In principle, it sounds amazing. Some of the world’s best cricketers, formers foes recast as team-mates, Indian stars of present, past and future, recently retired Aussie sloggers, all competing in Twenty20. The cricket of the 21st century. Rock and roll cricket. All excitement and cheerleaders and fireworks and wow! Then why the fuck does it bore the fuck out of me?
I love cricket, I really do. I like Twenty20, I’m not mad for it, but I got excited when Australia took on the Saffers last summer at the ‘G and lil davy warner exploded like a firecracker. Or an over-excited teenage boy. It was awesome, you had the ‘G, the most magnificent ground in all of world cricket. Yes, I’m Victorian. I’m not Shane Warne. Or Bill Lawry, but I sure as hell wish I was. Plus, it was a really hot night, and it although I watched it on TV, I could feel the electricity, the excitement, the pure, unadulterated awesomeness of the whole spectacle. Not even Jessica Maulboy could ruin the atmosphere.
Last year I watched I lot of the IPL. Every Rajasthan game at least. I have a massive crush on a Rajasthan player. It’s not Shane Warne. It seemed perfectly logical to sleep for a few hours after dinner, then get up, watch IPL and sleep for a little while before getting up at 5.40 for work. Or, if it was the late game, go to work straight after the conclusion of the match. Rajasthan sucked, but it was worth it. I think.
This year though, I just can’t bring myself to care. And it’s not because my crush has diminished. Is it overkill? The commentators? The time difference? DLF maximums? Or bloody Lalit Modi?
When I sit down and think about it, which I have done an alarming amount recently, considering I’ve just embarked on the most academically-challenging endeavour of my (albeit) short academic career, I think it’s because I’m just not that into Twenty20. Sure, the occasional game is good value. The only thing I enjoyed more than lil davy warner was AB de Villiers and Mark Boucher being Taited. And my number one ambition in life is to throw my undies at Dirty Dirk. Preferably with me still in them.
When I was a kid, we lived in the country, about a three hour drive from Melbourne, so we used to go to the third day of the Boxing Day test match (Day 1 was feral, and you couldn’t gamble on there being a Day 4, to say nothing of Day 5). Sometimes my Dad could be convinced to take us to a ODI. The best memory I have is of a Michael Bevan innings that was so epic, that I’ve retold so many times, like all the great stories of history the details have become slightly hazy. So, roughly, Australia were in an awful bind. It was a triangular series. I think NZ was involved. Must have been around 2001-2002. The details aren’t that important. We had played awful cricket and hadn’t qualified for the finals. It was the last game, dead rubber, nothing to play for. Australia had collapsed, awfully, the current team could only dream of such a collapse. Michael Bevan walks to the crease to face a task so insurmountable that it was beyond the realm of possibility that even Micheal Gwyl Bevan, the man who was born for such impossibilities could do anything to save face. Well, we had a long drive ahead of us, so we decided to leave early. As we left our seats and started the trudge up the aisle, MG Bevan hit a four. Dad thought we may as well watch until Bevan got out. So, we stood up the back, behind the people too cheap to spring for proper seats, and watched. And waited for Bevan to go out. Instead, we watched as the man who had triumphed time and time again picked the gaps, nurdled the ball for a single, turned the ones into twos and punished the bad balls to victory. When he hit the winning runs it was truly momentous. We knew we had witnessed something special. That one day a blogger would recount a hazy memory of this day in history. My point is, it remains one of my favourite victories, and I’ve seen some amazing Aussie victories in my day (I miss them terribly). It was a claw back from the brink of oblivion victory, and any sports fan will tell you they’re the ones you remember. That you cherish.
I think that’s why Twenty20, and in particular, the IPL leaves me feeling unsatisfied. There’s time for your team to fail miserably, to collapse and walk off the field humiliated and humbled. There just isn’t time for a fight back. Not a proper, gritty one. That’s why Steve Waugh never played Twenty20. Because his Stone Cold Stare of Stainless Steel wouldn’t be much use, and that, friends, is the true tragedy of Twenty20…