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Elevator music and wall paper

Imagine if the background noise in an elevator was provided by a philharmonic orchestra playing Vivaldi, or Bruce Springsteen crooning out ‘Red-Headed Woman’. It’d make the trip from ‘ground’ to level six a bit more interesting.

Similarly, ever since the dentist invested a couple of thousand Rand on having a ceiling mural painted, the prospect of a check-up has lost some of its dread.

Before a ball was even bowled in the IPL I suggested that its primary role in the majority of our lives would be as colourful wall paper – always there but in the background. Many people I know have their television on during match time but with the volume off. A couple of them turn it up a bit if it gets close at the end.

Having just returned from a three-week holiday in New Zealand and Australia (apologies for the lack of columns but I’ll make up for it now) it was interesting to see what the IPL means in different countries. Last year I spent time in the UK during the IPL. It’s fair to say that the Indian Premier League enjoys a far, far greater profile in South Africa than it does in any of the other countries.

Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that we send all our best players to compete in it, unlike Australia which is represented by half a dozen second-raters. Admittedly I wasn’t hanging out in too many sports bars with my wife and young daughters, but nonetheless I would have expected to catch a glimpse of a game from time to time. Nothing – not in either country.

Even the results only occasionally merited a single paragraph in the ‘filler’ section. Perhaps it was the time difference, or perhaps Kiwis and Aussies simply don’t value decent wall paper when they get the chance to look at it. (I’m not even sure it was actually available on television, to be honest. Perhaps on cable? Fox?)

The situation is very different in India, of course! Stadiums continue to be packed and most fixtures – even at this very early stage of the tournament – are treated by fans as if they actually mean something. There can be no starker reminder that the IPL is a domestic tournament and not an international one.

Besides the cream of South Africa’s playing talent drawing our attention, however, there are two coaches quietly going about their business and making quite an impression.

Paddy Upton’s remarkable coaching journey moved up a notch when the Pune Warriors gave him the chance to turn their miserable fortunes around and they now sit on top of the log after finishing bottom of it last year. Alongside them are the Delhi Daredevils, coached by Eric Simons.

For all the runs and wickets coming from SA’s players, perhaps the most impressive performance has come from the two coaches in what is the most challenging environment in the world given the mix of creeds and cultures. It is no coincidence that both men believe a coach’s greatest contribution is made in assisting a player’s thinking and emotions rather than his batting or bowling.

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