September 23, 2007

An awful reminder of awfulness

A review of The Official 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup Review DVD

The Official 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup Review £19.99

The World Twenty20, for all its manifest flaws, has produced more moments of genuine excitement in a single week than the 50-over World Cup managed in two months of lumpen tedium. It's a good time, then, to be reminded of the excruciating awfulness of the ICC's original crowning glory, the Caribbean "Carnival of Cricket" of March and April this year.

To prepare for this review, I decided to get back into the mood and mindset of that magical event. On the hottest day of the month, I drove to a deserted field two miles from my house and started on a long and sweaty trek home. Eventually I gave up and paid over the odds for a minicab to transport me to my front door. Having stopped en route to buy some beer and nachos, I asked my wife to confiscate these on arrival, and instead sell me tap water and dry crackers at a premium rate while forcing me to watch the action from behind a pile of ironing in the corner of the living room.

So far so realistic. But for an occasion like this all that should matter is the action. None of the indignities that the Caribbean spectators were put through for those two months would have registered if the cricket itself had lived up to its billing. Alas, my jaundiced memory did not let me down. At one hour and 40 minutes long, this DVD felt as interminable as the tournament itself, even though it covered barely 0.05 per cent of the on-field events.

There were some moments worth reliving, of course there were. Herschelle Gibbs made history with six sixes in an over in St Kitts (although after Yuvraj Singh's Durban onslaught, that performance now looks as tame as the poor bowler, Daan van Bunge); Lasith Malinga gave South Africa an almighty scare with four wickets in four balls in Guyana, and as for Adam Gilchrist's stupendous 149 in the final, hitting of that calibre would grace any version of the game, and any era.

Sadly that innings - both in real-time and DVD-time - arrives far, far too late to justify most of what goes before. The movie-trailer neutrality of the introductory blurb, dubbed over the top of that twinkly jingle, "A Game of Love and Unity", provides a grim portent of the entertainment in store. Not even the voiceover artist who talked up Death-Fish IV - the Revenge would have been able to inject any sense of anticipation into this gem of a competition summary:

"The cream of world cricket, the 16 finalists, were divided into groups of four for the first stage of the tournament. Each group would play a round-robin series of matches with only the top two in each group progressing to the Super Eights stage, another round robin to determine the four semi-finalists and ultimately the finalists ... blah blah blah ..."

Seconds later, while running through the runners and riders in Pool A, Scotland are described as "World Cup debutants" - an inauspicious start.

The most notable World Cup debutants were, of course, the plucky Irish - although their thunder-stealing role in the competition is strangely downplayed, possibly on two counts. The first is that their fifth-day elimination of Pakistan inadvertently contributed to the desperate blandness of the overall event: with India falling early as well, the hugely hyped Super Eights became an extension of the same Group stage procession.

And then of course, there was the awful postscript to that St Patrick's Day miracle in Kingston. Bob Woolmer's death, and the subsequent protracted murder investigation, cast a pall over the tournament that would never be entirely lifted. Voiceover man is suitably non-committal in his reporting of the event: "That night, Pakistan coach, Bob Woolmer, tragically died in his hotel room. Pakistan's subsequent big victory over Zimbabwe counted for nothing." And with that, the action moves on to the next meaningless fixture.

There is as much pretence in this DVD as there was in the tournament proper. Take the ten moments of the tournament, for instance - the compilers are struggling so badly to make up the numbers that Glenn McGrath and Muttiah Muralitharan both feature for taking two wickets in an over. The biggest pretence, however, is an outrageous piece of wool-pulling in the very last act. The farcical scenes that accompanied the end of the World Cup final will remain in the mind's eye forever, although not if the ICC has anything to do with it.

Australia's premature celebrations, the umpires' collective brain-fart, the incredulity of the captains and the crowd, and the pointless pat-ball of the final three overs ... none of it exists any longer, thanks to some skilful editing that is betrayed only by the bewildered tone of the commentary ("Out stumped, I think ... well Aleem Dar can't be sure either") and the grainy blackness of the footage.

Eventually, Andrew Symonds twirls down a leg-stump delivery, Chaminda Vaas misses, Australia roar with delight, and as Mark Nicholas puts it: "That, finally, is that."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo