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Wednesday, 23rd February Little Ricky’s note apologising for accidentally breaking a television with his groin protector is a classic of the genre. It will no doubt be filed in the same ICC shoebox as Michael Atherton’s handwritten letter explaining that he had soil about his person because he was trying to grow pocket potatoes and Ijaz Butt’s email insisting that he did have some really top quality proof that the England players were involved in match-fixing but unfortunately his dog ate it.
When it comes to the curious incident of the bouncing groin protector in the dressing room, I confess I’m a sceptic. I’ve tried reconstructing it like Jim Garrison investigating the death of JFK, but the physics of the thing just don’t add up. One groin protector flung into a kit bag could surely not have gained the velocity needed to break a television. Ricky Harvey Oswald was just a patsy. There must have been other groin protector flingers involved to topple a TV. We’ll probably never know.
But the absurdity of this situation is not in Ricky’s schoolboy-esque excuse but in the fact that he had to apologise at all. He was apparently in breach of the new Fixtures and Fittings Integrity Regulations. The ICC, having given up on trying to properly organise tournaments or tackle corruption have decided to crack down hard on the serious problems, such as the scourge of slightly damaged electronic equipment and lightly dented advertising hoardings that threaten to undermine our sport.
But these are entertainers, performing under pressure. Would the Rolling Stones have apologised for scuffing a television screen? If the ICC are that concerned about the state of dressing-room furniture, then why not provide the players with pretend items they can vandalise, such as televisions made of cardboard or polystyrene microwaves. They could even lay on life-sized mannequins dressed as Billy Bowden or Aleem Dar for batsmen to abuse in the event of an unexpectedly early return to the pavilion.
Thursday, 24th February It’s easy to criticise SKY’s coverage and its fun too. But it would be remiss of me to ignore their excellent selection policy for this World Cup. Regular bores Botham, Lloyd, Ward and the rest are off playing golf in Asia and so the production staff have had to dig a little deeper into the pundit selection box in order to put together a team that is well balanced, strong in all departments and capable of going all the way to the final without sneezing into their lapel microphones.
The line up has something for every viewer: a big one, a medium-sized one and a little one. Bob Willis is languidly pessimistic in a doom-laden fashion, ever ready to point out just exactly why everything is rubbish. Michael Holding’s flashes of anger and punchy opinions are disguised with a smooth delivery and Robert Croft is doing his best, though his mouth and his larynx do not always appear to be in sync, which may just be down to the demands of the Welsh accent. Even captain Gower has upped his game and is dangerously close to being animated.
But it isn’t all aromatic in the SKY herb garden. This tournament’s new toy takes the form of an interactive television screen which enables them to enhance the experience of the viewer by whooshing a small icon of Jonathon Trott into a screen-filling portrait, or to play at being Geoff Miller and choosing whether Ravi Bopara or Luke Wright should bat at six. That is, when it works. But this device really comes into its own when the touch-screen technology fails to comply and the former pro of the moment is left waving forlornly at the screen like a demented window cleaner or a sorcerer who can’t remember the magic word.
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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