July 17, 2013

England need to up their post-match game

Nine Tests to go is no time to be sitting on your laurels, presentation talk-wise

Speaking as a guy who was once fined 85% of my match fee for taking too many positives out of a situation, Pod is well aware of the dangers of post-match interview euphoria - how stupid did I feel for saying I'd never smoke anything but Benson & Hedges after we won the bowl-out against Northants in the shed at Wantage Road in 1987. I still sometimes wake up in a muck sweat of embarrassment in the middle of the night, be it in a Novotel or the car. No way can you predict the future.

So quite simply, not getting carried away when you're standing in front of that Investec sponsors' board being given the three degrees by Ian Ward is omniportant. And Dave Podmore's going to take a bow for helping the lads do themselves justice after Trent Bridge. It all went well in the end, but believe me, it's been a long, hard road.

When the ECB first sent Ian Bell to me for a bit of coaching in his interview technique I had no idea what a mess the lad was in. In terms of post-match chat he was at the bottom of a conversational doldrum so deep I didn't think even James Cameron could have reached him in his submarine, let alone Dave Podmore. To be fair, it took me a week to get Belly to say "Yeah no." We started practising on the outfield at the National Performance Centre at Loughborough way back in April on a bitterly cold morning, the Red Bull condensing on my breath as I mentored the tongue-tied West Midlander.

It would have taken a Wordsworth or maybe a Mark Pougatch to do justice to the scene as the ground-staff lads painted over the Clydesdale boundary boards, while in the air was a smell of newly mown BetFair CashOut logos being cut into the outfield. I was stood behind a cardboard cut-out of Wardy serving up questions - really easy underarm stuff like "Have you drawn a line in the sand and moved on?" and "Are you in a good place right now?"

I've still got the train-wreck footage we took of some of Belly's early answers. "I'm happy with my technique but concerned about the broader issues such as the decline of sport in schools and the apparent monopoly Sky has on international cricket." It was heartbreaking stuff. There's a place for self-important holier-than-thou cobblers and it's called Facebook.

We reached rock bottom one desperate afternoon when he started going on about American TV being so much edgier than home-grown fare, e.g. Breaking Bad, The Wire etc. Pod kids you not, it was worse than listening to Ed Smith talking to Jeremy Coney between overs. But I gradually wore Belly down and changed his mindset by playing him tapes of my record-breaking 135 "You can't legislate for's" in a wide-ranging 4am chat with Goughy on TalkSport. The rest is Ashes post-match interview history.

So a good start to the campaign but we've been careful not to get complacent or to sit around on our laurels presentation-wise in the run-up to Lord's. There's still nine Tests to go, which means a lot of gaps to be filled, a lot of dead airtime while Erasmusy's successor in the third ump's room takes ten minutes to switch over from Cash in the Attic to the Hot Spot channel.

And we need to iron out some of the commentary wrinkles from Trent Bridge. Tuffers missed a golden opportunity to giggle hysterically for 20 minutes after Blowers lobbed him an absolute dolly of a double-entendre on a par with the legendary "leg over" blooper. Aggers tours the world with that - there's a DVD, there's a cake, there's a ringtone, there's an after-dinner speech in five languages, there's a range of trousers advertised in the back of the Radio Times, there's even talk of an opera starring Tim Brooke-Taylor at the Nottingham Playhouse.

Yet what does Tuffers do? Says "Never mind, let's move on, talk about the cricket." All those years of quality banter on A Question of Sport - "Is that a tennis racket Sue, or are you just pleased to see me?" - tossed recklessly out of the window. Some might call it a basic schoolboy humour error. To Pod's way of thinking, it was a complete lack of professionalism.

My question is, should Tuffers have walked? Pod's giving him the benefit of the doubt this time, but he must know there are guys like Fred Flintoff and Rob Key waiting in the wings, banter at the ready. Some of their post All Bar One exchanges on Twitter about having to read Shakespeare at school - Fred to Keysy: "The Merchant Of Venice could have taken 30 pounds of flesh from you and not even notice!" - have been world-class. If your tweeting thumb's quick enough, you're good enough.

Dave Podmore, holder of more giant cheques than any other cricketer, is the creation of Christopher Douglas, Nick Newman and Andrew Nickolds

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