Monday, May 22, 2017

Dust, Television, Indiana Jones, IPL, Billiards,

The dust has settled a little bit after the atom bomb that was last night’s IPL final, and, I have to say: I’m gutted for Pune—their players and their supporters—just as I probably would have been for Mumbai had they lost the match, and the championship, on the final ball.  But for Pune, there’s literally no tomorrow since they’ll likely be dissolved before the beginning of next season in order to make room for the teams returning from suspension, so it was nothing less than a franchise ending defeat.  There’s no next season for them.  It’s the last episode of Lost or Dexter.  You’ve invested the time, you’ve followed the show faithfully for seasons on end, and then the series finale spits on your face and actually sullies the memory you have of everything that came before it.  I remember how moving out of my previous house was such an unpleasant ordeal that I can’t so much as think about the old place—where we were when we married, where we raised our toddler son—without also conjuring the stress that was the final fiasco of buy, selling, fixing, and moving out.  What do you do with your Pune shirt this morning?  It’s a tough call.  If they were coming back next year, no question, you keep it.  You continue to support the team through their highs and their lows, and when they do make it all the way back, when they do win the championship somewhere down the line, there you are, loyal supporter, feeling like one of the team and maybe partying like one, too.  This is different, though.  There’s no redemption from that loss; in all likelihood, there’s no team anymore.  Last night’s loss was the fourth Indiana Jones—so negative it makes you wonder why you keep dusting the original boxed set that you keep under your bed.  In a small, wooden box.  That you finished with Jacobean stain and polyurethane.  And you had laser-engraved “Only the penitent man shall pass” on the top.  Fourth movie kind of ruined that, didn’t it?
That’s how it goes with T20, though.  You know it when you sign up to play.  You could be ahead for the whole match, you could build a seemingly insurmountable lead, and then a couple of wickets fall and you produce three or four meager overs and the next thing you know, you’re stripes, up against the rail, surrounded by solids, behind the eight ball, there’s no chalk to be found, and the only other cue is the one without the tip because your cousins dropped it on the hard basement floor too many times last Thanksgiving.  Time for foosball, I’d say, but billiards is the only thing in Pune.  And by billiards, I mean cricket; and by foosball, I mean soccer.  Table tennis would be tennis, of course, but I’m not going to bring up table tennis because that means covering the billiards table with the table tennis court and setting up the net and everything.  Table tennis and billiards.  You can’t have both, which you already know if you’ve ever been to my uncle’s basement.
There’s a lot of would’ve, could’ve, should’ve from Pune’s perspective, as well, which makes the result even more difficult to accept because the match really was theirs to love.  Would’ve picked up the pace earlier if they knew Mumbai still had a chance, could’ve been more aggressive earlier in the innings since they knew they had wickets to spare, should’ve won the match—really should have won the match, but those are the thoughts every Pune player or supporter must contend with this morning, and I really feel for them.  I’ve been on the wrong end of my fair share of gut-wrenching sporting defeats in my time, defeats that make you hate the game for a while, defeats that make you want to pick up a new hobby, to wipe the slate clean so as to circumvent the cognitive dissonance that comes with the loss.  I would imagine it’ll be difficult to dive right back into cricket after that one, and I do hope the losing players use the sting to propel themselves to higher heights a la Ben Stokes instead of letting the bitter taste of spoiled champagne sicken them to where they want champagne no more.
I’m going to switch gears now to the County Championship where my beloved Middlesex CCC finish their match today against archrival Surrey CCC at Lord’s.  From day one, as is the recent history between these two clubs, the little club from south London have gone only for the draw while last season’s champions actually try to win—Malan and Roland-Jones looking once again like England men.  The draw will move Surrey to second in the table after four matches; Middlesex inhabit the sixth spot with a game in hand on the rest of the league.  I will not be covering the County Championship in depth this season for fear of losing the small audience that I sometimes have; I enjoy, in other words, telling people I write a cricket blog that almost no one reads as opposed to no one, full stop.

Until tomorrow.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The IPL Final. Whoa.

I missed the first three-quarters of today’s final on account of being called upon to play for our senior T20 team—an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up regardless of the importance of the match.  I’m still young enough, and early enough into my cricket career, to prefer playing over watching even when the watching involves one of the biggest of the big matches and the playing involves standing puddles at midwicket, at third man, at square leg, and a waterlogged heavy tennis ball that might as well be a balloon filled with custard such was the bobbling it did whenever bowled, hit, or thrown.  But none of that stopped the fun or the good, clean competition.  We had the pleasure of playing against the Spartans, as well—always a positive.  They bring really good players and a sportsmanlike attitude every time.  Fair play to them, despite the fact that they beat us.  I wasn’t sure of my role in the team as I arrived at the ground, but I was more than happy with the responsibilities with which the captain entrusted me.  I had the gloves for the first eight overs or so and then inhabited various spots in the infield—where I made one diving run out by fielding with my right hand while simultaneously falling forward and scooping it toward the stumps for a direct hit—and then I strolled about the quagmire that was our outfield this morning.  No bowling for me, though, which was no surprise at all.  A little bit of a relief, actually, as I’ll need to develop more consistent line and length before taking the ball against this type of competition. 

I came in third during our innings—right in the middle of the power play—allowing me to play my favorite square pull for six and then I added my customary four between deep midwicket and cow-corner before skying what I meant to be a straight drive right to a fielder at mid on.  I was disappointed not to be in there a little longer, my strike rate notwithstanding, but, hey, I added a new shot to my repertoire.  I don’t think I have gotten out in that manner before, and this comes from someone who has experimented with just about every type of dismissal in the Laws of Cricket.  So, you know, always look on the bright side, and all that.
I found myself following the IPL match with Kartik, a player who I met for the first time today, and we figured at the halfway point that Pune would more or less sail to their fourth consecutive Mumbai conquest and this year’s IPL title having held their opponents to a mere 128, I think, although I haven’t checked the scorecard because I had to mow the lawn immediately following the end of the match (side note: Kartik, it turns out, knows just about everything there is to know about world cricket, and he’s an impressive player in his own right—I think he took 4 or 5 wickets in the match.  I enjoyed our conversation immensely, and I hope, Kartik, that you get a chance to look at the blog.  Welcome, if so).  It was only in my car on the way home from my match when that match started to get interesting.  I listened in on the always excellent Guerilla Cricket at about the point when Pune needed only 59 from 50 balls and then Malinga, I believe, bowled a terrific over that tightened things up and prodded one of the Guerilla commentators to observe that the match wasn’t over yet despite Pune’s having been in the driver’s seat since Mumbai’s second over.  The other guy—I forget who, I apologize—retorted that it would require an epic mess up (except he didn’t use the word mess) for Pune to lose from here before criticizing the length of a match of which we already knew the outcome.  Boy did it turn from there, however.  Bumrah and Malinga, Malinga and Bumrah kept the cheap overs coming and before I knew it, the run rate had blimped up to about twelve an over with three remaining as I pulled into my garage, ran inside, flipped on the match, and grabbed some lunch.  While I ate a banana and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, RPS were served a steady diet of disagreeable yorkers and they seemed content to push them to leg or off for singles and crossing their fingers for that bad ball with which they could scare the birds from the top of the stadium.  Except that ball never really came and then the Pune men started to fall like the rain that saturated our outfield last night.  Pune required eleven from the last over, six from two, and then four from the last ball but they couldn’t get the job done against Mitchell Johnson who held his nerve after giving up a boundary on the over’s opening ball.
A couple of things: 1) the match would have ended differently had Dhoni escaped nicking off to the keeper and had the “in” Steven Smith avoided the one outfielder at deep point.  Had he done so, his boundary would have put his team in a commanding position late in the match.  And 2) what a call by Mumbai to bring in maybe the best death bowler in the world, Jasprit Bumrah, for the nineteenth over.  One thing I don’t want is for this blog to descend into a baseball/cricket comparison as there is nothing more tedious than that—oh, wait, football or football is worse—but baseball could learn a thing or two from this outcome.  In baseball, it’s customary for a team to bring in their best relief pitcher for the ninth inning regardless of score or situation.  Kudos to Mumbai for bringing him in when the situation dictated instead of waiting until the last over when all might have been lost.
Anyway, tough one for RPS who did nothing wrong othplayinghan play it too casually in the last seven overs and now we can count them as another victim of The Beehive prediction jinx.  Stunning stuff.  What a match.

Until tomorrow.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

My Head Against My Heart: An IPL Final Preview and Prediction

So here we are: 59 matches down and just the final left.  It’ll be Steven Smith’s Rising Pune Supergiant against Rohit Sharma’s table-topping Mumbai men.  And while Mumbai will enter as the favorites—they’ve been the best team on balance for the entire season—I like Pune, the resurgent Pune, with their Harley-riding equable captain and their young, talented, Australian other-captain.  The way they’ve played over the past couple of weeks gives them the edge, in my book.  There’s something to playing meaningful games as you enter a playoff situation that keeps you sharp as opposed to having been safe for so long like Mumbai has been, a state that naturally curbs your competitive drive.  If you don’t have to win, you’re likely to give a little less than your best possible effort, and it’s difficult to switch back on at a moment’s notice when your opposition is already in that mode.  Here, it’s win and win the championship or lose and go home empty handed.  Both teams are all in, and, in that case, I’m going to go with the team who have their proverbial claws sharpened against the one who has been in a comparative hibernation for some time.  This is not to say that Mumbai doesn't have a chance or even that they will lose.  In fact, my predictive powers—or lack thereof—should see them through.  They are very talented indeed, and there is a reason they topped the table after fifty-six matches.  Should be a gripping final.

I’m not as adept in the ways of statistical analysis in cricket as I should be—I plan to run an Excel based breakdown of IPL 2017 as soon as it ends—however, I understand the Rajiv Gandhi stadium to feature a bit of a flat track that slows down as the match progresses—although, less so in the shorter T20 format I would guess—which means, if I understand this correctly, it should be batsman friendly through the first innings and then maybe favor spin as the match, and the wicket, wears on.  So if Mumbai bats first, Rohit, Buttler, and company will enjoy the even surface and will have more than a puncher’s chance of putting up a formidable total before handing it off to Karn, Harbhajan, and the Indian attack to hold Pune in the second.  Even Malinga, who has typically relied on pace and swing to animate his awkwardly delivered yorkers, even he has taken something off of his stock delivery as he’s aged.  If you look at his ball in slow motion, you’ll notice he applies a bit more top spin than he used to, so the ball that appears straight and full will dip and bite the slower wicket thanks to that trademark Slinga Late Movement.  What I’m saying here is that he should still find success even on a wicket that should neutralize the other quicks.  Even if they bat second, they have the bowling to at least contain Pune who themselves are missing Ben Stokes and Imran Tahir—two players vital to the RPS attack, especially on this surface—all of which suggests that Mumbai’s fearsome batting should be successful anyway.  And, again, the pitch might not even slowdown that much, either; it could just be a straight track for the whole match.  Advantage Mumbai, when I look at it logically.

 A quick look at the match results, though, shows three RPS triumphs over Mumbai who only lost five matches this season if you count the first qualifier last week—apparently, RPS has Mumbai’s number.  In the first two matches, Pune dismissed one of Mumbai’s top four for single digits, kept the remaining three from going crazy, and then dominated the lower lineup, albeit with Tahir and Stokes playing major bowling roles in both.  When RPS won the qualifier without these guys, they relied on a bit of a revelation from Washington Sundar who basically gave them what Tahir took with him on international duty, and the RPS attack stifled a Buttler-less Mumbai only allowing Patel more than a half ton. 

If RPS were to win again tomorrow, if they are to take the championship, it will mean beating this year’s top team four times out of four—an unlikely task given T20’s close-to-coin-flip nature.  Again, logically, it seems like Mumbai have the edge.  They’re due, right?  But if the roulette wheel lands on black, it’s just as likely to land on black the next spin, what’s done is done—to expect anything else is a gambler’s fallacy.  Pune might have won the previous three meetings, but those meetings are history and have no statistical bearing on tomorrow night’s final even if those matches might have some strategic influence.  The fact of the matter is that the match will come down to moments, to sequencing, the way that T20 so often does.  When you get Rohit’s wicket, has he scored 9 or 95?  That’s a big difference.  My heart tells me that MS Dhoni and Steve Smith, they guide their team in the instances on which the game itself rests.  I’m going with my heart even though all logic tells me otherwise; I’m going with my heart even though I know better.

Until tomorrow.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Necessity of Cricket

If it were somehow just a matter of keeping an unwavering interest, meaning you took away the tedium of shagging the balls; magically cured my need for food and rest; and found an author for a steady delivery stream, I think I could bat all day, every day.  I wouldn’t even need fielders or, come to think of it, variety in the delivery.  You want to put me in the nets and send the exact same ball headed in my direction and you can assure me that I won’t get physically tired or hungry or need to use the bathroom, you’d better believe I’d sit in there all day and pop the ball as it came my way, each time, every time enjoying it more than the previous ball as I missed and then hit and then began experimenting with different strokes, different ways of getting the ball to different parts of the field.  You want to take away human contact and have a machine bowl?  Great.  You want to put me in one of those games where it looks like Akram or Malinga is bowling?  Better still.  You might think it would be torture, but as long as the ball kept coming, I would see it as a steady, interminable stream of blissful, edifying refreshment.  That’s why it hurts so much to lose one’s—well, my—wicket.  It means the end to the fun.  The cutting off of the supply.  The kinking of that hose delivering fresh, crisp water to the desiccated plants in my backyard.

Such is the nature of batting—the nature of cricket, really: That session in the nets always comes to a close either because you are tired, the bowler is tired, or because you feel guilted into letting someone else have a go.  And everyone knows, your time in the crease, where batting actually matters, that ends no matter what—sometimes abruptly when you least expect it, unfair as it is, but even when you’ve played a flawless innings you will sooner than later walk back to the picnic table or the bench or the pavilion at Lord’s having exhausted that which sustains you, even while you console yourself with the promise of subsisting on the nets or the tee or the ball on a rope hanging from the joists in your basement until the next opportunity to take the crease and brandish your bat in an actual match where you might have failed or succeeded or somewhere in between just a week ago, or was it yesterday.

And batting becomes a synecdoche for the game as a whole when you start to consider whether you’d give up any of it—or better, whether or not you could do any of it all day given the same stipulations I mention.  I would bowl all day, I think, if my arm wouldn’t get tired—even against some computer image of Ricky Ponting or—c’mon!—Andrew Strauss.  Please, Andrew Strauss.  Not because I want to get him out but because I’d want to have the honor of bowling to even a computer generated version of his backfoot excellence.  I’d field all day, too.  Give me some whites—I promise you, I sit in the outfield, at slip, or silly mid on and pick it all day.  I just love it.  But that’s the tough part—the contradiction.  Cricket is great—there, I’ll shorten my entire essay to three words—but it ends.  It always ends.  And as long as a game might seem when that bowler gives up a third consecutive six or when he bowls a seventh wide, as long as the game might seem when a batsman continuously blocks the ball into the ground, it always seems short in retrospect, after the match when you sit down to dinner and can’t get out of your mind the game in which you just took part. 

Five days, four days, one day, a couple overs, nets, I don’t know, whatever—I want in.  Cricket to me is like pure-blood to a thousand-year-old vampire or a big, round bucket of licorice at the end of a successful diet: I wouldn’t exactly call it an obsession, but in the absence of my immediate family, it is something I need to enrich, to enhance my spirit.  The kind of thing that makes solitude worthwhile. 

Until tomorrow.

My Last Attempt at Dictating My Blog to Siri

Yesterday, I did not feel well and so thought it might be the right time to try the dictation feature on my iPhone with the intention of emailing the product to myself and posting it straight away.  I was left with, though, an incoherent mess that required about an hour of editing, and, as a result, I'm just getting around to posting it now.  What follows is the edited version of the incoherent mess.  I disavow it completely and will be back later with today's post.  Please, don't read this.

In general, I like rain for the reasons that most people really like rain. For one, it keeps everything on earth growing like the plants and trees give that give us food and shade and whatnot.  I also like the sound of rain, as I've mentioned before—just tick, ticking away on your roof during a shower.  Rain also tends to bring with it cooler weather and, having attended school in Chicago, I’ve grown accustomed to cool weather.  And even with cricket I tend to like the rain as it is part and parcel of the relationship people and the game have with nature in general—the fact that you have to read nature, the fact that you have to read the weather, the humidity, you have to account for the conditions to gain an advantage.  It’s one of cricket’s positive, attractive qualities in that the team of men or women that has the best symphony with nature has a better chance of winning then does the team that that doesn't recognize nature’s patterns or how that affects what they're trying to do.

That said: the rain during yesterday’s (today’s) Sunrisers/KKR Eliminator was certainly annoying.  Sunrisers got off to a bad start only scoring in the 120s and, ultimately, they only have themselves to blame for losing the match, but at the same time, should it have continued to rain, they would have won since they would have had a higher standing in the table by the end of the season.  But because it stopped raining the D/L method had it so that KKR only had to score 38 or something from five overs—a crazy total because there is also no reduced wicket limit.  Sunrisers took three KKR wickets very quickly—almost a third of the 10 wickets that Sunrisers themselves had over the course of 20 overs—yet KKR did not have to worry about the conservation of those wickets because they had the same 10 in just the five overs, meaning each player could go out there and swing for the boundary without worrying about having to stay in there for the entire 20.  I think it would make more sense to also cut the wicket limit down to, say, three or four in order to even out the sense of urgency or panic because even Hyderabad, who only got the 120, had to do so with the foreboding sense that they might be bowled out.  They still felt like they had to press or be more aggressive than they would've liked because they felt the pressure put a big total up in the 20 overs. 

Now, if you only have to get 38 or so from five overs—an easy task by itself—the 10 wickets you get to do so makes the feat even easier than Sunrisers’ 120 something with the ten wickets in 20 overs.  In that sense, I don't think that that's fair at all, but the other thing that I think is very strange is that you've got here an eliminator in a major domestic T20 competition—probably the most major domestic to 20 competition—and you don't have a day set aside for a rain out?  The same thing happened in the most recent World T20 where, I think it was either Ireland or the Netherlands missed out on the Super 10 stage of the tournament because the match that they needed to win in the qualifier was rained out, and they only got one point instead of the two that they could've gotten should they have played and won.  Why not have an extra day in case of a rain out?  Now I know the counter argument will be that cricket has always had a little bit of a ride-your-luck element with regard to the weather.  If a match gets washed out or abandoned without a ball, that's been just part of the game, and it's been kind of tough luck for the teams that are trying to win, or, in certain cases, it's been positive for a team, including Sunrisers this year who got that vital 15th point just for raining out against RCB.  So I know that cricket has had this kind of tough luck relationship with the rain—that's just how the cookie crumbles.  But hasn’t T20 deliberately divorced itself a little bit from traditional forms of cricket?  Why does it need now to adhere to the rules, mores, and taboos of the traditional game?  T20 is an attempt to modernize the game, to fit it into the modern working person’s schedule, where they can see an entire match between dinner and bedtime, so why, at the same time, are you going back to the pastoral rules that you considered atavistic.  Well, it's raining so we can't do our work for the day.   This sentiment is exactly what T20 is against.  Therefore, it needs to include days at the end of the season for which games that are necessary to be played that were rained out can be played so that every team has an equal opportunity to get to the next round as opposed to one team making it because they had a rain out and another missing out for the exact same reason. We've a lot of money at stake here and we’ve teams that are trying to make it to the finals and eventually win this major competition all reduced to one team hoping that it stops raining so they have an opportunity to bat.  And that’s basically what it came down to yesterday: if it continued raining, Sunrisers and go through, and if it stopped raining KKR would go through.

That's what the Duckworth-Lewis method got us yesterday largely because it is incompatible with the T20 format.  It wasn't designed for T20; it takes resources into account—how many wickets teams have left—and it accounts for what score they could have gotten with these wickets in hand.  The fact of the matter is wickets don't matter as much in T20 where each batsman needs to stay in there for just the two overs to make it through to the end, whereas in the 50 over ODI format, a player needs to take guard for much longer in order to be able to utilize all of the overs available.  The D/L equation takes that into account; it, then, does not work with T20 for obvious reasons.  We need to make a new equation, one commensurate with the vagaries of T20 if we are not going to have rain out days built into the schedule. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

In Search of Things Lost

It’s an empty feeling when you lose something valuable, even if you didn’t know it was valuable before you lost it.  I, for one, commonly place something on top of my car, forget about it because I’m thinking about something else, and then drive away.  Several times, I’ve lost a water bottle in this manner; one time, a backpack; another time, my wife’s car keys—long story there.  Maybe you’ve misplaced a twenty or a fifty dollar bill, maybe it’s an old, meaningful sweater you grandmother knit for you when you were younger—the item itself doesn’t matter really because the hardest part about it is that you have lost something that you just had—it was right there, and now it’s gone.  There’s a gap there now.  A hole.  It’s the opposite of finding money or stumbling upon some long forgotten object that you’ve wanted or needed all along.  To replace it would first of all cost money that you should have been spending on something else, and then there’s that nagging feeling of the unknown.  You might, of course, find the thing, solve the mystery, make yourself (materially) whole again.  Then again, you might not. 

I get this same feeling when I stupidly lose my wicket during a cricket match.  I have a good pull shot, a nice straight drive that I can lift if necessary, and a serviceable cover drive that I can play for a quick single in tennis cricket even if a leather ball would travel all the way to the boundary.  Also, I should mention, I have the defensive block.  So my strategy is simple: As the bowler approaches, I take a step toward the off-side.  Anything short, I attempt to pull over the deep midwicket boundary; any good length, middle stump-bound ball I play straight—on the ground or in the air depending on its pitch; I employ the cover drive on anything off stump, and then I block anything that catches me off guard.  Nice and simple.  I haven’t developed any sort of cut shot, so that’s out of play, and if the opposition can catch on, they’ll realize fairly quickly that covering point wastes fielders—I simply can’t hit it there just yet.  Now, if I concentrate on preserving my wicket first and foremost while playing whichever of my three shots most appropriate to the ball headed my way, I do just fine.  I score at a high rate, burn up some overs, and make it easier for the guys beneath me to play their game.  The boundary, though, is a tantalizing beast, and if I slog a couple short balls for six, my mind starts to wander toward the grandeur and self-satisfaction that heroics so often afford.  I lose sight of my shortcomings as a batsman.  I stop playing the appropriate shots, and, worse, I no longer protect my wicket the way a flawed batsman should.  So after a couple of boundaries, I’m extremely susceptible to anything off stump since I’ll likely have decided before the deliver to go back toward midwicket leaving me open to a nick off to the keeper or the balloon to midwicket or extra cover, and, before I know it, I’ve lost my wicket, something of value that I forgot I could lose.  But my mind—my wandering, flaky, distracted mind—it lets me down yet again, and as I walk off all I can think about is getting back that thing that I had but gave away.  Except that no amount of replaying the shot in my mind, no practicing the appropriate shot as I walk away can bring it back.  It is gone forever.

A couple years ago, some water in our basement ruined a couple hundred of my favorite books I had accumulated over years of schooling and leisure-reading—books that held tremendous value to me, books I meant to keep for the rest of my life.  My wife bought me an e-reader—an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite—and I found online most of these books the water had taken from me, took a couple of hours downloading them, and now have them on a thumb drive, which I keep near my bedside ready for action whenever I need another classic to capture my imagination for a couple of weeks.  I’ve purchased a leather case for the e-reader, too.  It looks and feels like a book, phenotypically indistinguishable from any other title on our shelf.  When I need a break from the heavy stuff, I enjoy spy fiction—Fleming, LeCarre, the usual.  Lately, I’ve come across Len Deighton and have downloaded his Berlin Game.  I’m loving it.  Yesterday afternoon, when school ended, I flung my satchel over my shoulder, picked up my beloved Kindle, and waltzed out of my classroom, out of the school, and toward my car.  I placed my Kindle on top of my Civic (palindrome), opened my driver’s side door, and, thinking about something else entirely, drove off to my next activity, my next potential conquest.  By the time I made it home, I knew what I had done and, already, I missed the feel of the cover, particularly the soft, supple spine I had never consciously registered.  I imagined returning to school the next morning and finding it in the parking lot crushed by a thousand tires of cars from all over the metropolitan area.  Or, the most likely scenario, I’d never see it again—unsure if it made it all the way to the highway or farther, unsure how close I’d been to keeping it somehow on the roof for the duration of the ride. 

I did not see it on the road or the parking lot this morning, and so I went up to my classroom and opened the door in search of some diversion from the single, thought-dominating loss.  But then, I was called back to the crease.  The fielder at mid off had dropped the ball I thought he had caught—there was my lost book, on my desk, heavy, real, and good.

Until tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Dream Deferred, IPL Action

If you read yesterday’s blog, you’ll know about my pipedream of finishing my home-refinance early and making it to the cricket ground just in time to pump out a flurry of boundaries and save my flagging team from certain defeat.  You’ll also know that I had no real expectation of that happening.  That’s the thing about dreams, reader.  Here’s actuality; here’s how it actually happened:  The house business took no time at all—maybe twenty minutes—meaning I could take my time getting to the ground and still be there in time for the match to start.  As usual, I was the first one there, and the match started about fifteen minutes late, a number that beats our average tardiness by about ten minutes, so that was a positive.  We fielded first, and, playing my usual position at deep midwicket, I got to do one of those moves where the ball bounces just before the boundary, and, keeping one foot in front of the Toblerone, the fielder leaps, catches the ball with one hand, flings it back into the outfield while still in the air, and then retrieves it saving two runs.  I felt pretty good about myself, if you can’t tell.

The positive vibes, unfortunately, evaporated when I took the ball for the third over.  I hit my spots—no wides to speak of, at least—but I found myself completely outclassed by the batsman who had about five more shots than I have varieties of ball.  I started with my typical yorker length aimed at off-stump and he hit that for four, then I went a little fuller than I’d have liked—still a ball most batsmen have trouble with in this league—and he hit that for six.  After a brief discussion with the keeper, I aimed good length to fifth stump—a deep six to the off side.  Then, I a couple of dot balls to put me out of my misery.  On the good side, I was able to control the ball better than I have been able to in the past, but the negatives outweigh such moral victories, I’d say.  I got the ball again a few overs later and was much better.  I think I only gave up two runs with some dangerous dot balls and a wicket mixed in there—a modicum of redemption after my initial pricey disaster.  As a team, we gave up far too many runs to have any actual chance of reaching our target, but the opposing team was quite talented at the bat, I’d have to say, and we were a fielder short, I forgot to mention.  They did provide a substitute fielder, credit to them; however, this fielder promptly dropped no fewer than three easy sitters, although, while frustrating, we could blame no one but ourselves.  Or, at least, we could blame no one but the players who didn’t show.

The opposition’s bowling wasn’t as good as their batting, so our two openers played at about eleven an over for the first three overs which was a competitive total even if it was unsustainable for the long haul.  I came in after the first wicket, and the other team, smelling blood, brought several fielders in close, including one at short leg—lucky for me, of course, since the maneuver opened up the leg-side outfield and afforded me a couple boundaries—one up and over the short defense and another drilled between midwicket and mid-on.  They were no dummies, though, and they adjusted the field and their bowling, and, when combined with the increased pressure to put up a big total, it finally broke my back as I tried to yank an off stump delivery and ended up skying one to the man at extra cover.  An easy wicket, it must be said, and a tendency that I really need to improve as I push forward. 

All in all, some good, some bad, and a loss to a team that was individually and collectively much better than we were.  I didn’t and won’t lose any sleep over it.  Especially since I can once again redirect my attention to the IPL and the first qualifier which is at the halfway point as I write this.  The Stokes-less Supergiant (What happens to a singular Supergiant when one of its constituents goes missing?) ran into a resurgent Lasith Malinga—the Slinga, himself—with his sidearm whip; bouncing, bleached hair; and his chain.  What a character he remains even though his star has started to fall in his old age.  He can still be effective in short bursts as we saw today.  I do fear, however, that his days as one of the best short-form bowlers are well behind him.  His shoulder, his knee—just not holding up anymore.  Another aging star, MS Dhoni, well, he looks ten years younger.  It is clever, this closer role of his.  It allows him to come in and give it his all without tiring himself out by needing to stay in the crease for as long as he can.  Watching him run between the wickets, taking twos from singles—it’s riveting.  There’s no doubt that he couldn’t keep that up for a long period of time.  Not anymore, I should say.  Anyway, he came to the rescue with a few big overs (and several maximums, I might add) at the close of the Supergiant innings, and we have ourselves a match.  Stay tuned or tune it.  Should be an entertaining second half.

Until tomorrow.