May 19, 2008

All white

England's new kit, CMJ's corpsing fit, and a laidback bowling machine

White, and not so white © Getty Images

Shiny, happy people
As England welcomed the tourists from the land of the long white cloud - oh, that's New Zealand isn't it? - at Lord's, they also unveiled their luminously white new Adidas kit, unwittingly resembling 11 lost dentists, or a particularly sporty advert for detergent. Traditionally, cricketers' flannels have been a vanilla off-white, yet England's new uniforms shine as brightly as a celebrity's front row of pristine teeth. All white, as Michael Barrymore would put it. Unfortunately, New Zealand's in comparison looked "dirty and grubby", as BBC's Jonathan Agnew rather aptly said. The Beige Brigade will be proud.

Britons' sporting apathy
Fewer than 10% of state school children are playing cricket, a gloomy report in the Daily Telegraph said this week. "Team sports like cricket are incredibly important for children but in many schools we find that either the finance isn't there or staff simply don't have the time. It is tragic," said Sir Tim Rice, the vice-chairman of the Cricket Foundation, the charity which commissioned the Yougov poll.

Tragic, certainly, but polling 1000 parents is hardly the most comprehensive of surveys, and although the ECB (and before it the TCCB) has been grandfatherly-indifferent in attracting "yoof culture" in decades past, efforts are now being made. The Chance to Shine campaign, set-up in 2005, aims to bring cricket to at least a third of state schools within ten years, and hopes to raise £50m. Not all doom and gloom, then - although it's hard to imagine 6000 English or Welsh schoolchildren forsaking the teenage honour of an Asbo (Anti-Social Behavioural Order) by playing simultaneously across eight venues: that is exactly what happened in South Africa as part of a development initiative last week.

Find me a car bonnet, I've a dodgy bowling machine
West Indians are not renowned for their urgency - unless they have a bat or ball in their hand. No, Caribbean folk are a laidback bunch - in particular, cricket groundsmen - a theory that was given credence by a piece from the Australian Associated Press reporting on Australia's net session at Sabina Park. "The bowling machine broke down before even delivering a ball," the report said. "After a few puzzled looks, team management eventually got the message across to groundstaff that a new fuse was needed. It was to no avail though. The same groundsman sent to find a new fuse was reportedly seen scratching around under the bonnet of a car shortly after, with the bowling machine still out of commission by the end of practice."

Do stop it, CMJ
Cricket radio has a long history of gaffes and on-air "corpsing", an ominous term used to describe a commentator collapsing into uncontrollable laughter. And Christopher Martin-Jenkins - or CMJ, as he is more endearingly known - provided Test Match Special's listeners with a fresh radio rhubarb last week when, in a convoluted fishing analogy, he referred to a Daniel Vettori's "rod".

During the 52nd over Vettori faced Stuart Broad, and the commentary unfurled accordingly. "Broad's in, he bowls. This time Vettori lets it go outside the off stump - good length, inviting him to fish," CMJ told listeners. "But Vettori stays on the bank ... and keeps his rod down, so to speak." Unfortunately for CMJ and the team, Phil Tufnell was lurking at the back of the box. If ever there was someone prone to fits of giggles, it is he.

CMJ is no stranger to radio slip-ups: during a World Cup match between England and Canada at Old Trafford in 1979, he remarked to Brian Johnston that Canada's 12th man, Showkat Basch, was on the field. Cue Johnners folding into giggles, though he managed to regain his composure rather better than on the infamous occasion when he and Jonathan Agnew wheezed and squealed after Agnew's "leg-over" comment.

Bad-light blues
Whether you love the Indian Premier League, prefer the drip-drip intensity of a Test match, or - and here's a novel thought - have time for both formats, there can be no denying how stark the differences are between the two. At Lord's last week, England and New Zealand were at the mercy of the gloom. They went off for bad light five irritating times. Nearly 4500 miles away, Sanath Jayasuriya led Mumbai Indians to a frenzied win over Kolkata Knight Riders with a savage 48 from just 17 flays of his willow, the game done and dusted in 20.5 overs. Test cricket doesn't need to match Twenty20's frenetic pace - though modern batsmen are doing their utmost - but the shorter game has exposed some of its older sibling's more archaic rules.

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Will Luke is a staff writer at Cricinfo