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Modi's comedy show

The IPL doesn’t really do cold, anymore than it does rain and the response has been charmingly improvised

From Andrew Hughes, United Kingdom
Like a band of rogue plastic surgeons, Lalit Modi and his IPL cronies are changing the face of our ancient, rather wrinkly game. We have already had injections of entertainment and enthusiasm, concepts without which cricket has managed perfectly well for hundreds of years. And it is possible that with all this whooping, shouting and high-fiving, the human gene responsible for polite applause might pass into obsolescence.
No nook or crevice has escaped their beady eye. Even the sacred ritual of the pitch report is being tampered with. Long ago it was writ that the least useful or most annoying member of the commentary team should venture out onto the cut strip and hitching up his slacks, should bend, haemorrhoids permitting and solemnly prod the turf with a car key whilst chanting mystically about loam, root stock and water tables.
But what was once a brief but pleasant excursion into the world of horticulture has been turned into a five minute comedy audition. Game Fifty-Two saw Daniel Kyle Morrison, former international cricketer and taker of 160 Test wickets, standing on the New Wanderers pitch with a cheerleader on his shoulders. I have no idea why he was burdened with a professional dancer and I suspect neither did he. It is possible that no-one knows, since it is the kind of idea that presumably emerged at the end of a particularly long, drunken night out.
Still, I suppose you have to have some sympathy for the lot of the television producer. Under continual pressure to make things exciting, the pitches in this IPL haven’t really come to the party. For the most part, they just lie there. And they all look the same. Though the tournament has been played in every corner of South Africa, the strips of turf with which we have been presented have borne more than a passing resemblance to one another. Invariably they look like concrete but play like porridge.
So slow have these pitches been that batsmen have had time to write a chapter or two of their autobiographies, answer their fan mail and polish their bat before the ball finally arrives. And by the time it does get there, they have usually played at least three shots already. In contrast to last year’s festival of thwackery, this IPL has been characterised by the bunt, the lob and the unfeasible edge. For example, on Thursday, Mithun Manhas somehow managed to hook a bouncer that was proceeding slowly past his left ear in the direction of first slip, whereupon Jacques Kallis seized it in his paw, like a bear catching a salmon.
Actually, when I look back on this tournament, Kallis is one of the players who will spring to mind most readily. It isn’t particularly because of his feats with bat and ball. I just seem to have spent an awful lot of time watching him. I have enjoyed his sweaty, full-blooded bowling, his general grumpiness leavened by the occasional tombstone smile, his curmudgeonly sledging of his South African teammates and his utilisation of the sarcastic throw.
Kallis is of course, a well-established character in the cricket soap opera. Another of the many treats of this IPL has been the chance to watch young and not so young Indian players with whom many of us outside the subcontinent are entirely unfamiliar. To genuine cricket lovers, this is a pleasure. Every Kamran Khan and Ravindra Jadeja whom we get to know represents another acre of knowledge reclaimed from the sea of ignorance and extends the realm of the world of cricket, which is after all, a country of the mind.
If you’re thinking that this sounds like end of term wistfulness, you’d be right. The sun will soon be setting on the IPL and the sky is already tinged with sadness. For all their buffoonery, I have grown accustomed to the faces of Coney, Morrison and Rambo Raja and to having my afternoons divided neatly into forty-five minute portions. I’m not sure how I’m going to cope without it.
And in recognition of the imminent end of festivities, a certain autumnal chill has been evident at the evening games. The IPL doesn’t really do cold, anymore than it does rain and the response has been charmingly improvised. On Thursday night the cheerleaders had acquired red woollens and on the Bangalore bench, Mark Boucher and Roelof van der Merwe shared a blanket whilst Anil Kumble donned at least three hats.
Still no mere cold weather can stop these crowds from enjoying themselves. Indeed, the spectators have been one of the best things about the IPL. I don’t refer to the be-suited individuals sitting stony-faced in their corporate boxes, fingering their official passes and sipping chardonnay. It is the ordinary people who have made this tournament; the punters in the cheap seats and on the grass banks, with their home made banners, their flags and their quite astonishing, seemingly limitless enthusiasm.
Port Elizabeth crowds are the best. Even through the muffling of the television screen, the carnival atmosphere they create has been apparent. The ground seems to reverberate with music; a song throbbing constantly like a pulse underneath the action. Even when the commentators are wittering on as they do, you can still catch the surge and swell of brass and chorus, the mingling of gospel and Latin rhythms and the joyous percussion of a seething crowd banging their inflatable clackers, singing, cheering and shouting. They deserve a trophy of their own.