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The view from Old Blighty - 5


From Andrew Hughes, United Kingdom
It is a truth universally acknowledged that an English cricket lover with an opinion on the IPL must be in want of an Empire. It seems that every one of my irregularly scribbled posts provokes at least one stinging missive from V.Angry of Bangalore, who, presented with a typically shaped stick invariably seizes it firmly by the pointy end and runs off with it, singing the Indian National Anthem.
I don’t know what else to try. I have disavowed county cricket, I have proclaimed my profound and yawnsome indifference to all things Vaughan and everything that is Bell in the world. I have even paraded my Jeremy Coney fetish for all to see. Yet it avails me naught. The words ‘United Kingdom’ seem to be the only two that certain readers notice. So I might as well give people what they want.
Ahem. You see, I’m not really watching the IPL at all. That’s right. I’m being employed by the ECB, the ICC and the CIA to undermine it. It’s true. Furthermore, the BCCI are a bunch of idiots; Sachin Tendulkar never could bat and Sunil Gavaskar is doing unmentionable things to Ricky Ponting.
There, that should take care of that. And remember, Mr Angry, for extra emphasis, you may want to spell imperialist with a capital letter.
Of course, there is a serious point to be made here about some people’s determination to divide the cricket populace of the world into pro-India and anti-India, with your place on that Axis of Silliness being decided entirely by your geographical location.
But I haven’t time for serious points because the IPL is on again. Yes, it’s Monday, so it must be Rajasthan against Deccan, for what might be the first or possibly the second or even the third time. Never mind strategy breaks, what the IPL needs is a mid-season break or at the very least, a mini-pause, a delay of some kind, to enable us to digest, to reflect and to savour. No-one, not even Jacques Kallis, likes to be force-fed, but that’s what it has felt like in this mid-tournament phase.
Abandoning the idea of a gradual build up of momentum, the IPL accelerated to the spin cycle by the first Wednesday and has remained there ever since, a screaming whirl of games blurring into games, with the only reality being the points table to which we cling like shipwrecked sailors being flung around a whirlpool. When was the curious incident of the dog on the outfield? Which was the game where Preity Zinta swore? When did Ravi Shastri stop shouting? Who played yesterday? Who’s playing tomorrow? Like Kevin Pietersen in a hall of mirrors, I don’t know which way to look.
In addition to a mid-season break, the tournament needs the attention of an image consultant, a man with an aesthete’s eye and quite possibly a top hat and a polished cane. For a start, no-one should be contemplating staging games in the middle of the day. The brassy autumnal sun glares down, the pitches gleam like strips of still wet cement and everyone squints into their sunglasses. It’s like partying with a hangover.
I’d go further. The disappointing quality of the fielding is detrimental to the beauty of the tournament. Now, in order to explain the high number of spilled catches there has been a lot of earnest dug out chat about such concepts as ‘variable air thickness’ and the ‘spongy turf coefficient’, most of it about as convincing as a builder trying to explain why the wall he built last week has just collapsed. Time to cut the bull and fess up. A certain proportion of these players can’t catch. Another sizeable group seem to have difficulty touching their toes (yes, that means you Bangalore).
So to this end, in order to restore some dignity to the occasion, I suggest that in IPL 2010, each side will only have two designated fielders. Only the lithest, most attractive movers will be permitted to bend, stretch or pirouette. Everyone else must remain still once the ball is delivered, though a graceful stoop to retrieve a stationary ball is to be permitted. And a new ‘Aesthetic Play League’ will replace all that Fair Play nonsense. Franchises will lose points for pratfalls, facial stubble, stumbles, yelling and tattoos. Credit will be given for difficult catches taken with nonchalance, stylish leaps, neatly pressed trousers and stifling a yawn.
And speaking of barely suppressed somnolence, I bet all of you non-Setanta-ites are wondering how Ronnie Irani is getting on. No? Well I’m going to tell you anyway. He’s doing great. And I am pleased to reveal that, having completed an intensive home study course in Applied Irani, I can reveal the essence of Irani-ness. The secret is in the five key phrases:
1. Listen 2. To be honest 3. For me 4. Err… 5. I promise you
Slip these beauties into your every day conversation and you’ll regularly be mistaken for the former biffer. I promise you. Now you may be thinking that we’ve been here before, that this isn’t the first time I have mentioned the awfulness of Setanta’s coverage and that I am now merely overstating, repeating and reiterating the same observation again and again and again until you just want to scream out, “For the love of Modi, just please make it stop!” If you are thinking that, then I have successfully conveyed to you the magic of Setanta.
But hang on just one moment. Because Saturday 9th May was no ordinary Setanta day. It was the day they went all competent on us. It was the day of ‘The Bish’. Due to some kind of mix-up in the booking department, the yellow ones had gone and got themselves a high quality studio guest. Now Ian Bishop is a Christian man and so I will refrain from declaring my televisual love for him here. Suffice it to say, he is the anti-Irani. Clear-spoken, intelligent and informed, his Bishopness does not flap his gums just to keep the air warm. He is a purveyor not of silly grins or lame jokes, but of knowledge and insight. The Setanta presenter was almost in tears of gratitude at the beauty of it all. For the first time in three weeks, I didn’t use the strategic break to file my toe nails, de-louse the dog or eat more toast. I stayed where I was. And I listened.
Finally, to the Kolkata Knight Riders fan who was angry at my taking the name of Ajit Agarkar in vain, I can only apologise. It was a glaring error on my part. I meant to type ‘S.o.u.r.a.v.G.a.n.g.u.l.y.’ but my fingers slipped. I hope that clears that up.