Where are you coming from?

Cricinfo has Paul Valthaty down as having played just the one A list match.  If you had looked him up yesterday morning you would have seen that in a 12 match T20 career he had scored 264 runs at an average of around 20, admittedly at a strike rate of circa 139, and a paltry three year IPL history of 5,1, and 6.

Then he came to Mohali to play for the ‘home’ side against the Chennai Super Kings, yesterday.

With its frequent auctions, itinerant cricketers and its ability to drink deep from the seemingly inexhaustible well of Indian cricketing talent there is no form-guide operating in the IPL, at least in its early stages.

That gives commentators a problem.  Commentary is journalism.  It is a shallow, immediate and difficult form of journalism which relies not just on the journalist’s love of story lines but on pre-prepared and pre-scripted narratives. 

Select your ‘mike-men’ from a population of ex-cricketers who left school physically at 16 or earlier and mentally at 6 and all you can expect are classics clichés such as “Top plays bottom”.

So when the Dhoni brought CSK in their glorious yellow kit to the Punjab to take on the anything-but regal Kings XI Punjab it was all ‘top-dogs’ play ‘cellar dwellers’.

Ankur at Cricinfo informed his readers that: “Praveen and Ryan Harris should give a good start to KXIP. Otherwise no one can save them from slaughter from Chennai.”

Actuality has a way of mocking the efforts of man to foresee the future and when CSK were 0-2 in two balls and Praveen Kumar was watching IPL3’s star batsman Suresh Raina stomp off with a ‘golden’ having clipped a 120kph straight delivery into the hands of, “Who’s that?” … “Oh yeh, that guy Valthaty; Paul Valthaty,” there might have been a momentary hesitation or two in the commentary box and on the countless on-line forums discussing the match.

The hat trick avoided, the pre-ordained appeared to have been restored when the Super Kings swatted 188 off the remaining 118 balls.

“CSK with Yellow jersey is looking like the Australians of 2000-2007, I pity rest of the IPL teams,” chirped a Vijay from Krishna-knows-where in this street like world.

And then someone, could it have been the hapless Vijay again, typed in another classic, “Punjab will wonder what hit them. 189 will take some chasing.”

From the field Vijay (this time Murali Vijay st Gilchrist b Chawla 74) provides this helpful contribution to our understanding, “At 0 for 2, I thought if Badri and I got a partnership, we could get 140-150. The ball was stopping a bit, so we looked to play cricketing shots. Badri and I have played together for 10 years, so we know our games pretty well, and things worked out.”  Over the moon, sick as a parrot, game of two halves … Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

How can Third Man escape this barrage?

At ITV4.com you can watch the action on your computer, but here too there’s a little box for public participation and a guy from the station who acts as master of ceremonies, helpfully to make sure the stream of non-consciousness never stops.

“We haven’t had a comment for a minute or two, so tell me, who’s going to win this?” 

Watching at ITV4.com is not without further penalty.  The feed stops every now and then and refreshing the page brings back a compulsory 2 minutes of advertisements for all manner of boys’ toys before the action is allowed to come through.  Obviously no women are watching in the UK and there are no holds barred on the sexist love handles.

ITV4 itself (located on channel 120 through the Sky satellite) has a different proto-bollywood ring mistress from last year, but still the mono-syllabic clown, Hick, and the costumed dancer Ramps providing … providing what, exactly?  It’s cricket so we must have a studio back in the UK with a couple of old pros to tell us what we have just all seen, stupid.  Oh yes, sorry.

Meanwhile and with much delay the images of the KXIP innings arrive through the monitor.

“Gilly has a new opening partner. Paul Valthaty it is, not Shaun Marsh.  Gilchrist holds the key, and the duplicate, and the buttons to the key-less entry system as well.” Not.

Gilly actually (and actuality is rather important in life) becomes the spectator, as down at the heavy end Valthaty proceeds to impose himself on the situation, viz: 50 in 5.1 overs, Valthaty 30, Gilchrist 19.   Valthaty 50 off 23 balls, 9 x 4, 1 x 6.    100 in 10.1 overs.  150 off 15.5 overs. Valthaty 100 of 52 balls.  KXIP 193 off 19.1 overs.  Valthaty 120 of 63 balls with 19 x 4 and 2 x 6.   (There is a reason why statistics are important.  They are bursting with content.  You know content; meaning.)

Third Man wanted to title (verbing the noun) this post Quo Veni, given Valthaty’s sudden appearance on the world stage, but found that the exceptional Nitin Sundar had sort of got there first. However the question ‘Where are you coming from?” is germane both to the source of this talent and the sub-text of IPL.  

This is exhibition cricket or exhibitionist cricket. Even Ms Zinta, the ‘Owner of Kings’ is acting – well that’s what she does. There is no terroir. No form. The story lines are as simplistic as those in Bollywood and Hollywood. But there is great and rapid problem solving to be enjoyed in this form of cricket.  It needs no hype. 

Third Man’s advice, “Cut the crap and maybe play some music instead.”

If a guy who has played only one domestic one-dayer can do this, either it’s an exceptional achievement or it’s the new ordinary … or its both.

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