England March 3, 2011

The finest innings of all time by a man with pink hair

Kevin O’Brien narrowly beats Wally Hammond to the title
45

I admire a country that shows cricket highlights in airport departure lounges. It shows an appreciation that there is no part of modern life that cannot be improved by the showing of cricket highlights. However, why the authorities at Bangalore airport felt it necessary this morning to show highlights of yesterday’s England against Ireland clash remains a mystery. I would have thought that showing highlights of the recent Melbourne Test Match, or England’s 1987 World Cup semi-final win over India, or a film about Bodyline, would have been more appropriate.

For whatever reason, England v Ireland it was. Despite it being a rather mundane, predictable match. For the first 75 overs. Admittedly, the last 25 overs perked up a bit. Even so, there was not much to savour for the hardcore Michael Yardy fans in the airport, an audience that is too little catered for by the cricketing highlights industry. They can watch a few glimpses on the internet of Garfield Sobers, Yardy’s spiritual predecessor and cricketalike as a useful left-hand batsman and tidy purveyor of seam and spin, but it is not the same as watching the man himself.

I digress. It is a rare privilege to see a cricketer propel himself from relative anonymity into immortality in the annals of the game. Kevin O’Brien did so yesterday, in what was, without any question, the finest innings I have seen by someone with pink hair (and it possibly even surpassed Wally Hammond’s 240 at Lord’s in 1938, after the great English batsman fell asleep in a bowl of beetroot soup at dinner the night before the game – he was eternally thankful that his great innings was recorded only in black and white).

O’Brien strode to the wicket yesterday with an ODI average of 34, and a strike rate of 75. Against current Test nations, he averaged 22. In World Cups he averaged 23. His one previous ODI century was against Kenya three years ago. So it is fair to say that if a passing soothsayer had told you that he would reach 100 off 50 balls against an attack containing three of the world’s top 10-ranked Test bowlers, including moving from 5 to 90 in 35 of the more extraordinary deliveries in cricket history, you would have sat him down, mopped his brow, given him a sharp talking to, told him to get a proper job, and poured a cup of iced tea over his head.

This made O’Brien’s magnificent explosion all the more impressive, just as VVS Laxman’s 281 shone even more brightly because he walked to the wicket with a Test average of 27, and a single century to his name from 20 Tests over four years.

That poor little white ball yesterday must have been wishing it has never been born, as it suffered major impact trauma after major impact trauma, and caused mayhem in the Bangalore Air Traffic Control centre. But it played its part in an unexpected moment of cricketing history. And it told England in the strongest possible language that they need to learn how to use it better as a matter of tournament-saving urgency.

EXTRAS Three quarters of the way through yesteday’s game, I was pondering the possible content of today’s blog. There was little of interest to that point. England batted well but, like India on Sunday, were unable to accelerate, and Swann had given his team full control of the game, as it followed the internationally agreed pattern for Test Nation v Associate Nation matches.

So the blog was going to be about the atmosphere at game yesterday. And how that atmosphere was brutally obliterated by the inane, intrusive and skull-blastingly loud shards of music detonated into the crowd from the stadium PA system. I can understand why stadiums feel the need to cajole their audience with snippets of completely irrelevant and/or corporately funded music. How else would the crowd know that things like fours, sixes, wickets and Sachin Tendulkar reaching 100 are supposed to be exciting?

However, I struggle to comprehend why that music has to be chundered out at such eardrum-assaulting volumes. Where I was sitting in the Chinnaswamy yesterday, conversation had to stop between every over, after every boundary, and for the entire four minutes of a drinks break, as jingles, score updates and incomprehensible splats of western pop music splintered what little genuine atmosphere there was, in a bizarre quest to render all sporting experiences part of one formless splodge of musically scarred homogeneity.

Please stop it. Please, please stop it. Or at the very least, rein it in. It is annoying, unnecessary and disrespectful to the paying public.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on March 8, 2011, 7:04 GMT

    Sadly I must admit it is my America that has pioneered and advanced the artless practice of ear-splitting music and sound effects at sporting events. Not a possession goes by in a professional basketball game without a top 40 hit or exhortation to "MAKE SOME NOISE!" assaulting spectators' ears. In baseball, cricket's lame little brother, the pleasant and occasional organ riff has been replaced by theme songs for every batter and pitcher upon their introduction and, often, upon their dismissal.

    Sorry about that, world; it was inevitable such noise pollution would eventually sully cricket grounds around the globe. USA! USA!

  • Nathan on March 5, 2011, 4:38 GMT

    Andy, why don't you seriously think about commentating a live match.....It would be interesting listeniing to your live thoughts rather than after thoughts like the above...........Take my advice as I'm not using it!!! ;-)

  • Annie on March 4, 2011, 21:03 GMT

    You do not go to cricket games to have "a nice chat". Would you like a symphony being played at a football game? Probably not.

  • Mark on March 4, 2011, 11:32 GMT

    Andy- agreed all round. Although this could mean the adoption of the England cricket team as the official (inept)cricket team of the Bugle...Right up until we somehow beat SA by 137 runs/8 wickets....

  • Vijay on March 4, 2011, 11:06 GMT

    Ive been to afew countries around the world to see sporting events, and I can tell you Asian countries are by far the most fun and safe. Stop the music? You must be out of your mind. Try stopping alcoholism, hooliganism, racism and then we come down the list to music.

  • NALINWIJ on March 4, 2011, 8:31 GMT

    England got their poor performance out of the way against Holland and looks like they put their shocker against Ireland so where else to go? I believe this loud music mentality comes from IPL where flat track 20-20 is compensated by equally brain numbing music. Have you noticed the cricket in Sri Lanka is a better contest between bat and ball so less crappy music is needed to numb ones senses.

  • Bernard Stacey on March 4, 2011, 7:50 GMT

    Whilst I would have preferred Ireland to unleash their bleachers-wrecking carnage against another nation I was delighted to see them do well as it must make it triply difficult for the ICC to leave all Associates out of the next World Cup, or else risk it being know as the ICC Cup (as in, if it goes on too long: "Anyone know how you stop 'iccups?" - sorry).

    Whilst watching Kenya getting caned by Sri Lanka is no fun for anyone here's a thought: let the BEST 10 nations play even if, whisper it, they aren't all the Test playing ones.

    Only for heavens sake, next time can we not play Ireland, please?

  • Abhimanyu on March 4, 2011, 7:33 GMT

    Hear hear Mr. Zalzman!

    Loved the soothsayer bit, but I would have probably chosen to drink the iced tea to be honest.. its rather refreshing!

    Ugh, the music is a ridiculous distraction at the best of times, but it does get the crowd going in full stadium when Strauss and Bell are spanking us (unfortunately) to all parts! I concur that in empty stadiums, they would be best advised not to crank it up to painful deafening tones, such things are best left for the Spice Girls!

    Be that as it may, I am sure you are enjoying the atmospheres generated by the audiences here. Loud, cheerful, raucous and partizan - just the perfect atmosphere. One thing I do love about the experience of cricket in the U.K. is the sarcasm and the songs (no doubt inspired from football) - but what can I say. Horses for courses!

    We are a loud, colourful and passionate race - sangfroid certainly does not appear in our dictionary. It will take time, but you cannot beat it so you may as well embrace it!

    Cheers!

  • Hubert on March 4, 2011, 7:30 GMT

    Saw a big crowd queueing up outside the saloon where KOB had his hair pinked. Noticed a few bald guys as well! maybe getting a pink moustache, beard or goatee!!! With St. Patrick's Day round the corner, we could see a few green tops as well! The hair, i mean.

  • Gautam on March 4, 2011, 7:13 GMT

    You got it Bikrom, have been enjoying andy's pieces for quite some time now, and wondering where i have come across similar humour. As a PGW fan I urge Andy to write a cricketing novel on the lines of PG's golfing stories.I'll buy the first 10 copies.

  • Andrew on March 8, 2011, 7:04 GMT

    Sadly I must admit it is my America that has pioneered and advanced the artless practice of ear-splitting music and sound effects at sporting events. Not a possession goes by in a professional basketball game without a top 40 hit or exhortation to "MAKE SOME NOISE!" assaulting spectators' ears. In baseball, cricket's lame little brother, the pleasant and occasional organ riff has been replaced by theme songs for every batter and pitcher upon their introduction and, often, upon their dismissal.

    Sorry about that, world; it was inevitable such noise pollution would eventually sully cricket grounds around the globe. USA! USA!

  • Nathan on March 5, 2011, 4:38 GMT

    Andy, why don't you seriously think about commentating a live match.....It would be interesting listeniing to your live thoughts rather than after thoughts like the above...........Take my advice as I'm not using it!!! ;-)

  • Annie on March 4, 2011, 21:03 GMT

    You do not go to cricket games to have "a nice chat". Would you like a symphony being played at a football game? Probably not.

  • Mark on March 4, 2011, 11:32 GMT

    Andy- agreed all round. Although this could mean the adoption of the England cricket team as the official (inept)cricket team of the Bugle...Right up until we somehow beat SA by 137 runs/8 wickets....

  • Vijay on March 4, 2011, 11:06 GMT

    Ive been to afew countries around the world to see sporting events, and I can tell you Asian countries are by far the most fun and safe. Stop the music? You must be out of your mind. Try stopping alcoholism, hooliganism, racism and then we come down the list to music.

  • NALINWIJ on March 4, 2011, 8:31 GMT

    England got their poor performance out of the way against Holland and looks like they put their shocker against Ireland so where else to go? I believe this loud music mentality comes from IPL where flat track 20-20 is compensated by equally brain numbing music. Have you noticed the cricket in Sri Lanka is a better contest between bat and ball so less crappy music is needed to numb ones senses.

  • Bernard Stacey on March 4, 2011, 7:50 GMT

    Whilst I would have preferred Ireland to unleash their bleachers-wrecking carnage against another nation I was delighted to see them do well as it must make it triply difficult for the ICC to leave all Associates out of the next World Cup, or else risk it being know as the ICC Cup (as in, if it goes on too long: "Anyone know how you stop 'iccups?" - sorry).

    Whilst watching Kenya getting caned by Sri Lanka is no fun for anyone here's a thought: let the BEST 10 nations play even if, whisper it, they aren't all the Test playing ones.

    Only for heavens sake, next time can we not play Ireland, please?

  • Abhimanyu on March 4, 2011, 7:33 GMT

    Hear hear Mr. Zalzman!

    Loved the soothsayer bit, but I would have probably chosen to drink the iced tea to be honest.. its rather refreshing!

    Ugh, the music is a ridiculous distraction at the best of times, but it does get the crowd going in full stadium when Strauss and Bell are spanking us (unfortunately) to all parts! I concur that in empty stadiums, they would be best advised not to crank it up to painful deafening tones, such things are best left for the Spice Girls!

    Be that as it may, I am sure you are enjoying the atmospheres generated by the audiences here. Loud, cheerful, raucous and partizan - just the perfect atmosphere. One thing I do love about the experience of cricket in the U.K. is the sarcasm and the songs (no doubt inspired from football) - but what can I say. Horses for courses!

    We are a loud, colourful and passionate race - sangfroid certainly does not appear in our dictionary. It will take time, but you cannot beat it so you may as well embrace it!

    Cheers!

  • Hubert on March 4, 2011, 7:30 GMT

    Saw a big crowd queueing up outside the saloon where KOB had his hair pinked. Noticed a few bald guys as well! maybe getting a pink moustache, beard or goatee!!! With St. Patrick's Day round the corner, we could see a few green tops as well! The hair, i mean.

  • Gautam on March 4, 2011, 7:13 GMT

    You got it Bikrom, have been enjoying andy's pieces for quite some time now, and wondering where i have come across similar humour. As a PGW fan I urge Andy to write a cricketing novel on the lines of PG's golfing stories.I'll buy the first 10 copies.

  • Muhammad Hafeez on March 4, 2011, 6:00 GMT

    Did you notice the face expressions of those "musicians" when they were forced to play music after fall of every SL wicket in match against Pakistan?

  • Akshay on March 4, 2011, 2:47 GMT

    In your ears, Zaltsman! (From an Indian Bugler)

  • TJ Ramadoss on March 3, 2011, 23:12 GMT

    Andy is just playing a genuinely best English man after defeat from the might hands of Ze Irish! So sad little boy, does the music hurt? Or rather, is it the defeat? I agree to one point though, the music in between overs is more annoying than the South African VuvuZela's in their entire soccer world cup edition.

  • Jez Bayes on March 3, 2011, 22:06 GMT

    As someone old enough to have seen Ian Chappell's moustached Aussies in the 70s, and a die hard Bugler for the last 145 episodes, I have several decades experience of laughter in various contexts.

    However, the last 3 minutes of that podcast was one of THE funniest things I've heard in a LONG time. I nearly crashed my car, and then when I got home I had to play it to my wife and offspring, not all of whom were quite as amused as I was.

    Any chance of playing the recording of that American to THE American for his take on it?!

    Keep it up Zaltmeister - it's brilliant to have reporting from someone who is 'just' a fan, like us, who is out there to enjoy it. And I love the crowd recordings, as they are on such a different planet (well, continent at least) from cricket watching in the UK.

  • ravi on March 3, 2011, 19:00 GMT

    awaiting your blog on Refferel system .. publish it soon plz.....hoping for a great fun their.....

  • psp on March 3, 2011, 18:51 GMT

    A good article one again.. Am glad all the indian readers who missed satire by miles all together have moved on to better things (like indian movies and music and IPL) and left this column. Its real pain to explain them each one of your lines( or why you think you are better than Sachin for e.g.). And RAM this "I go to cricket to forget worries" sounds very similar to why Indians go to mindless crap called bollywood movies. A nice slogan invented by braindead producer, directors, actors and filmwallas to sell their moronic dance routines to the paying public and make the public support it ( under the slogan " its for our relaxation, so we dont use our heads a bit and we only love timepass movies"). Sighh, the same fate for the sports, we really shouldnt call ourselves sports loving nation, more like bunch of narcissist, delusional bunch who think dancing to Sheila youthfulness and burning sportsman effies is understanding and supporting cricket.

    Oh I digress

  • Barry de Klerk on March 3, 2011, 17:31 GMT

    Yippee - everybody feels like me about the music - Andy for President! Oh, and thanks to Ireland I drank all the beer in my fridge. Dont't you dare do that against South Africa!

  • Varun Sharma on March 3, 2011, 17:13 GMT

    Andy, Welcome to India.We like it loud!! Excellent Article as usual. Though I wish I wasn't reading it inside the library as the chuckling made me the center of frowned eyebrows all round.Keep up the SATIRE!! Cheers mate

  • Ewar Woowar on March 3, 2011, 17:00 GMT

    Very funny as usual. Yeah do you like Plum? Also am quite surprised that you made it into Hosni Mubarak's wiki entry.

    Funny thing is that they banned the crowds from bringing in their own instruments in as it made too much noise and now how all this corporate atmosphere. Used to love the West Indians festival atmosphere in the 80s in England.

  • Sriram on March 3, 2011, 16:31 GMT

    Your blogs are a treat to read and your sense of humor is something I look forward to. Keep writing.

  • Andy Rea on March 3, 2011, 15:53 GMT

    In your Face Zatltzman!!! (from an Irish Bugler)

  • Deaf Indian on March 3, 2011, 15:49 GMT

    "Please stop it. Please, please stop it. Or at the very least, rein it in. It is annoying, unnecessary and disrespectful to the paying public. "

    Hear hear - just not so loudly please ....

  • bikrom on March 3, 2011, 14:34 GMT

    Do you like P G Wodehouse? I am just curious.

  • Florence Nightingale on March 3, 2011, 14:21 GMT

    I love you Andy.

  • akk on March 3, 2011, 14:21 GMT

    Andy, as usual...nice article...what did poor Michael Yardy do to u?..any how so glad to see Straussy brought down to Earth, after his great century against India...by the way..listening to music..at dangerously high decibels (you should go to some Indian Marriages/Funerals..you will understand)..is our National Hobby..

  • User on March 3, 2011, 13:20 GMT

    the fact that there is a paragraph in a Zaltzmann column that is NOT satirical ought to be the most powerful proof of just how annoying the PA system would have been. Even Andy was annoyed enough to not be able to make fun of it - and having been at a match, and seen the rest on TV, I can attest to the epic levels of annoyance the PA system generates.

  • Elango on March 3, 2011, 12:00 GMT

    Hahn Andy saar, music too loud eh? Thank God you weren't here for the IPL. It was not just music but live dances, cheer leaders and a yellow shirted drummer thrown in as well. Before the matches started one would achieve a head ache - or your money back! My countrymen tell me "that's the festive spirit around cricket yaar" and I've really seen youngsters in the stands soak it up. Many pay and turn up early just to be a part of this. These aren't cricket matches but festivals. If you want to watch a match, turn up for a Ranji game.

    On one hand we have the eternally calm yogis; but on the other we have a garishly loud chaos. That's India for you. And it's not going away in a hurry. So, saar, if you can change them join them. I'm told they sell ear plugs at F1 races - may be BCCI can import some for our English guests!

  • karthik on March 3, 2011, 11:08 GMT

    The beetroot soup bit is just hilarious. Its always been a belief of mine that anyone with two z's in their last name can never fail to induce laughter and you are living proof of that. Go Zaltzman.

  • nathan on March 3, 2011, 10:58 GMT

    part of the article was fun to read. Guess which part?

  • ravi on March 3, 2011, 10:53 GMT

    that was a real stunner as usual....ur blog is in competence with the great knock be K.o'brien ... similarity between this and laxman's 281 was highly appreciable.. keep the good work going andy ....and in the language of modern commentators.."take a bow"....

  • Tony on March 3, 2011, 10:29 GMT

    Couldn't agree with you more about the loud music Andy. Whilst not at the ground myself (nor the World Cup at all for that matter) I know what you mean. Must be very very obtrusive and annoying to sat the least.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Prash on March 3, 2011, 10:29 GMT

    Welcome to India Andy, "noise and sound" are so much part of our lives that our eardrums have been forced to adapt of perish without a hintof mercy. Couple this with the advent of invention of digital dolby speakers, its anyone's guess where our eardrums are headed to!!..Welcome again.

  • Simon H. on March 3, 2011, 10:12 GMT

    Great column again! What I would like is for more appropriate music to be played after dismissals: the Adagietto from Mahler's Fifth Symphony would be an entirely appropriate piece of music to troop off to after an ill-conceived sweep shot costs your team a chance of victory. Or the entire 30-minute final movement of Mahler's Ninth for the entry of Chris Tavare or Gary Kirsten. They've really missed a trick with their rubbish Euro-techno.

  • Aaron Chaim David on March 3, 2011, 9:50 GMT

    @ZaltzCricket, another great blog. i'm really enjoying the tweets, blogs and podcasts. Thanks for bringing some enjoyment to this mind blowing 7 week trek around the sub-continent. strauss, tendulkar ABdV, twelve doeschate, and Ko'B tons are not enough. maybe the odd SlingaMalinga hatrick helps, but its you that really does it. Oh, and will you do the sports on 7day Sunday this week again? Keep it up, your loyal follower @SaffaGeordieCric

  • dirkie on March 3, 2011, 9:45 GMT

    Hey Andy, I think I love you. Thank you for all the updates, tweets, blogs, and laughter. Keep 'em coming.

  • Srikanth on March 3, 2011, 9:33 GMT

    Andy - completely agree with your "However, I struggle to comprehend why that music has to be chundered out at such eardrum-assaulting volumes".

    It is absolutely annoying when the public comes to appreciate cricket, not the deafening noise. I was wishing someone will write about it. Glad you wrote it.

  • mahota on March 3, 2011, 9:18 GMT

    Andy, is that you talking... this is the highest respect that anyone could pay to the pink haired guy... he deserves it well

  • Anonymous on March 3, 2011, 8:55 GMT

    We watched only Kevin O'brein's batting. we have to wait for his bowling performance....

  • Ashish on March 3, 2011, 8:37 GMT

    Great article as always Andy... We did witness one of the great WC innings of all times indeed.. I totally agree with you regarding the point you made about loud and non-sensical music being played during matches now a days..

  • Bala Kritikeshan on March 3, 2011, 8:26 GMT

    Cheers Andy, thanks for the blog. Thanks even more to your Twitter feed, the only source of valuable information while cricinfo and bbc were down at the dying stages of the match yesterday!

  • Upamanyu on March 3, 2011, 8:22 GMT

    Hilarious... keep up the good work, andy

  • Azar Ali Zain on March 3, 2011, 8:06 GMT

    Haha! Love your writing Zaltzman. On a separate note, can someone please check Andy? Woolmer didn't make it out of the hotel room after the Irish gave Pakistan a similar heart attack few years back...

  • Ram on March 3, 2011, 8:06 GMT

    I assume you are not paying public, May be the snobbish people sitting in the MCC pavilion at Lords dont want the Music. I surely do, Cricket for me is enjoyment and when India wins....its festival. The time i spend in the ground makes me forget my worries and iam there to enjoy not to sip a cup of coffee and read the mornings paper. Got it.

  • Juliet on March 3, 2011, 7:59 GMT

    I completely agree with you on the music. In SA they insist on playing smash hits from the 1980s that most of us have tried our best to obliterate from our memories. While the volume levels are relatively under control, the music encourages the public to leap to their feet and initiate some truly horrendous dance moves while balancing about 5 pitchers of beer in two hands.For the rest of us trying to watch the cricket, it is an excruciating distraction.

  • UnkEnt on March 3, 2011, 7:16 GMT

    Right on there Andy .. wake up call it was for sure. And not just for the English, but the other "superior-to-the-extent-that-they-do-not-want-associate-nations-to-play-the-next-world-cup" test playing countries.

    And as for the music ... well that's just India :-)

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  • UnkEnt on March 3, 2011, 7:16 GMT

    Right on there Andy .. wake up call it was for sure. And not just for the English, but the other "superior-to-the-extent-that-they-do-not-want-associate-nations-to-play-the-next-world-cup" test playing countries.

    And as for the music ... well that's just India :-)

  • Juliet on March 3, 2011, 7:59 GMT

    I completely agree with you on the music. In SA they insist on playing smash hits from the 1980s that most of us have tried our best to obliterate from our memories. While the volume levels are relatively under control, the music encourages the public to leap to their feet and initiate some truly horrendous dance moves while balancing about 5 pitchers of beer in two hands.For the rest of us trying to watch the cricket, it is an excruciating distraction.

  • Ram on March 3, 2011, 8:06 GMT

    I assume you are not paying public, May be the snobbish people sitting in the MCC pavilion at Lords dont want the Music. I surely do, Cricket for me is enjoyment and when India wins....its festival. The time i spend in the ground makes me forget my worries and iam there to enjoy not to sip a cup of coffee and read the mornings paper. Got it.

  • Azar Ali Zain on March 3, 2011, 8:06 GMT

    Haha! Love your writing Zaltzman. On a separate note, can someone please check Andy? Woolmer didn't make it out of the hotel room after the Irish gave Pakistan a similar heart attack few years back...

  • Upamanyu on March 3, 2011, 8:22 GMT

    Hilarious... keep up the good work, andy

  • Bala Kritikeshan on March 3, 2011, 8:26 GMT

    Cheers Andy, thanks for the blog. Thanks even more to your Twitter feed, the only source of valuable information while cricinfo and bbc were down at the dying stages of the match yesterday!

  • Ashish on March 3, 2011, 8:37 GMT

    Great article as always Andy... We did witness one of the great WC innings of all times indeed.. I totally agree with you regarding the point you made about loud and non-sensical music being played during matches now a days..

  • Anonymous on March 3, 2011, 8:55 GMT

    We watched only Kevin O'brein's batting. we have to wait for his bowling performance....

  • mahota on March 3, 2011, 9:18 GMT

    Andy, is that you talking... this is the highest respect that anyone could pay to the pink haired guy... he deserves it well

  • Srikanth on March 3, 2011, 9:33 GMT

    Andy - completely agree with your "However, I struggle to comprehend why that music has to be chundered out at such eardrum-assaulting volumes".

    It is absolutely annoying when the public comes to appreciate cricket, not the deafening noise. I was wishing someone will write about it. Glad you wrote it.