England June 26, 2012

How do you explain a dancing cricketer?

Michael Vaughan is the new twinkle toes on the block

Saturday, June 23rd There are some things in life that are hard to explain. Take the Big Bang, for instance. I’m a fairly liberal sort of chap, so I’m quite prepared to imagine an incredibly dense ball of matter. In face, I like to think of it as a sort of tiny, interdimensional Edam cheese which then explodes, sending bits of rind and slightly rubbery dairy goodness in all directions. But try explaining this to an eight-year-old on the way home from school and you are likely to be met with a stony glare and a distinctly sceptical tone.

Of course, in the case of the Big Bang, you can settle matters by appealing to the authority of scientists whose books you haven’t read, the internet, or, if all else fails, parental infallibility. (“Because I say so” is a remarkably effective phrase and I sometimes wonder whether umpires would have it easier on the field if they tried it from time to time. And they could follow it up with “Have you washed your hands?” before the players go off for lunch).

But how do you explain the English cricketer’s fascination with ballroom dancing? Today we learnt that Michael Vaughan is to enter Strictly Come Dancing. He is not the first to feel the lure of the dance. In 1932, the BBC had to cut footage of Douglas Jardine and Harold Larwood having a quick waltz on the boat to Australia from their newsreel footage, and when Colin Cowdrey arrived at the wicket in Adelaide in 1975, he was reported to have asked Jeff Thomson whether he might have the next dance. The offer was declined.

As it happens, I don’t remember Vaughan being much of a dancer at the crease. He was more of a leisurely strider who made the occasional lunge. But I wish him luck. Not because I’ll be watching, you understand. Sequins, ill-fitting trousers and fixed grins have the same nausea-inducing effect on me as an invitation to watch an autopsy. But those of you who like that sort of thing should vote for Michael every week because whilst he’s busy on the dancefloor, he can’t be in the TMS box. He was a fine captain and a stylish bat swisher, but I’m afraid his punditry is to radio commentary what the conga is to Swan Lake.

Sunday, June 24th Some say that Gary Kirsten is the best cricket coach in the world and today he gave us a reminder of why he is so highly rated. Having slept through the selection meeting for the Twenty20 tri-series, he’d ended up saddled with an exotic collection of Test possibles, IPL wannabes and the wrong Morkel. Naturally, South Africa lost most of their games and a lesser coach might have been forced to admit that this was something of a setback.

Not a bit of it. As he explained to journalists, his team weren’t trying to win anyway. It had all been a big rehearsal. That is excuse-making genius, almost as impressive as the day when David Lloyd tried to pretend that his team had murdered Zimbabwe by drawing with them. Good work, Gary. We look forward to what you’ve got in store for us in Sri Lanka this autumn.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England