Sport on TV: Aussies are left looking for a hero in virtual world
Sunday 13 November 2011
Cricket is facing a test of credibility – but not because some players cheat. It's also because of the number of nurdlers and sloggers masquerading as Test cricketers. Last summer's series against India was billed as the battle for the world No 1 slot but they sent over a pub team – though admittedly one with a rather good ringer in Sachin Tendulkar. Now South Africa and Australia are contesting the main series of the winter as if it was an Under-9s house match. It's becoming difficult to tellif a player is deliberately underperforming or if he's just rubbish.
The second day's play at Cape Town (Sky Sports 1, Thursday) was only the third time in the history of Test cricket that there have been all four innings in one day. 96 all out? Pah, that's a decent score compared to the Aussies' 21 for 9. After that, 47 all out seemed almost respectable.
Admittedly the ball was zipping past the outside edge at regular intervals, but Robin Jackman was wrong when he said: "You want to be bowling at Nos 1, 2 and 3 so they're good enough to nick it." This Australian top order couldn't hit a beach ball with Geoffrey Boycott's grandmother's stick of rhubarb, fool.
South Africa come to our shores next summer for another series billed as a battle of the titans and the likes of Jackman and Kepler Wessels will deaden the airwaves with their utter lack of charisma. But while they drone on drearily, at least there is the Billy Bowden Show to maintain the levels of excitement.
The Cape Town Test was notable for its almost continuous use of the Decision Referral System. Admittedly it doesn't help when 23 wickets fall in one day but there was almost more virtual footage than live action. With bails flying everywhere it was like a new version of Call of Duty, were it not for the gross dereliction of duty shown by the players.
Bowden has made a name for himself as the world's flamboyant umpire since the tearful farewell of the lachrymose Dickie Bird, and even off camera as the TV umpire he is the centre of attention. He would make an estimable gameshow host, although in the current climate we had better not call it Billy'll Fix It.
* In his sobering film Unreported World: Going for Gold in Gaza (Channel 4, Friday) Aidan Hartley makes the point that in Palestine those who die are the heroes, not sportsmen. Their paralympic team for London 2012 falls somewhere between the two: many amputees are created by Israel's retaliatory air strikes, while disabilities are also commonplace because of interbreeding born of poverty and living in what is effectively a prison.
The athletes' progress is hampered by the lack of available prosthetic limbs. Fatma the shotputter may be the only female athlete to make it to London but she is waiting for a leg whose parts are stuck in the airport in Tel Aviv. It would be the first time that a female paralympian from Palestine had ever competed abroad because conservative family values usually prohibit their participation.
The men's team captain, discus thrower Hameez, must wait half an hour for a taxi to take him to training because he is in a wheelchair, and when they do pick him up they often charge him three times the going rate. At least this is good preparation for coming to London next year.
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