August 11, 2012

Why cricket's better than the Olympics

Firstly, there's the wonderful commentary we enjoy

Like a holiday romance, or a summer job with the mafia, the Olympics has led some of us to do things we would not normally do and of which, with the benefit of hindsight, we might not be particularly proud (for example, those unofficial Team GB lederhosen I bought from a man in the pub were definitely a mistake). Multi-coloured five-ring fever has taken over the internet, the brains of newspaper editors, the schedules of minor members of the royal family, and I'm afraid it's even taken over this cricket blog.

You see today's post is by way of confession. I have been neglecting the great game, tempted by the lure of Mandelson, Horlicks and Boris*. At first I was spellbound by the choices available at the touch of a remote. Isn't it marvellous, I would say to people at the bus stop. If you press the red button there's men's downhill freestyle shopping trolley and then just one click and it's 1500 metres inflatable raft-balancing live from the River Thames!

But earlier today, whilst watching the eighth-place handball play-off, I had an epiphany. No, an epiphany. As yet another hairy Scandinavian leapt off the ground and flung the toddler's sized football into the net from all of three yards away, a voice in my head that sounded a little like Richie Benaud asked me what on earth I was doing watching handball.

"Come on Richie," I replied, "Be fair. When else would I be able to watch live handball?"

"Any time you like, on Sky Sports 12 or Eurosport Obscure Extra. You galah."

He was right. I realised I'd just spent 12 days watching sports in which I have less interest than there is growth in the British economy. As Saul must have said as he pulled his donkey over for a comfort break on the way to Damascus, what have I been doing with my life?

So I've quit my Olympic habit. I've shaved the London 2012 logo out of my cat's fur and I've made a mental note not to do the Usain Bolt pose every time I successfully open a milk carton without spilling any. But I do return from the land of the Olympiad with good tidings for the cricket fan. Believe me, commentary wise, we've never had it so good.

First of all, cricket broadcasters generally go to the trouble of employing people who know what they're talking about to do the pointless pre-event speculation. Not so at the Olympics. Witness former footballer Gary Lineker interviewing former tennis player John McEnroe ahead of the men's 100 metres final. John and Gary were very excited, it transpired, as were we all, and all of us just as qualified as either of them to talk about the men's 100 metres final.

Oh and then there's patriotism. I'm sure that over in Pyongyang there are people sitting watching state television's footage of the games of the XXX Olympiad and, after checking that the room isn't bugged, saying things like, "I say dear, ecstatic as I am that our glorious athletes are demonstrating the innate superiority of the Communist system, have you noticed that the coverage of these events is perhaps a tad biased?"

I know how you feel, fictional North Korean couple. Take the athletics events. No matter that a Kenyan we'd like to know more about is disappearing into the distance, the BBC's booth dwellers would invariably be hard at work telling us where Team GB's Lorraine Somebodyorother went to school, how hard she'd trained (very hard, the listener was never surprised to learn) and what she needed to do to sneak into the top 17.

And at the conclusion of yesterday's live horse-skipping in Greenwich, the plummy-voiced chap with the microphone actually stopped broadcasting in order to sing the national anthem. Say what you like about Ian Healy, but he's never gone that far.

So have I missed much? Let's see. Kevin Pietersen, blah blah blah, another county cricket review, yadda yadda yadda, West Indies won a Test series (no, that can't be right, will check later). Oh, and Yuvraj is back! Now there is something worthy of a medal.

* These are, I believe the Olympic mascots, but I can't swear to it.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England