. It will be a huge disappointment if one of the dolphins from the town's oceanarium doesn't make an appearance at short fine-leg somewhere along the line.

Lawrence Booth is a cricket correspondent at the Guardian. He writes the acclaimed weekly cricket email The Spin for guardian.co.uk

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