Sport on TV: Man with golden helmet heads the rush for cash
Sunday 20 April 2008
In 1969, Apollo XI put man on the moon. In 2008, Brendon McCullum put a cricket ball on it. When the Kolkata Knight Riders emerged on to the Indian Premier League launchpad in Bangalore (Setanta, Friday) in their black and gold-lamé spacesuits, it looked as if the world of cricket had indeed changed, as we had been promised in the long countdown. But we were travelling back in time – to the Seventies. On Planet Bollywood, the stars looked like Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. And the outfits had nothing on West Indies' pink velour numbers in Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket.
McCullum produced an extraordinary innings for the lift-off. Sixes flew like a meteor shower. But the Royal Challengers of Bangalore utterly failed to rise to the challenge and the general euphoria came crashing to earth like a cheap firework. The "highlight" of the second innings was Ricky Ponting dropping a dolly – a Flat Champagne Moment, if not quite a Gary Pratt Moment. He had been bemused to be "auctioned off" for just $400,000, $1m less than his Aussie team-mate Andrew Symonds. Now he knows why.
From the Seventies to the Eighties: what's with these "Knight Riders"? Has there ever been a team named after a children's television series before? The Million Dollar Men may be more appropriate. And surely there must be an A-Team somewhere.
In one-day internationals on the subcontinent, the man of the match often wins a motorbike that he rides around the outfield. So why was McCullum not presented with a talking car, or at least a David Hasselhoff chest wig?
At first glance, the IPL looks no different to the Twenty20 Cup pioneered in England, apart from the Washington Redskins cheerleaders. They should have been accompanied by Mark Ramprakash, but he was too busy scoring more runs in county cricket. The format is similar: three or four big names, a couple of them from overseas, and the rest of the team made up of a bunch of local lads who have a chance to make a name for themselves in front of decent crowds for a change. The difference, of course, is money. As county players shiver here, they must all wish they were in the sun earning a fortune.
Graeme Hick showed how much the money helps in the XXXX Gold Beach Cricket competition in Australia, now in its second year and airing on Sky Sports. He earned £20,000 for three weeks' "work" and hit eight sixes in two overs off Dennis Lillee and Damien Fleming. The hosts racked up the highest-ever score, 126 for 0, in eight overs, but England knocked them off in just six, and Mark Waugh was reduced to rolling the ball along the ground, Trevor Chappell-style. Hick flicked it up with his boot and smashed it into the sea. That's the way it should have been in the Nineties, Hicky.
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