I Am Michael Clarke To KKR’s Lara Bingle

One is high maintenance, mired in controversy, conflict and off-field dramas that affect on-field performances. The other is Lara Bingle.

I’m talking about the Kolkata Knight Riders, my IPL “franchise” of choice, the team I nailed my colours to when the bloated behemoth that is the IPL bandwagon first rumbled into view in 2008.

Parallels between KKR and the Bingle imbroglio are inescapable. Back in 2006 Michael Clarke was introduced to Bingle on some reality TV show and she was probably wearing something tight and low-cut and Pup’s brain most likely fizzled, sparked, shut down and started playing that Wurlitzer organ music you hear at circuses. He fell, and fell hard. KKR has a take-me-to-bed line-up that bypasses the brain and goes straight for the groin region. Chris Gayle; Ricky Ponting; Brendon McCullum; Ishant Sharma when he still bowled at 145kph. As the eye-popping auction prices registered and the line-up fell into place it was like a tongue in the ear, hot breath on the neck and a whispered “Where the bloody hell are ya?” That team for the first match was my Fingal Spit; to say I was besotted was like a man wandering into the world’s greatest strip club and being told you can have this, you can have it all, even though, looking back now, the girls had serial killer eyes, the music playing was Combichrist’s “This Shit Will Fuck You Up” and the bouncers looked like they wanted to throw my still warm body out of a fast-moving vehicle.

Brendon McCullum’s orgy of hitting in that first match at Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium was the sweaty, frantic consummation of my absolute infatuation. A six-fuelled marathon of boundaries scored and deliveries dispatched to every part of the ground, it was T20’s equivalent of the greatest fuck you have ever had, or ever will have. It went on and on. Parts of me eventually started aching. It was so good it left me feeling like a spent, limp dishrag. It was so good I found myself thinking: “This could be it. This could be the one.”

It was always going to be tough for things to carry on this way. The first match had been enough to convince me to let the team move in, bringing its yapping Pomeranian and leaving its feminine hygiene products scattered around my bathroom. It took a while for me to realise, as KKR’s star fizzled and dimmed, as the team stumbled from one inept defeat to another, that there were things about my chosen amour that could, let us say, prove to be matters for concern and that may even, in time, jeopardize our relationship. But, like the vacuous reality behind the facade that emerges when Bingle opens her mouth in interviews, it was easy to ignore that all was not a bed of roses. Besides, we looked smoking hot together: everyone knew KKR was packed brimful of superstars; they were the “it” team, and surely it could only be a matter of time before success was theirs again. Wrong: they never even made the semis.

2009 was when the shit really hit the fan. It was the year of meltdowns, player mutinies, Fake IPL Player and Sourav Ganguly throwing hissy fits over anything that offended his sense of self-importance. The team changed captains more times than Bingle changes her managers. Fake IPL Player was, of course, the Brendon Fevola shower photo: a muck-raking deluge of truths, half truths and innuendo that hinted at just enough unpleasant goings-on to give me grave misgivings about our future together. I, like Michael Clarke, began to feel “lost and confused”. I was now beginning to realize that my team was beautiful, bat-shit crazy and baggage-laden. And maybe even, in the cold light of day, actually not that hot.

As if things couldn’t get even more ridiculous, on the eve of IPL 3 I learn that like, Bingle with her shady Sydney connections, KKR have signed a new shirt sponsor which happens to be a company whose owners are implicated in a murder investigation. And the worst thing is the new colours are gold and purple. Purple. For christ’s sake, no one looks good in purple.

But, though I should know better, I am besotted still. Dav Whatmore has been brought in as coach to replace John Buchanan who along with all his cod-psychological bullshit has been given the heave-ho. Wasim Akram – WASIM FUCKING AKRAM – is bowling coach, sorry, “mentor”. Chris Gayle will be available for most of the tournament, Owais Shah has been brought in from Delhi to bolster the batting and Brendon McCullum and Shane Bond will no doubt fly out on the first flights available after fulfilling their international commitments.

It is memories of McCullum’s 73-ball 158* in that match at Bangalore that keeps me coming back for more. Thinking about it even now gives me sweaty palms and reaches parts of me other IPL teams cannot.

So, I am not yet ready to call in the removal vans, drop-kick the Pomeranian off the balcony or demand the return of my 4.7-carat loyalty to this team. The future will undoubtedly hold more scandals, more meltdowns, more player revolts; but all I have to do is imagine McCullum’s incendiary innings and all reason and sense of reality goes out the window, my brain fizzles, sparks and shuts down and starts playing that Wurlitzer organ music you hear at circuses.

Maybe it really is love, after all.

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