June 30, 2010

I didn’t need to know that

Jamie Dalrymple’s favourite band is Oasis

Mark Cosgrove: his weight is still funny, apparently © Getty Images

I’m Andrew Hughes. My pen weighs 40 grams, my favourite aural experience is the sound of a cork popping from the neck of a bottle, and my toughest opponent is the stray cat who keeps digging up my azaleas. Next week I’m hoping to be miked up as I sit at my desk so the editor of Cricinfo can fire interesting questions at me for the benefit of readers. (“The opening paragraph went well, but there’s a long way to go and I need to keep hitting my grammatical straps” etc. etc.)

Yes, yes, yes, you’re probably thinking, that’s all very well, but what do I care? Quite so. A pot pourri of personal trivia does not add greatly to the reading experience. But for reasons that are not immediately apparent, someone in an editorial position of a certain satellite-television company feels that it is paramount that those viewers following the Friends Provident T20 are kept up to date in the crucial matters of willow poundage and the musical inclinations of county cricketers.

Like cheerleaders, blimps and the employment of Danny Morrison, it is not immediately clear what all of this adds to the cricket watcher’s experience. The dutiful reporting in pounds and ounces of the size of every batsman’s weapon merely reminds us that these things are indeed heavy - not as heavy as a small dog, perhaps, but weightier than a bag of sugar. As everyone knows, it’s not the size of your bat that matters, it’s what you do with it.

And I’m not entirely sure why we need to know that Jamie Dalrymple’s favourite band is Oasis or that Tom Maynard thinks England will win the Ashes series 3-2; any more than we might wish to learn that Marcus Trescothick thinks it could rain tomorrow or that Keiron Pollard isn’t sure whether he left the iron on. If the intention is to remind us that sportsmen lead rather mundane lives and have very little of interest to communicate, then mission accomplished, but surely anyone who has ever read a cricketer’s autobiography knew that already.

It isn’t just the on-screen gimmicks that are looking a little tired these days. Sky pack their booth with ex-professionals, but the absence of a proper broadcaster, a Harsha Bhogle or a Henry Blofeld, means that complacency, clichés and dressing-room in-jokes abound.

Commentary comes in two equally unappealing flavours. The first is a kind of anti-Arlott mode, in which the action is described with all the joie de vivre of two retired plumbers discussing copper piping. The alternative is a brand of humour that manages to evoke the singular atmosphere of a bunch of schoolboys sniggering at the back of a science class.

Monday’s culprits were Lancashire old boys Allott and Atherton. Their target was Glamorgan’s Mark Cosgrove. As we all know, Cosgrove is larger than most cricketers. You and I might have felt that this is not really worth remarking upon. But then you and I are not paid commentators. Cosgrove’s size was apparently comedy gold to the woeful duo, who had a splendid time chortling about it for several overs. Indeed, the fat jokes continued well beyond the Powerplay, until, like the archetypal school bullies, they grew bored; a state of mind with which the regular Sky viewer is becoming all too familiar.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England