This, that and the other. Mostly the other
Startling information contained within a leaked BCCI document reveals for the first time that India is not only top of the ICC Test rankings and favourites to land their second World Cup, but are also leading the world in managing the elite performance-threatening dangers of "commentator burnout".
For years the ICC and national cricket boards have grappled with the vexed issue of fixture congestion, but with spectators demanding a spectacle and players unwilling to play every day, the burden of entertaining an insatiable public has fallen upon the likes of Ravi Shastri, Pommie Mbangwa and Danny Morrison. And as the saying goes "having a tub-thumping, one-eyed and highly partisan commentary team on your side is like going into the game with an extra man".
But India's run of excellent results, not to mention the singularly complicated task of talking up dead fixtures in the later group stages of the IPL was beginning to take its toll on Shastri, Gavaskar and Sivaramakrishnan, so the BCCI stepped in.
Spokesman Vivek Gupta said: "It was getting impossible for Ravi. Balls were streaking across the turf like tracer bullets. The crowd kept coming alive, the atmosphere was electric, and the ball was being sweetly timed by the Little Master during endless crucial partnerships. The skipper was manufacturing wickets at will, and with the bat, while Dhoni was still there you could never write off India.
"In a tournament as long as this one, stamina and fitness were always going to be key factors in determining the eventual winners, so under advice from the North Korean Institute for Public Fawning and Flattery we took the extraordinary step of instructing Dhoni to leave out Ashwin in favour of Chawla and to tinker with the support bowlers in the expectation they would become inconsistent. This tactic has worked like a dream. Ravi, Sunil and Co. have all been able to relax into periods of relative mediocrity, bordering on ineffectual hopelessness, allowing them to keep their hyperbolic powder dry for the knockout stages."
India's bizarre collapse against South Africa, when they lost nine wickets for 29 runs, was apparently on team orders. "Sehwag, Tendulkar and Gambhir were threatening to reduce Shastri to a hollow husk of a man. We could tell by his desperate search for metaphors and synonyms that if we didn't screw up big time and quickly, we could lose our major asset to a terminal surfeit of self-congratulatory pleasure," said Gupta. "And you've only to see what's happened to the English since they won the Ashes to know how dangerous that can be."
|It was getting impossible for Ravi. Balls were streaking across the turf like tracer bullets. The crowd kept coming alive, the atmosphere was electric, and the ball was being sweetly timed by the Little Master during endless crucial partnerships|
And indeed a brief analysis of English commentators confirms this hypothesis. Lloyd, Atherton and Botham looked exhausted before the tournament began and have been unable to lift their team at crucial stages of the tournament.
Gupta explains: "The commentators and players should work in perfect symbiotic harmony. The commentators feed off the players, but when the side is struggling the players need the commentators to lift the team. Were it not for a timely prejudiced intervention from Hussain about fellow Essex boy Bopara in the final overs, it's likely England wouldn't have got over the line in that first game against the Dutch. Since then, though, the commentary team has looked hopelessly off the pace, allowing first Kevin O'Brien and then Shafiul Islam to take their sides, almost unnoticed, to impossible victories."
"We always knew the English were up against it" said Gupta. "After three months of remorseless gloating down under, we figured they'd have little left to give. We do still harbour some concerns over Jackman, Mbangwa and Hudson after the Saffas cunningly threw away a winning lead in the Test series against us, but the dark horses are definitely the West Indians. After a decade of unremitting negativity Tony Cozier is warming up nicely. He's already identified Darren Bravo as the next Brian Lara and has even shown signs of warming to Sulieman Benn.
"However, at the end of the day the Aussies are still the team to beat. They've had a relaxingly diabolical Ashes to warm themselves up, Healy and Greig are back in familiar territory, and now that Mark Nicholas has completed his qualification period they really are the all-round package. Ian Chappell even managed to suggest Michael Clarke would have been happy getting dismissed for 92 against Kenya so he could save his first World Cup ton for a major nation. You can't teach that kind of dissembling sophistry - it's a lethal combination of pure talent and Channel 9's conveyor belt system. All you can do in response is prepare. And after lacklustre wins against Bangladesh and Ireland together with that fabulous loss against South Africa, we think we're perfectly placed for an assault on the title.
"As Ravi himself would say: 'I have a feeling the Indians will romp home from here. After all, Sunny's a little fighter. While he's still here you simply can't write off the Indians.'"
Daniel Norcross is a founder of and commentator on Test Match Sofa, the alternative cricket commentary. All quotes and "facts" in this article are made up (but you knew that already, didn't you?)
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