R Rajkumar tweets @roundarmraj
All quotes and "facts" in this piece are made up, but you knew that, didn't you?
We haven't even entered the business end of the tournament yet, but it's already obvious that World Cup 2015 is a rousing success. Whether it has been the gritty competitiveness displayed by the Associate teams (especially when playing against each other), the generally impressive attendance records (especially when Associate teams aren't playing each other), or the number of people apparently willing to don a bright orange shirt with a bulls-eye painted on it in the hope of getting struck by a cricket ball in exchange for cold hard cash, things are going swimmingly. But if there's one thing that can be said to have epitomised just how well it has all gone so far, it is the astonishing fact that players continue to be able to successfully count down from ten on the big screen before the start of each match.
This staggering feat naturally continues to impress one and all, but it is by no means as simple and streamlined as it looks.
"A lot of effort goes on behind the scenes in making each big-screen countdown successful," admits one Bill Vickery, tournament organiser. "You have to understand that these are professional cricketers who are paid obscene amounts of money. One doesn't just assume that they are going to be able to spell their own names, let alone count backwards."
Vickery explained that this was the reason why some players can be seen using their fingers during the countdown. "It acts as a visual aid to help them say the right number at the right time," he explained. "When a player isn't sure what number he's supposed to say, or indeed where he is and exactly what the f*** he's doing, all he has to do is look down at his fingers, which will have been arranged for him by an assistant well in advance, and vocalise the corresponding number while trying to look as much as possible like a serial killer. Works a treat. Usually."
And because modern cricketers are an easily distracted lot, prone to sullen bouts of boredom, they are further encouraged to "mix things up" during the recording process, to "just have fun with it".
"I like to turn around and look over my shoulder at the camera when I say my number," said one Indian player who, while he didn't ask not to be named in this article, will have it remain unnamed as a charitable gesture on the part of this writer. "It makes me feel like I'm doing something different from the others, and that's as it should be, because like a snowflake, I am unique.
"Also, it makes me feel sexy," he added.
"And I'm such a cheeky rebel that I like to say the number while sharing the screen with another player!" said some fashionably bearded New Zealand cricketer (take your pick). "Uh oh, double trouble!" he added, giggling maniacally.
The biggest challenge, though, according to Vickery, is trying to get everyone to agree who gets to go last. "It isn't just about the privilege of getting to end the countdown," he says, "but what you get to say after that - usually something pithy and exciting that is supposed to get the crowd going. Everyone wants to be the one to get to do that."
So much so that just before the India-Pakistan match, the teams reportedly only just managed to avert a major diplomatic incident as tempers flared over who would be the one to say "one" and end the countdown. Apparently Shahid Afridi wanted to do it and finish off in style by making finger guns and saying "Boom Boom" while running his hand through his hair, whereas Virat Kohli was reportedly just as insistent that he should be the one to end things, with a perverted smile and a murmured "Let's go", in a voice a couple of registers below his normal speaking tone while running his hand through his hair.
In the end, a major crisis was averted and it was agreed that Kohli would get the honour, courtesy a friendly phone call from the BCCI to the PCB.
Thankfully such skirmishes are the exception to the rule. Generally speaking, most people agree that the countdowns are nothing if not an exercise in camaraderie, unique in that it involves players of both teams. "Nothing brings two sets of opposing players together more," agrees Michael Clarke. "While on the field we may compete fiercely against each other, on the big screen, at least for the time it takes to count down from ten, we are, regardless of what colour shirt we wear, what flag we may be playing under, or what our respective skill levels may be, equal in the way we are awkwardly embarrassing ourselves."
R Rajkumar tweets @roundarmraj