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The Heavy Ball

Why Australia lost, and the perils of being a commentator

Manjrekar and Co. get confused, Ponting and Co. get packing

Angelo Mathews celebrates his early wicket of David Warner, Australia v Sri Lanka, ICC World Twenty20, Trent Bridge, June 8, 2009
Angelo Mathews gives David Warner a earful for not knowing his name © Associated Press

One week into the World Twenty20, and already England have been upset by Netherlands, Bangladesh have been upset by Ireland, and Australia have been upset by the fact that they suck at Twenty20 cricket.

The big news of the tournament is the early exit of heavyweights Australia, who were soundly thrashed by Sri Lanka and West Indies to be bundled out in the group stage. "I really can't think of a reason why we lost," said Ricky Ponting, the captain, after the Sri Lanka game, choosing to overlook rather obvious ones such as Chris Gayle rearranging Brett Lee's figures, Ajantha Mendis rearranging Ponting's own stumps, and Andrew Symonds rearranging his personal priorities in favour of a few pints at the local pub over playing in a World Cup. "Aha! I've got it. We're no longer coached by John Buchanan! No, wait… ," he signed off, leaving hurriedly to prepare for the Ashes.

Statisticians have revealed that West Indies captain Chris Gayle, in the game against Australia, performed the unprecedented feat of racing to 50 when the team total was only 39. Gayle told interviewers that he also looks forward to becoming the first man to score a century before his team does. "Yeahmonisreellycoolwhenuscorsofaaaasthanobo ahdyseeeseetcominyouknowwhaaimsayin?" he said with a grin.

The new, unfamiliar players are causing a slew of problems for the commentary team. Ian Bishop was left in the unenviable position of not knowing whether to refer to Angelo Mathews as "Mathews" or "Mathew". He managed by switching randomly between the two, to emerge with a creditable 50% accuracy-rate. "At least it wasn't as bad as former Pakistan allrounder Abdul Razzaq. His name was an ever-changing mashup of the individual components, such as Abdul, Abdur, Abdus, Razzaq and Razzak. A true challenge. Having a Bangladeshi player going by the same name didn't help things, either," said Bishop, before moving diagonally away and capturing an unsuspecting pawn wandering nearby.

Sanjay Manjrekar also faced problems when interviewing William Porterfield, as he couldn't understand a word of the Irish skipper's responses to his questions. After winging it splendidly (chiefly by resorting to an assortment of grunts, smiles, and sage nods), a visibly relieved Manjrekar said, "Man, what on earth was he saying? Apart from the fact that he sounded a bit like Liam Neeson in that boring IRA-based movie, I didn't understand a single thing."

In stark contrast to the IPL, which had sponsors even for Lalit Modi's dental fillings, the World Twenty20 has seen a return to cricket as usual. "We call a boundary a boundary. We call a six a six. If we had a spade handy, we'd call it a spade," explained ICC president David Morgan helpfully. However, IPL commissioner Modi's response was laced with sarcasm. "Who would want to sponsor a dreary event like this?" he sneered. "Maybe the ICC should have approached the pharmaceutical giant Roche and worked out a deal to get Valium on board as the title sponsor," he winked, giving further evidence of his ability to see a branding angle to almost anything.

This was also the week in which fans discovered that Ajantha Mendis is an anagram of Masthead Ninja, Nasser Hussain discovered that you shouldn't make critical comments about Anil Kumble when he's standing behind you in the commentary box, and Ranil Abeynaike discovered, to everyone's amazement, that Brett Lee's slower delivery is slower than his normal delivery.

Anand Ramachandran is a writer and humourist based in Mumbai. He blogs at bosey.co.in

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