West Indies May 22, 2010

Nepotism, and an attack of the gophers

Why we love the Bish and why Antigua has returned to its batsman-hating days of old

Kieron Pollard was surprised when a tap of the bat on the pitch resulted in an angry rodent popping out of the earth and flinging his bat towards the third-man boundary © AFP
The World Cup ended as long ago as Sunday and it is clearly a breach of the cricket watcher’s human rights to have to go for three days without some Twenty20 action, so on Wednesday it was back on with the coloured clothing for a tussle between two teams who are politely described as being "in transition". South Africa are in transition from a confident and settled team to a less confident and settled team, while West Indies' own transition is taking them on a journey from ordinary to mediocre.

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.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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  • testli5504537 on May 27, 2010, 23:18 GMT

    Gophers.. i was reminded of caddyshack :)

  • testli5504537 on May 24, 2010, 5:14 GMT

    I agree with the last statement : "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. ". Good old West Indian cricket - dear I do miss it a lot. Guess short balls are the order of the day. Every single team is using the short ball fairly often. Once a lethal weapon, the bouncer will lose its potency soon. WISH THAT THE GOOD OLD DAYS OF WI CRICKET DOMINANCE WERE BACK AGAIN. WI USED TO DOMINATE AND EVEN THE OPPOSITION USED TO ENJOY THE CARRIBEAN BRAND OF CRICKET. Andrew, you are bang on target with the closing sentences. Cheerleaders are creating a blot on an otherwise beautiful setting.

  • testli5504537 on May 22, 2010, 13:14 GMT

    Ian "The bish" Bishop is a v good and informative commentator, there is humility and incisiveness to his comments. It's time ppl like ravi shastri and danny morrison took note

  • testli5504537 on May 22, 2010, 12:27 GMT

    heheh....gophers..... I am waiting for your post on recent Pakistan drama.....

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