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But the same could not be said for their commentators. It was a pleasure to spend two evenings in the company of men who didn’t regard the English language as an opponent to be bludgeoned to the ground. For the start, there was just the right balance of cricket clergy and lay person. Tony Cozier and Fazeer Mohammed earn their living choosing the right word and this carries over into their commentary, which is informative, restrained and unpadded with cliché.
There is still room for the ex-player of course, they have to earn a living after all and golf clubs don’t come cheap. Pick of the bunch, as usual, was Ian Bishop, a towering force of righteous judgement. He also has a delightful tendency towards bluntness. When Cozier, T made light-hearted reference to the interview technique of Cozier, C, the Bish shouted out, “Nepotism!” We’re all thinking it Bish, but you can’t say it!
We might have been thinking it, but it would be unfair. Craig Cozier is still paying his dues, charged with the thankless task of cultivating the shoots of illuminating comment from the stony ground of the pitch-side interview. His attempt to chat with Andrew Hudson was bedevilled by the clatter of South African wickets and he opened a conversation with a spectator by asking how long he’d been a lifelong fan.
But these are just teething troubles. He was soon warming to his task and is an eminently likeable character. And as a viewer, it never quite seems right to have ex-Test cricketers press-ganged into holding a microphone at various reluctant personages while trying to remember what it was they were planning to ask. Let journalists ask the questions and let Simon Doull be Simon Doull.
Meanwhile, out on the pitch, there was carnage. Scores were eked out at the cost of roughly one bruise per run. Either the pitch at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium was a tad under-prepared or it had been infiltrated by a family of gophers. Sometimes the ball nestled in a gopher hole and skidded along the ground. Sometimes it rebounded from a gopher head and veered skywards. (Don’t worry, I’m sure the gophers were wearing helmets).
And amid all the hopping about and desperate flailing of willow, it occurred to me that so many of these fellows seem unable to cope with the short stuff. Perhaps the worldwide prevalence of pudding pitches has led to the seizing up of the modern batsmen’s pull and hook mechanisms so that anything aimed in the vague direction of the nostril appears to induce in him an existential crisis and an ungainly dismissal. This will lead, surely to more fast bowlers, which is a very good thing.
There was certainly plenty of chin music in Antigua, along with a healthy dose of actual music. Though the new stadium cannot yet compare with the ARG, there was still a distinctly Antiguan feel about the place, from the clattersome percussion to the carnival girls. And with Steyn, Morkel, Taylor and Roach all steaming in, leather flying past skulls and crowd roaring its approval, it was just like the old days. Apart from the fact that West Indies lost. But you can’t have everything.
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Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. Providing his ransom demands continue to be met, he has promised never to write a whimsical book about village cricket. @hughandrews73