When you take on a difficult task, like climbing Everest, becoming Phil Hughes’s batting coach or promising to review the entire IPL, there comes a point where you suddenly realise the sheer scale of the feat of endurance you’ve committed yourself to. For us, that point arrived last week when, after 24 days and 38 matches, it occurred to us that we’d only reached the halfway stage. We can stick it with the best of them, but another month of this? If we see it through, this may well be our greatest achievement- even better than that time we got through four bottles of gin during an Ed Cowan innings.
During our last seminar we told of how the fearsome Pune’s wheels had rather fallen off. Unfortunately this week they lost the suspension and most of the outer shell as well. Their week didn’t start too badly as they beat Delhi thanks, once again, to Sir Steven of Smith, who mashed 34 from 13 balls to see them to 192, before Sourav Ganguly unleashed the most electrifying haircut in sports entertainment and tore through the Daredevils top order. It all then started to go a bit wrong.
The devious fixture list struck again as about three hours later Pune met Delhi once more, and finally Luke Wright made his IPL bow. Having taken the Big Bash by storm as an opener, he was slotted into the middle order and didn’t get a bat as Robin Uthappa played one of the worst innings at any level of cricket. Wright’s two overs then went for 12, Delhi crushed them by 8 wickets and he was dropped for the next game. Clearly rocked by their team’s disgraceful treatment of such a star, Pune let Cameron White score 78 as Deccan made 177 before their top order stunk the place out again and they lost by 18 runs. With Michael Clarke having hot-footed it down to India’s eighth-largest metropolis, we fear we may have seen the last of England’s rose in the IPL. Clarke made his debut in Pune’s most recent outing, against, er, Deccan again. After starting well, Pune completely lost their heads with the ball and were blitzed all over the show in the final few overs. Deccan were 91/2 from 14 yet managed to get up to 186 and Pune got their chase all wrong again. They were always behind the rate and by the time Smith got in they needed more than 15 an over. Even his 27 ball 47 couldn’t repair the damage that had gone before.
The rest of the tournament saw the odd surprise exciting game in amongst Pune’s travails; first up Chennai tried desperately to fail to chase down 147 against Rajasthan, before Dwayne Bravo and MS Dhoni messed it all up by accidentally winning the game off the final ball. A couple of days later Piyush Chawla, appropriately, bowled a whole heap of pies to Mumbai Cowboys’ tail which gave them the chance to hammer 27 from the penultimate over and beat Kings XI by four wickets. After that we were all thrown by a genuinely excellent piece of bowling; Rajasthan found themselves needing 15 from the final two overs to beat Delhi, before Morne Morkel’s 19th not only went for just three runs but also took the vital wicket of Brad Hodge. Despite his best efforts, Umesh Yadav couldn’t mess things up again and his side got home by one run. It took us a while to recover from that game, as not only was there a close finish but it also saw Owais Shah run out, an event which saw us so overcome with nostalgia that it wasn’t until someone had rushed to the emergency gin supply that we got hold of ourselves again.
As for the league table, Delhi are comfortably top with 16 points, while Deccan are comfortably bottom with 5 – their only two victories coming at Pune’s expense. Everyone else is bunched up in the middle, mainly because all of the teams are really as rubbish as each other. We aren’t quite sure why there needs to be so many more games; the crowds seem to be diminishing rapidly and the poor cheerleaders are performing with all the enthusiasm of a group of people who’ve just had to sit through an entire Ed Cowan innings, without any gin. The cold, hard fact, however, is that there are a whole load more games. On the plus side, this means a whole lot more time to drink gin and make cheap jokes about mediocre Australians.