World Cup 2011 March 18, 2011

Capitalism and John Logie Baird nearly cost England

England’s heroic efforts to reignite the 50-over game continued with another fluctuating, stomach-rumbling, rocket-propelled donkey ride of a match, replete with all the over-the-top melodrama and emotional mood swings of a teenage disco.
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England’s heroic efforts to reignite the 50-over game continued with another fluctuating, stomach-rumbling, rocket-propelled donkey ride of a match, replete with all the over-the-top melodrama and emotional mood swings of a teenage disco.

Once again, Strauss and his men yanked Victory from the jaws of Defeat. Having seemingly wrapped Victory in a burrito and fed it to Defeat. After Defeat had vomited Victory back up onto its plate, saying, “I’m not hungry.” Which followed them teasingly putting Victory on a plastic spoon and whizzing it in and out of Defeat’s open mouth like a parent trying to amuse a baby and trick it into eating a vegetable.

England could have won all six of their group matches. They could have lost all six. They could have tied all six. So three wins, one tie and two defeats is probably a fair return. A team with mostly admirable rather than thrilling cricketers has contrived to give the cricket world one surprisingly good game, followed by five varying classics that would have had Victorian cricket fans munching through their umbrella handles like cheap hot dogs.

It is always sensible to have a scapegoat or two grazing up your sleeve that you can whip out in the event of a defeat and feed to the press as a scapegoat curry. If England had lost, their fans could have blamed injuries, fatigue, umpires, John Logie Baird for inventing television and paving the way for the third umpire to sit on their lofty Olympian perches and dispense their random justice like a drunken Greek god, and the general concept of technology.

Most of all, however, they could have blamed the evils of capitalism.

When Jonathan Trott caught Andre Russell, tumbled in indecipherably close proximity to the boundary, and was denied the catch by the TV umpire (even though, to my naked eye 80 yards away high up in the Chepauk stands, he was clearly and definitely infield by between 1.5 and 2 millimetres), it seemed that England’s hopes had vaporised. If the boundary rope had not been surrounded by the padded advertisements, but had merely been a boundary rope just as whichever god invented cricket surely intended it to be, Trott’s catch would have been verifiably legal by a good couple of centimetres.

However, thanks to the unstoppably gropey tentacles of commercialism that have wrapped their branding around any available object on any available sports ground, not only have glorious cover drives been besmirched into glib marketing opportunities, not only is the fee-paying spectator denied the timeless entertainment of seeing a ballboy prepare to field an imminent four only for the ball to ricochet up off the rope into his face, but England were almost denied their opportunity to confirm their place in the greatest eight international one-day teams in the known universe.

When the Berlin Wall came crumbled like the West Indian tail and Capitalism started showboating in the aftermath of its points victory over Communism (in which it was aided by the fact that Communism spent the entire fight standing in the corner, punching itself in the face), I doubt those revelling in the end of oppression stopped for a moment to consider how their selfish desire for freedom from totalitarian tyranny could one day almost affect the result of a very important cricket match. Such is human nature.

EXTRAS

- In my continuing, and I believe thus far successful, attempts to establish myself as the most infantile member of the cricketing press corps, I whipped out my little woolly WG Grace (that is not a euphemism) at the post-match press conference, and told Strauss that he had been watching England play for 130 years and could not remember a run of such exciting games. Strauss took one look at the knitted legend and his famous beard, and responded: “It looks like he’s lost a bit of timber.” Fine work from the England captain. WG blushed woollily, and mumbled something about having trouble with the local food.

- WG was a busy boy at the Chepauk. I fulfilled a lifelong dream during the interval, as I was invited on Test Match Special to talk to broadcasting leviathan Jonathan Agnew. I have been listening to TMS basically ever since I became a sentient being. I was more than a little excited, if disappointed that John Arlott was sadly off duty again. It also gave WG the chance to chinwag with, in ascending order of Test runs, Aggers, Vic Marks, Michael Vaughan and Geoffrey Boycott. (Pictures from the meetings on the right)

Attempting to diffuse the slight awkwardness of having asked Yorkshire and England’s Geoffrey Boycott to pose for picture with a small woolly doll, I said to him, “I think you scored more centuries than WG did.” Boycott: “I know I did. I know exactly how many more than him I scored. And I didn’t cheat as much as he did.” A legend and a hero.

- I hope you enjoy the photographs. I am reliably informed that this is the first published photograph of the Boycott holding a small woolly doll of a 19th-century megastar (rumours that he used to own a knitted miniature Florence Nightingale remain unconfirmed). While taking the photo, I thought to myself: “I am a 36-year-old father of two. I have a university degree. I have a mortgage. And I have just asked one of England’s greatest sportsmen to hold a small woolly doll for a photograph. Does this mean my life is going (a) very well, or (b) very, very badly?”

- West Indies were left with various regrets after a match in which they, like their opponents, repeatedly created, then squandered winning positions. A little more calmness at times, a little more boldness at others – taking the batting Powerplay when Sammy or Russell were in and swinging, for example ‒ could have won them the game. As could Ramnaresh Sarwan’s bowels.

Coach Ottis Gibson, asked in the post-match press conference why rookie wicketkeeper Devon Thomas had been oddly promoted above the veteran of 164 ODIs and a decade of top-level cricket, replied that Sarwan had been temporarily indisposed on a toilet break. He stopped short of revealing that, just as Thomas nervously prepared to face his first ball, Sarwan emerged with a newspaper tucked under one arm, a half-finished cryptic crossword clear for all to see, asking: “Can anyone think of an anagram of ‘oral bard’ that means ‘popular breed of dog’?” Or that he strolled casually back into the dressing room, snout down in a well-thumbed copy of Jane Austen’s Pride And Prejudice, excitedly squealing, “I knew they’d get together eventually.”

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

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  • fanedlive on March 26, 2011, 6:21 GMT

    Best cricket satirist. Ever!!! ROFL!!!

  • fanedlive on March 22, 2011, 20:25 GMT

    Un-something-believable; an england victory underwritten by Kent's finest handful-of-tests spinner since Min Patel, and not a mention from the Grand High Zaltz-meister ??? No channeling of the Gog/Magog of Kent and England cricketers ie Martin McCague and Sir Chris (tavare) ? What does the mighty Pingu Tredwell-Laker have to do to get a mention - personnally enforce the NATO no-fly zone in Libya ?

  • fanedlive on March 22, 2011, 7:19 GMT

    Andy, could you please let Al Mar (above) have his sense of humour back?

  • fanedlive on March 21, 2011, 12:15 GMT

    "Burrito" - oh man that's gold. After I read this I emailed the link to all my friends. They both loved it. Thanks!

  • fanedlive on March 21, 2011, 10:52 GMT

    Andy - this is the first time i have read your column and boy, i have been laughing out loud...this is one of the most humourous pieces of writing i have read on sports.

    the "timeless entertainment of seeing a ballboy..." part was hilarious

  • fanedlive on March 20, 2011, 13:49 GMT

    Brilliant! I think Sarwan has a young and vivacious lab named Shiv Chanderpaul.

  • fanedlive on March 20, 2011, 11:44 GMT

    Al Mar - that has to be the single most po-faced comment I have ever read on cricinfo! Well done!

  • fanedlive on March 20, 2011, 5:46 GMT

    W.G. Grace is alive and well, the Master would have approved of Mohammed Yousuf and Hashim Amla, I wish an Indian IPL team would get these two guys together, it would be beautiful. Beautiful shots and beautiful beards and not a word said in anger.

  • fanedlive on March 20, 2011, 4:10 GMT

    hell....so u finally left Akmal..alone...sad though..gr8 article as always.

  • fanedlive on March 20, 2011, 4:05 GMT

    Andy...O...Andy...why did you forget to enumerate the reasons why Trott was wearing a hat on THAT sultry evening in Chennai...:)...Maybe his hat tricked the umpire(s) to conclude that as a six...;-)

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