December 28, 2011

Two new characters in cricket’s soap opera

Cowan and de Lange, you say

Monday, 26th December The 21st century cricket watcher lives a blessed existence. If our forbears wanted to see that new South African with the daring haircut or India’s latest medium-paced fast bowler, they had to wait half a decade or so, until the tour schedule brought the team in question to home soil. A fresh-faced and sprightly protégé could become a gnarled and stooped veteran before half the cricket world had seen him in action.

But now, with simultaneous broadcasts, highlights, extended highlights, and the frankly unnatural capacity to record two things at the same time, the cricket fan can see every ball of a man’s career, from that first nervous push outside off to the tears he wipes away at his final press conference. In 3D.

So today, weighed down by too many helpings of fruit-based steamed puddings, it was my pleasure to be able to contemplate, from the depths of my sofa, two intriguing new characters in the international cricket soap opera: Ed Cowan and Marchant de Lange.

My first impression of Cowan is that he has more than a flavour of Simon Katich about him, although he doesn’t seem to shuffle about so much, and as far as I know, has yet to take his captain by the throat. de Lange should be a dealer in precious gems, with an office on a seedy side street in Marrakech, but he is in fact a strapping fast-bowler from the same Terminator-factory that brought us Morne Morkel.

But whether they go on to illustrious commentary careers or end up having to take demeaning jobs in sports administration, it is always a kind of privilege to see players take their first step onto the Test stage. Good luck to both of them.

Tuesday, 27th December Today we heard from Mustafa Kamal, the Bangladesh Cricket Board chief, who has been mulling something over and clearly needed to get it off his chest.

“I was listening to the commentators during the recently concluded Pakistan series. Everyone mentioned there that we got bad decisions.”

I’m a lesser man than Mr Kemal, no doubt, but even a humble cricket fan can spot the problem here. Listening to commentators is not absolutely guaranteed to give you the full picture, reality-wise, and relying on commentators from your own country for the objective truth on these matters is rather like relying on a mother to give an unvarnished assessment of her son’s character.

“I cannot talk against umpires, being an ICC director… but I have seen that against weaker countries, there are more wrong decisions.”

Are there? Well, now I’m intrigued. Did he have any graphs, tables, or spreadsheets to seal the deal? After all, these days it ought to be perfectly possible to tot up the details of umpiring bloopers worldwide and thus demonstrate that x is greater than y. Sadly, Mr Kemal had not a single pie chart or indeed number to call upon, and his plucky attempt to scale Mount Conspiracy failed to reach base camp.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England