The 'Rashes' effect
If you listen intently you can almost hear the hum of a huge Test series coming up. That is if you have an ear trumpet and it's aimed at Somerset this week. South Africa's opening press conference is where the hype usually kicks off, but instead most of England's reporters were watching the inevitable result of Australia losing at Chester-le-Street.
Before I wrote this article, I'd barely even thought of the Test series. And other than chats about how stupid it is to have a three-Test series, or a little bit of Dale Steyn longing, it's like it doesn't exist at all.
I'm not the only one to overlook it. Cricket Writers on TV' is three cricket writers sitting around Paul Allott, talking about English and world cricket. It's a pretty simple show; there is breakfast on the table in front of them to show how intimate it all is. The closest thing to a special effect is Allott holding up a newspaper to camera. It's all very polite and proper compared to Australian or Indian cricket shows.
Sunday's episode focused on England's dominance over Australia in the current ODI series. There was much talk of two white balls. England's quality quicks dominating poorly performing Australian batsmen. Aussie bowlers going home. Future Champions Trophy and World Cup chances. And the inevitable Ashes talk.
Eventually the chat moved towards Mark Ramprakash's snake hips. And then, about an hour into the show, they moved on to South Africa. That's not singling out Cricket Writers on TV, because at least they mentioned the series, which many others haven't.
It's almost like in just over a week's time there isn't a series between England and South Africa, a Test series, the two best Test teams in the world. In most of the press and even on the social networks, few people have been talking about this series.
A series that has a bowl-off between Morkel, Anderson, Philander, Broad, Steyn, Bresnan, Swann and Tahir. It should be the only thing anyone is talking about, not an afterthought.
Some of this is because of The Rashes. A peculiar, incestuous disease that only seems to affect Australians and the English. The Rashes makes everything about that one series, and even when people are watching a completely pointless ODI series, they can't help but look ahead towards the "real" series in a year's time.
The rest is scheduling. The press are no different to the players. Both have to work at this series even if they don't want to. And while you want to start series previews and doing the hype, you've still got to write about how good Finn looks and what are the chances of rain in Manchester.
If this was an ODI series between England and South Africa with an Ashes to follow (which probably wouldn't happen), every single good or bad performance by England would be used as a way of talking about the next series. If Australia went to Switzerland like the South Africans did, it would be major news, and it would have been the punchline in many columns and bar chats. By this point, there would already be articles (probably by me and others) complaining about how long and pointless the faux pre-war talk is.
Instead South Africa have slipped into the country under near stealth as Australia have been bullied and bashed in this extremely early Ashes warm-up. The South African team could play naked against Somerset and get less column space than Ian Bell's good form or Australia's problem with the moving ball. They're currently receiving less chat than Xavier Doherty's problems taking wickets against England's top order in the middle overs.
As it was pointed out on Cricket Writers on TV, this could be the last Test series that Graeme Smith is captain of South Africa. There are nine-year-old children who don't know what it's like to live in a Graeme Smithless world.
Since 2009, no team with this much chance of beating England has arrived for a UK summer. Morne Morkel is at times Pinky and the Brain, a man capable of swallowing batsmen whole, who can also retreat into himself mid-over and almost disappear. Vernon Philander couldn't look more like a club bowler if his whites were stained with red and his shirt was untucked, but his record is scary good. Dale Steyn may be only using his career as a calling card for roles in Hollywood films as vicious prison guards, but with talk of Anderson, and even Philander and Morkel, pushing him for the claim of world's best bowler, he should be spectacularly fired up for this summer. And let's not forget Imran Tahir, who spent many a county summer playing with domestic batsmen like they were plastic soldiers he was melting in the sun.
A bit like this whole England v South Africa series, the hype will have barely started by the time it's all over. Cricket Writers on TV, the rest of the press and even the fans can't be blamed completely for talking about what is in front of them instead of looking ahead. It's just that when the two best teams in the world are clashing in only a few days, you would probably want a bit more than it being second fiddle to discussions about how Ricky Ponting will go in a year's time.
Especially as Ponting is not even in England at the moment