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.