Month: April 2018 (page 1 of 2)

This week we’re talking about Peter Siddle bowling in a woolly hat

We’re going to be upfront about this: today’s post is largely a means of trying to exploit our readership in a most-likely forlorn bid to remember a very trivial thing which we cannot currently remember. But let’s have a few words about Matt Renshaw before we get into that.

This was going to be another Matt Renshaw piece. Last week Renshaw made 101 out of Somerset’s total of 202 and we were very much impressed. This week he made 112 out of 216, which is basically the same thing.

One thing we greatly enjoy in county cricket is when one player is very dominant. This scenario allows us to ignore everything else that is going on and just keep writing about the same player. This makes life an awful lot easier because the County Championship is big and sprawling and our attention is not.

The downside is that eventually we run out of things to say. (And in this case another downside is that Renshaw is an Australian person.)

Fortunately, once we’ve acknowledged the main guy’s brilliance, there’s usually a very minor detail from elsewhere in the County Championship that takes our interest and we can just start writing about that instead. (Another thing we greatly enjoy is digressing – although technically, going by the headline, the Renshaw stuff’s actually the digression. This next bit’s ‘the main story’.)

Today Peter Siddle bowled in a woolly hat. Here’s a screengrab from footage shot from behind (which, it turns out, is pretty much the worst angle from which to try and clearly distinguish between hat and hair).

Peter Siddle in a woolly hat (via ECB)

Our position on this is that we prefer seam bowlers bowling in woolly hats to spin bowlers bowling in sunglasses. Beyond that, we haven’t yet formed much of an opinion.

It’s a matter to give some thought to, certainly, but sadly we have not had any available thought capacity due to an unexpected side effect of Siddle’s hat bowling. When we saw him doing it, the first thing we thought was: “This sort of reminds us of that time we saw a player wearing a sunhat on a really cold day but then when we looked more closely it turned out he was also wearing a woolly hat under the sunhat.”

Here’s the thing. We can’t remember who that person was and it’s really hard to stop thinking about it. We’re so close to knowing. So close.

We’re not googling because that’s against the rules, but we figure it’s okay to give you guys the same limited information we have at our disposal in the hope that you just instantly know who it might have been. Then we can just all forget about Double Hat Man and really focus on the bowling-in-a-hat issue instead.

We’re pretty sure the person was from the West Indies and that he played for Somerset about the same time that Ian Blackwell did. That’s all we’ve got. Anyone?


The County Cricket Ground Name Awards

St Lawrence Ground, Kent (Sarah Ansell)

It’s high time someone handed out a bunch of awards to the various county grounds for their names.

A couple of ground rules.

  • Rule one: Only one award per ground
  • Rule two: No googling. The jury will not be finding out who the hell any of the sponsors are if they don’t already know

Now let’s get started with absolutely all the way the easiest award of all.

Coolest sponsor – The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence, Kent

This isn’t even up for debate. The sponsor of Kent’s ground is (a) a perfectly drinkable beer, (b) a perfectly drinkable beer named after an aeroplane, and (c) a perfectly drinkable beer named after the coolest-named aeroplane of all.

Most misleadingly named ground – The 1st Central County Ground, Sussex

Sussex is not in any way central.

Typography awards

We’re actually going to have to make this a whole section of its own, which we’re pretty sure says something about (a) the nature of sponsorship and (b) the state of the frigging world.

Most offensively noisily named ground – The SSE SWALEC, Glamorgan. Shh, be quiet. What’s the matter with you? Have you got caps lock stuck on or something?

Ground name that basically looks like a typo – The 3aaa County Ground, Derbyshire. Our cat’s feet have typed more meaningfully than this.

Most contemporary abuse of the basic structure of the English language – The Cloudfm County Ground, Essex. There are three things that modern marketers hate above all else. (1) Spaces between words where there should be spaces. (2) Upper case letters where there should be upper case letters. (3) The correct part of speech at the end of a slogan or tagline (which doesn’t actually apply here, but the other two reminded us of this).

It is an absolute piece of piss to write a slogan these days. All you have to do is use the wrong part of speech for that final word. Let’s make some up. No idea what these would be for. They could probably apply to anything.

  • Remember amazing
  • Believe in extraordinary
  • Discover incredible

(We were aiming for gibberish but still had to google the second one because when we read it back we felt like someone had maybe actually used it for real. Turns out there’s a Tracey Emin sketch of a small bird called Believe in Extraordinary which was made to celebrate Team GB’s participation at the first European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan. It’s not very good, but you can get a print of it for £2,000.)

Ground most likely to have been named after a character from the film Rushmore – Fischer County Ground, Leicestershire

No idea who or what Fischer is. Our best guess is Max Fischer from Rushmore, played by Jason Schwartzman, which we are well aware is a very bad guess.

Here’s a needless shot of Max Fischer to break up the text a bit.

We haven’t watched Rushmore in ages.

Most overblown and utterly misleading name for a ground – The County Ground, Northamptonshire

The County Ground? THE County Ground? Take a look at the rest of this page. You are in fact A County Ground.

Most unlikely sponsor – Lord’s Cricket Ground, Middlesex

Who’d have thought that the Home of Corks would (a) stoop to sponsorship and (b) choose an Australian heavy metal band from Wollongong as the sponsor.

(Having trawled through their discography, our favourite Lord song title has to be By George! from their 2003 album A Personal Journey. Our second favourite is The Battle of Venarium from 2013’s Digital Lies. Sadly, none of their other song titles are really much good.)

Mystery sponsor awards

  1. Ageas Bowl, Hampshire – We’re about 80 per cent certain it’s insurance, but we wouldn’t bet heavily on that
  2. The Brightside Ground, Gloucestershire – Initially thought it was white goods, but think that’s actually Brighthouse
  3. Emerald Headingley, Yorkshire – Honestly no idea
  4. Blackfinch New Road, Worcestershire – Cider? No, that’s Blackthorn, isn’t it? No idea
  5. The Cooper Associates County Ground, Somerset– Solicitors or something? This one’s really opaque and unfamiliar

Most international – a tie!

We believe that Emirates Riverside, Durham, and Emirates Old Trafford, Lancashire, are both named after an airline.

Must try harder/be greedier for sponsorship money – a tie!

  • Edgbaston, Warwickshire
  • Trent Bridge, Nottingham

Greatest missed opportunity – the Kia Oval, Surrey

As with Ageas, we feel like this is probably going to be insurance, but really only because that’s generally the safest bet when it comes to cricket sponsorship. Could be a car – there’s a car called a Kia, right? Also could be a soft drink and they’re going for a Kia Ora/Kia Oval thing.

None of this matters. What matters is that they should have sought out sponsorship by the Belgian beer, Orval.

Surrey should absolutely 100 per cent play at the Orval. And they should sell Orval there. And also in all other cricket grounds. At an affordable price.


Who are we talking about this week: Matt Renshaw, James Hildreth, Ollie Pope or Sam Northeast?

Matt Renshaw, James Hildreth, Ollie Pope and Sam Northeast: four centurions in an April where wickets have arrived as frequently as buses on Manchester’s Oxford Road.

Clearly we’re talking about all four of them. But let’s say we’re pressed for time and can only talk about one. Who should that be? Whose hundred was the most admirable, impressive and meaningful?

The County Championship is a thing in its own right, but at this point in the season ‘talk’ generally revolves around possible future England players. As such, the way we gauge talkaboutworthiness is by asking and answering these three questions.

  1. Are you English?
  2. Are you young?
  3. Are you good?

Let’s do that for all four of them. Let’s do that for Matt Renshaw, James Hildreth, Ollie Pope and Sam Northeast.

Matt Renshaw, Somerset

Matt Renshaw (all images via ECB video)

While Matt Renshaw was born in Middlesbrough, the answer to (1) is technically ‘no’ – he is Australian.

However, the true thrust of the question is ‘how likely is this player to take part in an England Test match?’ and the answer to that is ‘highly likely, albeit infrequently because he’ll of course be playing for the opposition’.

At 22, Renshaw could yet play a part in very many Ashes Tests and this is largely because he is good. As we saw this week, he is the kind of batsman who can score an influential first innings hundred when only one other team-mate can get past ten.

Matt Renshaw is very important and worth talking about.

James Hildreth, Somerset

The other person to get past 10 in that first Somerset innings was James Hildreth, a man who is English, but perhaps too old to be considered for Test cricket. (Another way of looking at it is that he’s old enough to have made many hundreds and learnt plenty about batting – but that kind of thing doesn’t ever seem to elicit much excitement or talk.)

After providing support to Renshaw, Hildreth went solo in the second innings and made a hundred. He was dropped twice.

‘You don’t get that many lives in Test cricket,’ they say –  even though you absolutely do. (No-one’s picked for the national side because of their fielding, so Test teams pretty much always fall some way short of expectations in that area. All that really changes is that when you miss a catch in a Test match a commentator says something like, “you can’t afford to drop those at Test level”. To repeat ourself, you can, because everyone else does. That’s just the way it is. International teams are typically better than domestic teams not because they field better but because they bat and bowl better.)

Hildreth is unarguably good. He always averages plenty on that flat Taunton pitch that also somehow manages to unfairly favour the spinners and which just saw both teams double-dobbled for relatively low scores.

It’s worth mentioning that even at 33, a batsman who is good on flat pitches or turning pitches (or possibly both) is worth keeping an eye on with England’s next two tours being Sri Lanka and the West Indies.

James Hildreth is worth talking about.

Ollie Pope, Surrey

Ollie Pope is English and young enough to have been born in the year that Will Smith released Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.

How good is he? Well, we’re a bit short on data, but he’s apparently good enough to score hundreds at a time of year when very few can.

Ollie Pope is worth talking about.

Sam Northeast, Hampshire

If Ollie Pope eventually ends up in exactly the same career place as James Hildreth is in right now, Sam Northeast is roughly what he will be when he’s eight-thirteenths of the way there.

Northeast is not too young but not too old. While he has many hundreds, he does not yet have many, many hundreds. He is either at some sort of sweet spot of youth and experience or he is neither here nor there. He is English.

Sam Northeast is worth talking about.

Verdict

On balance, everyone has a sufficiently equal case for being talked about that all you actually end up talking about is who you should be talking about.


“The other 10 balls will add a fresh tactical dimension”

 

T20 Blast Finals Day (ECB)

Of all the very many sizeable questions that arise from the ECB’s plan to introduce a new 100-ball format to cricket, the biggest one is surely this: how did they decide who had to have the “fresh tactical dimension” quote attributed to them?

To quickly bring you up to speed, the 100-ball format is designed to be a “unique selling point” (or as Stuart Broad put it “a slightly different unique selling point”). Because of that necessary uniqueness, it can’t be broken down into five-ball overs because then it would still be 20 overs a side. Nor can it be broken down into six-ball overs because of maths.

How do you resolve a knotty little problem like this? The ingenious solution – which everyone involved must have listened to, comprehended, and then agreed was definitely excellent and appropriate – is to have 15 six-ball overs and then a 10-ball over to finish.

This 10-ball over sticks out a bit, doesn’t it? Maybe you could brand it and make a big deal of it. We’d brand it The LeftOver. The ECB went with a subtler approach. They decided that it would add a fresh tactical dimension.

This is a pretty transparent attempt to make the best of things having already invested a great deal of time and having had a great many meetings about your brilliant new 100-ball format. Clearly, the ECB were beyond the point of turning back.

The organisation backed itself into a 10-ball over corner and “fresh tactical dimension” was the best weapon it could lay its hands on to fight off criticism. Someone had to say those words. Publicly. No-one would have wanted to, but someone had to.

Did they draw straws? Did they put names in a hat? Did the top execs pull rank? We’ll never know. All we know is that ECB Chief Commercial Officer, Sanjay Patel, commented: “The other 10 balls will add a fresh tactical dimension.”

Poor ECB chief commercial officer, Sanjay Patel.

ECB chief commercial officer, Sanjay Patel will be the managing director of the new competition. You have to assume they gave him the job and a few extra quid to try and make up for the embarrassment of having his name associated with the fresh tactical dimension quote.


We’re writing Wisden Cricket Weekly and it’s going to be very good indeed (even from an unbiased point of view)

You may or may not know that once upon a time we wrote a satirical weekly newsletter for a cricket magazine. It was fully excellent and almost everyone said so. Then the magazine’s new owners gave us the boot.

At this point, we started doing almost exactly the same thing independently in the form of Cricket Badger. This was not an enormously great idea because we did it for free, but the newsletter was still fully excellent and a somewhat smaller number of people said so.

Now Cricket Badger is no more. Last week’s issue was the final one (for the time being, at least).

Don’t be sad. There’s a very good reason for this seemingly sad development and the very good reason is that starting on Friday, Wisden Cricket Weekly is a thing!

Wisden Cricket Weekly is… well, it’s basically the same thing again, but with a different header and more links to Wisden stuff. There’s also a decent chance that we might get some snazzy dividers to separate the various sections (which is a prospect we are very much excited by).

If you want to sign up for Wisden Cricket Weekly (and let us tell you right now, in no uncertain terms – you absolutely DO want to sign up for Wisden Cricket Weekly), you can do so by adding your name and email address to the mailing list. That’s all you need to do (and it’s also worth mentioning that those details will of course never be shared with third parties).

So…

Sign up for Wisden Cricket Weekly here!

Ladies and gentlemen, let us promise you one thing: this newsletter is going to be weekly (we don’t want to make rash promises, so let’s keep things manageable at this early stage).


Is Ed Smith in or out of a job?

The photo on the homepage of Ed Smith’s website is worth a look. It is from an actual photo shoot. We haven’t exactly done extensive research on this, but booking a photo shoot to get some pictures of yourself would seem to us to be quite an unusual thing for a broadcaster to do.

As an ex-cricketer – one who played three Tests for England – you’d think Smith might go for something from his playing days. But this is not how Ed Smith sees himself any more. Ed Smith’s Twitter handle is @EdSmithWriter.

But back to that photo. He is in a suit and tie, walking across one of those featureless photographic backgrounds where there is no wall or floor, only a great expanse of grey.

Two questions:

  1. Where is he going? Deeper into the grey void, presumably.
  2. What is he looking at? Something above and slightly behind him, judging by his eyes. The thing is not a pterodactyl because Ed looks very calm, bordering on contemptuous. If it’s possible to look down your nose at something above you, Ed is doing that.

The photograph is highly airbrushed.

The reason why we are talking about Ed Smith is because he was made semi-redundant today (a fate that also befell us a few months ago, funnily enough). He has had his hours cut.

While Test Match Special will continue throughout the British summer, it has lost the rights to cover England’s next couple of winter tours to a radio station we’re going to refer to as Talk Sport, even though the name is supposed to be written as talkSPORT.

Talk Sport has a cricket track record. It has covered the last two years of the IPL, plus the World Twenty20 in 2016 and the Champions Trophy last summer. It last did an England tour in 2005. You can find Talk Sport on medium wave or via digital means.

The BBC will presumably be very unhappy.

Ed Smith will be less concerned because Lizzy Ammon is reporting that he has been named as England’s new national selector.

Maybe Smith is looking at “the axe” in that photo on his homepage and is feeling faintly smug at having fully evaded what had promised to be a glancing but still debilitating blow.


Olly Stone is who we’re talking about this week

Olly Stone bounces Luke Wright (via ECB)

Warwickshire’s Olly Stone bowled a bouncer and on the strength of that became the county player everyone’s talking about this week.

In the 18th over, Stone dismissed Luke Wells and then the very next ball he bounced out Luke Wright. If you play for Sussex and you are a Luke W, maybe try and avoid facing Olly Stone if at all possible.

The Wright bouncer was one of those “argh, avoid it – oh no, I’ve hit it while trying to avoid it” dismissals, which is very satisfying because the bowler has made the batsman both frightened and out, meaning the victim is doubly humiliated. It is also encouraging when England are looking for some slightly quicker bowlers.

After the third day’s play, Sussex’s Michael Burgess said: “Olly Stone bowled quite quickly and well.”

This seems relatively fulsome praise considering his team still had four wickets left at that time and he probably didn’t much want to motivate Stone any further, being as he’d already taken the first six (he finished with 8-80).

Encouraging the notion that Stone might be able to do some of the main things you want a bowler to do in cricket, Burgess added: “They just had one of those spells where we seemed to keep nicking them and they seemed to keep catching them.”

Without recent speed gun data, it’s hard to know whether Stone is officially fast or just a ‘brisk’ bowler who was having a delightful day. For what it’s worth, his Cricinfo profile page says that he bowled “in excess of 92mph” last year, which by our reckoning means he has previously bowled at least one ball at 93mph.

Further cause for optimism comes in the fact that Stone missed near enough two years of cricket thanks to an injury sustained while celebrating a wicket. That elite level of injury-proneness is the mark of a true fast bowler.

“He needs to learn to go through the gears and not bowl 100 per cent all the time,” said Stone’s captain Jeetan Patel, who appears to know a thing or two about the nature of county cricket.


I Don’t Like Cricket, I Hate It – the county cricket and crying Aussies edition

A semi-regular feature in which we ask a fella going by the name of Prince Prefab about cricket – even though he hates cricket. We are in bold. Prince Prefab is not.

King Cricket: We’re speaking now on the eve of the County Championship and I am all the way excited to hear how this competition impacts on your life.

It does not. Unless there are crying Australians I’m not interested. Although I do love counties. I like to look at maps of the counties. Might get a county map and get it framed.

It literally has zero impact?

I’ve honestly never given it a single thought. Probably thought about badminton more. And I’ve never thought about badminton.

The only thing I know about county cricket (and I suspect that it probably isn’t the case any more) is that Yorkshire are the only team to have players only born in Yorkshire play for them. Was that ever the case?

That was the case until not quite as long ago as you’d probably imagine. Okay, let’s talk about crying Australians then. How did that whole thing seem to you, viewed from your position ‘outside cricket’?

Brilliant. Great fun. A right laugh. Didn’t understand the crying. I’ll cry at anything; I’ve cried at a wedding in Neighbours but if I intentionally set out to do something and then got caught doing it and then decided to apologise for doing it, I don’t reckon I’d cry.

Also, why was that lad’s dad there when he was saying sorry and crying? I reckon 12 is the cut off point for having your dad with you when you’ve fucked up.

We should probably try and pin that down actually. Here in the UK, 12 means high school for most people – maybe the first year, maybe the second. We need to imagine a high school scenario where you’re in pretty major trouble for dishonesty to work out whether or not it still makes sense to have your dad there for the apology.

Well, for context, (although this is not about dishonesty) I was about ten, playing football in the street with my dad. I was taking a penalty against our neighbour’s drive and he was in goal and I scored an amazing goal but the ball kept rising and smashed our neighbour’s garage window. Now, bearing in mind it was my dad’s fault for letting the ball get past him, and I was TEN, he ran inside and made me go and knock on the neighbour’s door, show them the damage and apologise. He watched this from behind our curtains. That, I believe, is proper parenting.

So what you’re saying is that by the age of ten, your dad felt it was absolutely legitimate for you to face the music alone? I think that’s only part-way conclusive though because maybe his involvement influenced that decision. Would it be fair to say that if he hadn’t been in nets, he might have accompanied you for the apology? (By the way, our favourite detail in this story is that he felt it necessary to return home at speed.)

Yeah he legged it. You know what, I’ve changed my mind. If you want your dad there, fine. Quite touching in a way. This isn’t about masculinity, this isn’t about being strong, burying emotion; like I said I love a good cry. Men should cry, it does you good to have a cry now and again, but I don’t understand what the tears were for here. In fact I don’t understand the whole thing. Cheating in front of 20 cameras. What did they think would happen?

Well this is the thing. Some feel that maybe they were up to lower-grade no-good previously or were up to the exact same sort of no-good but had previously managed to avoid being detected. We’re of the opinion that even if they’d never done this exact thing before, it would be weird if the sandpapering were an absolute outlier.

We suppose the crying was a moment of clarity. Kind of: “We lost sight of the bigger picture and now we see how annoyed everyone is, we kind of feel bad for letting everyone down.” Does that ring true?

Yeah, I can see that. Also, I’m not saying it wasn’t intense. The whole world laughing at you, accusing you, your prime minister’s having a go – bet it was horrible. I mean, even I was interested and as you know, I have no interest in cricket.

This seems like a bit of a non-sequitur at this point in the conversation, but you say that I have to ask you this. Which is the worst county?

Cheshire.


Who will initially be named as a County Championship title contender but actually end up getting relegated?

Essex celebrate 2017 survival (via ECB)

The first week of the County Championship is a great time for predictions. We’ve gone through a whole bunch of previews to pick out the three teams who have most often been mentioned as favourites this year and we’re now going to try and predict which of those favourites will actually end up getting relegated.

This is an odd feature of county cricket. For some reason teams’ performances vary enormously from year to year. Twice in recent memory the champions have been relegated the following season (Lancashire in 2012, Middlesex last year).

Who will it be this year?

Essex

Essex are reigning champions but it still isn’t all that easy to work out how they ever manage to win a game. Thanks largely to Jamie Porter, Simon Harmer and Neil Wagner, they are favourites to win the Championship (which to be honest only compounds the feeling that they absolutely won’t).

Surprise relegation rating: All but guaranteed to go down.

Lancashire

Lancashire have form in being relegated when no-one really expects them to be relegated. They have also strengthened their team over the winter by signing a couple of Durham’s best players (Keaton Jennings and Graham Onions), which would make relegation even more of a surprise and therefore even more likely. Throw in the fact that we support them and things really don’t look good. (We’d also like to point out that Shivnarine Chanderpaul will play for Lancashire again this season, encouraging the notion that he’s just going to carry on playing cricket until his age meets his batting average.)

Surprise relegation rating: Highly likely to go down.

Surrey

Surrey seasons are now routinely split into two or three phases. The first phase is when they’re talked up as potential champions, overrated young talent and big name old-timers having encouraged the notion that the county is ‘back’. The second phase is when an equally unjustifiable number of columns discuss why the things predicted in phase one haven’t actually happened. Phase three, if it happens, coincides with a late season resurgence as the county narrowly avoids relegation and in terms of media coverage is basically the same as phase one. In terms of playing staff, Kumar Sangakkara has sauntered off and Morne Morkel has turned up to wonder why the hell they need a seam bowler like him for all these nibbly green Championship pitches.

Surprise relegation rating: Pretty likely to go down.

Conclusion

All three favourites, simply by dint of being favourites, are in with a very good chance of being relegated – but county cricket being county cricket, the very fact that we’ve now weighed up the likelihood and made a prediction probably means that none of them will be relegated.

Additional conclusion

The County Championship is mental.


Does the IPL deserve its reputation?

IPL 2018 anthem (all images via YouTube)

The 2018 IPL is underway. It is the 11th edition.

Back in 2008 the IPL was a bombastic upstart that threw huge sums of money at all the big name players. Now it is a bombastic-yet-fairly-well-established competition and it only throws huge sums of money at some of the big name players, but also at a few players who you don’t really know all that well.

Things have changed but things also haven’t changed. Either way, it’s a good time to take a look at the IPL’s reputation to judge whether or not it’s deserved.

One of the challenges of attempting to do that is that it’s quite hard to pin down the IPL’s reputation. The tournament is vast and sprawling and different people have very, very different opinions on it.

We took the not-at-all scientific approach of asking a bunch of people who happened to be on Twitter on a Saturday afternoon to try and sum up the IPL’s reputation. After that, we cherry-picked answers that we felt had the ring of truth about them. The end result was a series of different qualities, each of which we will now examine.

This is not a short article, but hopefully it is the kind of article where you are happy that it’s long because you find it to be fun and enjoyable and not the kind of article where you’re forever checking how much you’ve already scrolled through and how much scrolling you still have left to do.

Here are some commonly mentioned aspects of the IPL’s reputation and analysis of whether or not they are deserved.

(1) The IPL is over the top, gaudy and ostentatious

Here’s a shot from eight seconds into this year’s IPL theme tune video.

At this point, you’re quite legitimately concluding that what’s about to follow is probably not going to be a work of extraordinary subtlety.

This is ten seconds in.

Hitting a flaming ball with a cricket bat initially seems kind of ludicrous, but two seconds later they’ve already made hitting a flaming ball with a cricket bat look like a very reserved way to promote a cricket tournament. It does after all greatly focus on cricket, rather than on tigers.

Our favourite part of the tiger shot is the disclaimer beneath which states: “These are stock shots and no animals were harmed in the making of this film.”

They say that because this is what happens next.

The tigers blew up!

Or at least an explosion was displayed at the exact moment that the tigers walking out of the fire towards one another would have touched noses. Maybe it’s a logical leap to conclude that we’re meant to see this as exploding tigers, but we put it to you that it’s a logical leap we are encouraged to make.

This is a very important example of how big things are marketed in India.

Here is a thing that no-one in India has ever said about marketing a big thing: “It’s good, I like it – but do you not think that maybe it’s just a little bit too much?”

No-one has ever said that. No-one will ever say that. Subjected to an assault of singing, dancing and explosions, people are far more likely to say: “Maybe we should have more singing, dancing or explosions.”

Then someone else will turn to them and say: “Let’s have more of all three.”

Everyone will nod and agree and then at some point someone will suggest the addition of tigers.

Here is another very minor, low-key example of the phenomenon. It is nice and small and manageable and easy to understand. When they named the Chennai franchise, they concluded that calling them ‘Kings’ would be insufficient, so they went ahead and called them ‘Super Kings’ instead.

Complaining that Indian entertainment is over the top, gaudy and ostentatious is like complaining about India’s geographic location on this planet. What do you honestly expect anyone to do about it?

If you have a problem with the over the top, gaudy and ostentatious nature of Indian entertainment, here are your options:

  1. Deal with it
  2. Fail to deal with it

Technically, you could also ignore it, but we’re writing this from the perspective that you’re in some way interested in the IPL and are doing your best to enjoy or endure it. As such, those are your two options.

(2) The IPL is a slogfest

This is a bit of a ‘yes and no’ which we are aware is not an especially satisfying way to deal with such a thing.

Yes, the IPL is kind of a slogfest, because it is a Twenty20 cricket competition and Twenty20 cricket is kind of a slogfest.

No, because when you say ‘slogfest’ there are connotations to your use of that word. It is very rare for someone to speak in complimentary terms about something they are labelling a slogfest.

The original pejorative description of Twenty20 cricket was ‘hit and giggle’. This has fallen out of use a bit because it makes the format sounds like a fun, knockabout, amateur sort of thing.

This is in no way appropriate any more because people are pumping millions of moneys into these franchises. We’ll tell you what people pumping millions of moneys into something don’t at all enjoy: giggling from the people paid to produce results. Giggling implies that you’re not taking things at all seriously and if someone’s invested millions of moneys, that isn’t going to go down well.

So the slogging. The crux of this issue is this: in cricket, runs and wickets do not have set values. The value of each fluctuates from game to game, and, in a more general way, from format to format.

In the shortest format, wickets don’t really have much value at all until the point you lose your tenth wicket and aren’t allowed to continue scoring runs. Runs are the meaningful unit of currency and with reduced likelihood of being bowled out due to the constricted nature of the game, there is greater incentive to try and hit fours and sixes. That is how the game is built.

To explain why it’s not just slogging, let’s think of a ‘slog’ as being a wild hack where there’s just as much chance of being dismissed as hitting a six.

(1) If all 11 batsmen hit exactly one six and play no other scoring shots before getting out, the team will make 66, which is pretty much guaranteed to be a losing total.

(2) If all 11 batsmen hit exactly two sixes and play no other scoring shots before getting out, the team will make 132, which is okay in some circumstances, but probably also a losing total.

(3) If all 11 batsmen hit exactly three sixes and play no other scoring shots before getting out, the team will make 198, which is good enough to win most matches.

Our point is that a batsman can’t mindlessly swing at everything. If his decisions are inevitably weighted towards runs and away from preservation of his wicket, then there is still a decision to be made every ball. It is not just a slogfest.

Additionally, bowlers and fielders also play cricket.

(3) The IPL has incredibly passionate fans

Okay, we’re going to address this one by telling you two stories from when we went to watch Bangalore Royal Challengers v Deccan Chargers in 2010 (a colourful time during which we wrote this). The first story is from when we were at the match. The second story is from when we were at a hotel.

Story One. Here is a not-very-good photo from when were at the match. Sorry about the quality. We seem to remember that cameras were banned and mobile phone technology was not-so-good back then.

We just wanted to give you a small flavour of what the crowd was like. You will notice that a lot of people are waving flags and at least one person is wearing a crown.

You also cannot hear the crowd. We’d gone there with our friend Tronco and when the RCB batsmen first walked out, it was loud enough that we could scream “this is loud” directly into his ear and he still couldn’t hear us. Whenever anything happened from then on, it got louder.

The boy who was sitting next to us was certainly passionate. He told us he was supporting both RCB and DC, but in reality he was supporting sixes. He didn’t even clap for most fours, but when there was a six, he was out of his seat, eyes bulging, nearly falling over. It was very weird. He wasn’t bothered about wickets either and it was hard not to conclude that his love for the DLF Maximum was entirely detached from its significance in the match.

There was also a middle-aged guy a few rows in front who was very definitely passionate. It was much less clear whether he was following the match too closely. He was mostly just into dancing.

He was dancing to everything. At the time, this seemed very strange to us because we grew up in a world where even sitting down on a chair in the pub is considered effeminate. In the world of our early adulthood, pubs were for standing in and nowhere in the world was for middle-aged men to dance. (Look, we’re not saying we agree with this view or that most of the people who populated this world weren’t dicks, but this was the environment and we have inevitably internalised many of the values whether we like it or not.)

After a while, we started to notice that Dancing Man was representative of a certain proportion of the crowd. Everyone was having a very, very good time, but the noise was constant in a way that wasn’t necessarily all that related to what was happening on the field of play.

We can’t say what the actual split was between people who were dead into the game and people who were just dead into the experience. Personally, we remember and cherish the experience and honestly don’t know who won the game. It’s worth mentioning that it was a very good-natured crowd too. We can’t imagine any of the players were getting abuse.

Story Two. A little while later, we had to spend ten extra days in the hotel because we couldn’t get home because of the ash cloud. We were on our own by this point and so took to chatting about the IPL with the staff. There was one guy who was very definite that he was not a cricket fan and not an IPL fan either.

Almost immediately after saying this, he dissected Harmeet Singh’s technique when bowling his leg-break slower ball and followed that up with a dissection of the same bowler’s technique when bowling his flipper slower ball. We are an actual professional cricket writer and we’re still not fully sure who Harmeet Singh is.

It seems that in India, the average person is far more likely to know their cricket shit.

This is hardly surprising because during the IPL, cricket can be hard to avoid. We picked up a copy of the Deccan Chronicle one morning during our stay. Six and a half of the 16 pages were devoted to IPL news of some form. There had been bombs at Chinnaswamy Stadium, but that only warranted a page and a half – the rest was all Lalit Modi and Shashi Tharoor, match reports and opinion.

The ash cloud got 150 words. Mark Ramprakash’s divorce got 100.

(4) The IPL has too much advertising

There are few parts of the IPL that haven’t been sponsored. Grounds are sponsored, shirts are sponsored, highlights reels are sponsored. They’ve even found advertisers for moments, like for a six or for a ‘perfect catch’. This means that corporate names can also lodge themselves within the match commentary.

After the match, there are awards – all of which are sponsored and many of which are flimsy and very obviously made-up purely to secure yet another sponsor. Man of the match is fairly conventional, but to this we can add ‘stylish player of the match’, ‘super striker of the match’ and doubtless a few others that we haven’t the will to find out about right now.

There’s an official strategic time-out partner. There are co-presenting sponsors. There are any number of ill-defined associate sponsors.

They’ve even named an ‘umpire partner’ – something which might come as very shocking news to some of the umpires’ actual partners.

Umpire’s wife: “Are you having a parallel relationship with Paytm?”

Umpire: “I, um… what?”

But it’s only on the TV coverage where you get the full IPL effect. Ad breaks are punishingly frequent and last time we watched it, they were doing a thing where they occasionally shrunk the live action picture so as to display banner ads at the bottom and down the side.

The ad break ads (it says a lot that we needed to invent that term) were mostly for aspirational stuff. Phones, LCD TVs, Mont Blanc pens and plush furniture featured heavily.

Let’s quickly do some TV advert awards.

Our all-time favourite Indian TV ad. It was from 2003 or whenever the hell it was we first went over there. It was for Rupa Jon pants and featured a man in white Y-fronts who advertised his sole garment by saying: “You’re number one!” He accompanied that statement with a bold, joyful finger point to emphasise his message. It really was very entertaining. We can’t emphasise that enough.

The most jaw-droppingly perplexing ad that we saw while watching IPL matches on TV in 2010. As we remember it, the guy was a hangman and he’d had a bad day hanging people (a successful day really in terms of doing his job, but in a more meaningful sense a bad day because his job was to hang people). He walked home feeling all bad and then when he got home he switched a solitary lightbulb on and felt slightly better because of the fact that he had either (a) a lightbulb or (b) power for the lightbulb. (We’re honestly not sure how much of this is accurate due to it being a long time ago and because the final slogan was in a type of writing that we cannot read.)

The ad that best sums up an entire country that isn’t India. In Canada we once saw a prime time TV ad which suggested that the viewer might want to “impress all of your friends with a giant rig” – that’s ‘rig’ as in ‘truck’. Oh Canada.

Anyway. Yes, clearly the IPL has too much advertising. We could probably have done this one a bit quicker.

(5) The IPL is overrated and overhyped

This is to some degree connected to (1) and (4).

Of course it is overhyped because that is how the IPL presents everything. It would be very odd indeed if the one solitary thing it didn’t oversell was itself.

Of course it isn’t going to be shy about taking opportunities to talk itself up. It would be very odd indeed if, in amongst advertising 10 million other things, it neglected to advertise itself.

The IPL thinks that it’s the best and has always thought that it’s the best. There are two aspects to this that warrant our attention.

Firstly, the IPL is, and pretty much always has been, the best T20 competition. It is the best-funded and therefore the best-staffed, both in terms of players but also in terms of people trying to work out smart ways of winning cricket matches. So yes, the IPL is within its rights to think it’s the best.

What’s changed is how people regard T20 competitions. Initially, ‘best T20 competition’ was a bit like saying ‘best-looking deep sea fish’ because it was a label that didn’t really have any value in broader terms.

Now, thanks to all the great players and thinkers who have been involved for a decade, ‘best T20 competition’ pretty much means ‘most sophisticated and forward-thinking cricket competition’.

However much or however little you value that, T20 competitions are unarguably far more important to the game than they once were and the IPL is the most significant among them.

(6) The IPL is too powerful

The idea here is that the IPL is a talent sucker; that other parts of the sport are losing players and becoming devalued as a consequence.

You could argue that the arrival of the IPL represented a very obvious tipping point for a sport that had already spread itself too thinly and was asking too much of its players. Cricket’s foremost domestic league lasts seven weeks. That is not, by the standards of most sports, unreasonable. The problem, really, is what was already happening.

International cricket long ago lost sight of the idea that it is supposed to be about big occasions where the best players play the best players and everyone is at their best.

County cricket has also been affected, but it only expanded deeper into April in the first place to allow even more international cricket to take place.

The IPL could see the end of the philosophy of ‘more of everything’ in cricket and that isn’t such a bad thing.

(7) Most people outside India are at best apathetic about the IPL

A common refrain from outside India is that they don’t care about the IPL and can’t even find a way to care about the IPL. This is not the same as no-one caring about the IPL because it is quite obvious that in India very many people care about the IPL. (This division of caring makes total and perfect sense because it is, after all, the Indian Premier League.)

The fact that people are even discussing this is a measure of the league’s significance. No-one in England is following the Ranji Trophy too closely. No-one’s following the Logan Cup or the Lankan Premier League. Foreign leagues are foreign. The fact that in its 11th season the IPL is suffering unflattering comparisons with the NFL in the US or the English Premier League is really kind of an achievement.

So, in relative terms, people outside India actually care very much about the IPL because they mention it and sometimes think about it a little.

So, with all of that in mind, does the IPL deserve its reputation?

Having weighed up the facts and pondered the detail, we would have to go with ‘sort of’.


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