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A cunning Ashes plan, and the greatest batsman ever

How England are getting a headstart on their priority series by flopping in the Twenty20

Javagal Srinath chats to boys prior to their selection for the MRF Pace Foundation, Srinagar,  May 2, 2006
"… And that's when I realised I was better than Bradman" © AFP

As we get into the Super Eights stage of the World Twenty20, teams that have had less than ideal beginnings to their campaigns are refusing to panic, deciding instead to focus on the positive aspects of their poor performances.

Hosts England and defending champions India have had poor starts, losing their games to South Africa and West Indies respectively.

"Since Australia has cunningly exited the tournament early to prepare for the Ashes, we decided that the smart thing to do is negate their advantage by following suit," said England captain Paul Collingwood, looking impossibly pleased with himself. "We look forward to getting our backsides kicked by India and the West Indies as well, so we can start working in earnest towards our embarrassing Ashes loss," he added with admirable honesty.

Not surprisingly, this strategy has been evolved by former Australia and current Kolkata Knight Riders coach John Buchanan, who has joined the England coaching set-up to help carefully plan and execute a string of devastating defeats to Australia.

"Currently we are keenly studying those silly intro videos the TV channel plays when a new batsman walks in at the fall of a wicket, in order to learn all their favourite shots. Hahaha! Now we know the deepest secrets of opposing teams, such as the fact that Kumar Sangakkara favours the cover-drive. Armed with this knowledge, we can't possibly fail," said Buchanan, offering a glimpse into his immense tactical acumen and his faithful adherence to the "know your enemy" methodology suggested by Sun Tzu in his bestselling book.

India captain MS Dhoni, reacting to the loss, displayed his well-known calm demeanour, saying "This happens in cricket. You win some, you lose some. If we exit the tournament early, we'll use the opportunity to prepare for the Ashes." When a reporter pointed out that India wasn't even playing in the Ashes, Dhoni retorted, "So what? In India, thousands of students prepare for the IIT entrance exam, even though they have no hope of joining IIT. We are merely upholding this tradition."

Last year's finalist Pakistan, too, started off on the wrong foot, being soundly walloped by Sri Lanka. "It takes time to get used to new formats. We need to first gain experience and understand the nuances of Twenty20 before we can start underachieving in it, just like in LOIs and Tests," explained Younis Khan, perfectly logically. Asked about Shahid Afridi's disappointing form with the bat, he came to the player's defence, saying, "Shahid is hitting the ball very well. It's just that he's hitting it in the wrong direction - straight up vertically instead of achieving a more horizontal trajectory, towards the boundary. If boundaries were measured using height instead of distance, Afridi would be the game's greatest batsman ever." He paused and reflected a bit before adding, "With the possible exception of J Srinath."

IPL commissioner Lalit Modi, who was present at the India-West Indies game, appeared to be thoroughly enjoying the tournament, having finally warmed up to non-IPL Twenty20 matches. "It's hearwarming to see players from different IPL franchises put aside their differences, and come together to play for their... what is it? I forget the term. Oh, yeah, countries. That's it, countries," he said.

"Wonderful to see players from Knight Riders, Super Kings, Deccan Chargers, all wearing the same uniform, sharing team secrets and displaying camaraderie. Who knows, this 'international' cricket might just catch on," he signed off, eyes misting over.

In other news, Preity Zinta was reportedly seen looking for Kings XI player James Hopes in the men's rooms at Lord's, since she had read in a newspaper headline that "Australian hopes had disappeared down the toilet."

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

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