Friday, 30 March 2012


AUTHOR’S NOTE: When I say ‘XI thoughts on Galle’, I don’t mean on the city per se, although I’m sure it’s lovely. I’m merely using Galle as a synecdoche: a large thing that stands in for a smaller thing that is the actual referent of the word or phrase, as for instance when newsreaders say “Washington” or “Moscow” when they mean the US or Russian government. OK? OK. Here are my thoughts. They are a VERDICT. Nail them to the inside of your eyelids, scum.

1. Sri Lanka used to be called Ceylon, after the tea producers. Before that, however, it was known (to Europeans, at least) as Serendip, whence comes the word ‘serendipity’: the art of chancing across beautiful things (the cornerstone of creativity and innovation according to Steven Johnson’s excellent Where Good Ideas Come From). Well, all I can say is, let’s hope that the England top order chance across the art of not throwing your wicket away through poor concentration in a manner that would shame the fucking X-Box gen– … Erm, sorry about that. I saw some lovely, fluffy clouds outside… I didn’t really, you goon; I was doing satire. Yeah, anyway, England need to stumble across the art of stumbling across a way of making enough runs for their bowlers to work with. Now-ish will do.

2. Talking of Sri Lanka and names, there’s a very important debate that needs to be had, and that debate is this: the pronunciation of which cricketer’s name best captures the sonic essence of Richie Benaud’s inimitable, though much imitated voice, and thereby the basis of his laconic commentary style as a whole? Eh? Some say it’s “Muttiah Muralidaran,” with a hard ‘d’ (as opposed to “Muralitharan” with stress on the middle syllable [for everyone in the world except Tony Greig] or the penultimate [for Tony Greig]). Some even claim it’s “Kapila Wijegunawardene,” which sounds to me like an invitation to eat. Personally, I think the name that best captures Benaud’s soft and rhythmical vowel-fondling ululations has to be “Mahendra Nagamootoo”. What you saying?

The debate could be extended to other sports, too. It took a long while for the BBC to recognize that received pronunciation did not encompass the majority of its audience, and that deploying a regional accent on its airwaves was not a hanging offence. And thus came the luscious-voiced likes of Brendan Foster, whose Rehrzer Mert-ah (Rosa Mota) is surely the name that best exemplifies his Geordie tones.  

And then there’s rugby, and the great Bill McClaren. So hydraulic was his enunciation, so many moving parts concerted, such a range of twangs and grumbles, a whole glottal gymnastics, that one could easily imagine him blowing or even vibrating the cutlery clean off your dinner table during the evocation of a particularly memorable passage of play – maybe a garryowen starting off a magnificent sweeping counter-attacking try, ball passed through the hands of all 15 players before being touched joyously down between the posts. A mention in dispatches should go to Eddie Butler for his beautiful enunciation of the French players’ names – Dussautoir, Rougerie, Poitrenaud; even those with Basque, Vietnamese or West African heritage, like Harinorduquy, Trinh-Duc, or Nyanga – hitting all the diphthongs and nasalised vowels like a master pianist. 

But McLaren’s Lagavullin-steeped Highland burr evokes perfectly the cold and windswept context in which rugby union really ought to be played, and the quintessential name to exemplify his voice – his brrr – would have to be that of ex-England flanker Peter Winterbottom. Go on, say it: Peet-turrh Wahn-turrh-boar-tumm. Now say it again, but louder. And again, faster. Go on! Go ooooon. And once more. Say it like Bill McClaren would say it... And now you’re laughing, aren’t you? Tittering inanely. Fun, isn’t it? Thanks, that’ll be £5 you owe me.

3. Talking of names, the United Nations Council for the Protection of Finite Resources has decreed that, as of 2015, Sri Lanka will have to cut down on the number of polysyllabic players in their side because of the amount of ink it’s forcing Western newspapers to get through. Thus, the likes of Paranavitana, Kaluwitharana, Kalavitagoda, Bandaratilleke, Wijegunawardene, Samarasekera, Kuruppuarachchi, and Jayaprakashdaran will all have to be sacrificed for the sake of the likes of Vaas, Silva, Dias, John (yes, look it up), Silva, Zoysa, Silva, Randiv and Silva.

Randiv: a secret lemonade drinker?

4. Talking of Randiv, old Suraj nipped in with a cheeky 4-fer in the second innings, adding three tailend wickets and KP to the couple he took in the first innings. Well bowled, I guess. But did anyone else spot the quirkiness of his run-up: it’s like someone trying to sneak up behind you by tiptoeing across a very creaky old wooden floor, the noisy parts of which he knows very well (is he a secret lemonade drinker?). Precise, jerky, awkward, angular.

5. Talking of angular, does anyone else think that Lankan paceman Suranga Lakmal bears a certain resemblance to the actress Sandra Bernhardt, who played the stalking accomplice of De Niro’s unhinged Rupert Pupkin in Scorcese’s underrated classic The King of Comedy? He does, kinda – but you need to know how to look… 

Suranga Lakmal's twin sister?

6. Talking of being unhinged, the Sri Lankan Cricket Board’s opportunistic ticket-pricing policy – effectively setting up a dual economy: one price for locals, one (exorbitant) for Brits – even extended on the fourth day to fleecing people who tried to watch the game on the cheap from the ramparts of the old Dutch fort, ostensibly because some local nabob had hired out the place for a party. You wouldn’t think they’d have the gall. It seems to me to be short-termist in the extreme to dole out punitive charges to the one nation that consistently brings a large contingent of supporters overseas. One can only hope that the profits are being used to persuade Lasith Malinga to return to Test cricket, as I have a feeling he might prove more than a bit useful on some of the flatter pitches out there.

7. Anyway, talking of having some gall, Galle is undoubtedly a beautiful setting, but is it the most impressive cricket ground in the shadow of an old fortified stronghold? Players at Bamburgh CC might beg to differ… 

8. Talking of the old Dutch fort, it is perhaps not all that widely known that the men of the Netherlands established a trading colony on the island – following 97 years after the Portuguese, of course (think of all those Fernandos) – a staging post en route to Java, no doubt, for the quasi-governmental proto-megacorporation, the Dutch East India Company. Anyway, the Dutch legacy lives on today in the tradition of the Burghers, patrilineal descendents of the Dutch (principally though not exclusively), who have a first-class cricket side named in their honour and whose latest international representative was Michael Vandort.

Anyway, I mention all this because it struck me that Holland are missing a bit of a trick as far as strengthening their national cricket team is concerned. What with their colonial past in South Africa, too – not to mention Tasmania, once known as Van Dieman’s Land, after the U2 track (is Dirk Nannes from down there?) – there are not only a whole host of not-quite-good-enough-for-the-national-team Saffers they could pick up (all due apologies to Ryan ten Doeschate), thus competing with us (all due apologies to KP and Trott), but probably a few Lankans who could trace back their ancestry to the motherland. While they’re at it, they could smuggle some Guyanese over the border into Suriname (possibly making them eligible, although this involving too many layers of immigration red tape for me to work out right now); or Trinidadians onto the Dutch Antilles. What’s the point of colonialism if you have to give up the cheap flow of important resources? 

Strauss: professional trudger, down but not RAUS

9. Anyway, talking of Teutonic interest in cricket, German tabloid Bild is in no doubt where the blame for England’s current subcontinental woes lies, yesterday running its leader beneath the (faintly anti-Semitic) headline STRAUSS RAUS. However, to people – German-speaking or otherwise – who think that a sole hundred in 48 innings is proof positive that he should be dropped, I say this is a slightly misleading stat. It is not, strictly speaking, ‘all about hundreds’ as it is about match-winning contributions and, to a lesser extent, averages. You can make lots and lots of 80s and you’ll be doing a good job. “Hundreds win Tests,” you reply. Again, not necessarily. I would bet that there have been more hundreds scored in draws than wins – certainly, up to about 1995 (I’d wager). And then there’s the unquantifiable value of captaincy, of leadership, to a team. Is Strauss slipping back into the Misbah and Sammy realms of being picked for his captaincy? Maybe. But he’s earned some breathing space.  So back the fuck up. 

10. Anyway, talking of headlines, it’s a shame Charlie Shreck wasn’t selected for this game – instead of James Anderson, say, or Monty  not because that would have given Notts four of the attack (yes, yes, I know he’s signed for Kent) but because it would have allowed someone to use the headline CHARLES DE GALLE. As it is, new West Indies opener Johnson Charles better sort his shit out so that his career is prolonged to the point where the headline can eventually be used. Money on that not happening, from the evidence so far. 

De Galle: leadership (albeit
high-handed and autocratic)

11. Anyway, talking of a Notts-based bowling attack, I have a prediction: should Samit Patel’s England career extend beyond the current tour, to environments other than those in which the need for a fifth (or fourth-and-a-half) bowling option is best served with a spinner slow bowler – for instance, with England now having shown themselves happy to have Prior at six, Bresnan could, in most conditions, come in at seven as a third seamer (or fourth, if they want to ditch Monty…which could also be true if they want to revert to a four-man attack) – then reverse sweeper forecasts that the England team will see a reprisal of the tradition of Notts players going absolutely radge at each other, last seen in around 2008 with Ryan Sidebottom busting blood vessels at Monty’s shambolic fielding.

Young Samit [not really - legal team]
My logic is this: Patel is a Notts lad – and, it’s fair to say, of not entirely solid character (before your scurrilous minds start speculating unduly, I’m merely thinking of the lack of discipline of his mouth bouncers: “Sorry, cake. You’re not coming in. Not tonight.”) – while Swann has been with the county since the start of the 2005 season, when Patel was a mere slip of just out of his teenage years. They know each other reasonably well, Id guess. Therefore, Swann’ll probably already have seen one or two indiscretions and, Id hazard, several instances of all and sundry pulling out their hair. Furthermore, Mr Swann may well be the Fastest Wit in the West (Bridgford area), but he’s also quite narky on the field, at times. Witness the expression on his face when Samit failed dismally to be 6' 6" tall so that he could catch Prasanna Jaywardene in the Sri Lankan second innings, just as they were extending their lead from ‘Maybe, on a very, very good day, and if Herath breaks a finger attempting to snaffle a drilled return catch, we might knock these off, oooh, I dunno...1 in 4 times, max’ to ‘We’re absolutely fucked’. 

Bearing all this in mind, there’s no doubt he’s going to go mental at Samit soon. Probably in Colombo (according to Columbo).


Anonymous said...

I loved Samit's photo! What no comment on Herath on your top 10 except his fielding capabilities!

Scott Oliver said...

Herath has had his moment in the sun -- I'm talking about the (much-loved) post that was Tweeted by, among others, Sky Sports News roving reporter Tim Abraham, genius Guardian wordsmith Barney Ronay, and editor of Wisden Asia, Dileep Premachandran.