Sport on TV: Little Master is stuck on 99 and looking a bit flaky

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The Independent Online

Come on Aussies, play the game. As if it wasn't bad enough that the old cricketing enemy seem to be in the process of becoming a half-decent team again, they are also refusing to let Sachin Tendulkar get his 100th international century.

It is turning into a long wait. He scored his 99th at the World Cup in March and after a lean summer in England he has been getting closer and closer. Now the "Little Master" is banging on the door with his big bat.

The strain is starting to tell on the neutral cricket fan, let alone a billion Indians. When he finally gets there, the outpouring of joy could lead to half a billion more. Or will he be like Don Bradman, who is forever stuck on a Test average of 99?

During the Second Test in Sydney (Sky Sports 1), Sachin spoke of his admiration for the Don but even that didn't stop the Aussie pundits from having a go at him. "That's where Sachin gets into trouble," growled Ian Chappell, complaining that Tendulkar tends to go "from fifth gear to first" as he approaches an interval in play or a century. "Tendulkar's a bit sporadic with his thinking," added the ever-thoughtful Ian Healy.

Even Mark Nicholas stashed away his book of superlatives and goshes and gee-whizzes to put the knife in. "He reminds me of a golfer who gets older and forgets how to putt. It's like a fear of failure." Suddenly everyone knows what's wrong with Tendulkar. Racing to a transcendent 80 is simply not good enough any more.

Only Bill Lawry remains in awe, and Tendulkar is not even from the state of Victoria. "Ah! Absolutely superb! Any juniors watching... seniors as well... Glorious stroke! Soft hands! The Little Master! Don't leave your chairs!" Unlike the man himself, there's no stopping Lawry when he's in full flow. Even the funereal tones of Tony Greig can't keep him down. When Tendulkar finally gets to the elusive three figures, there will be bits of Lawry splattered all over the walls of the commentary box.

Greig's deadpan, meanwhile, is causing the okkers and larrikins in the box plenty of amusement. "You're the man, Tony," exclaimed Mark Taylor. "You're the kiss of death for him." And sure enough, Greig took the mic, the lads took the mickey and Sachin stuttered, slowed, then ground to a halt.

Sadly the same could not be said for the commentators. If there's one thing worse than the Australians winning, it's Australians gloating.

* As if a new year fitness regime isnot a frightening enough prospect already... The new series of Fat Fighters (Channel 4, Tuesday) introduced four personal trainers of bizarre proportions. If Miss Red Hot Dalia, 6ft 2in with a rasping Eastern European accent, doesn't get you with her whips and leather, then Matt Miller the Pillar, three-times super-heavyweight bodybuilding champion from Venice Beach, probably will.

"You look nervous, Sharon," Miller said to one of the new clients. "We're not going to bite you." But Sharon was looking like she had some excess fat to chew on.

Then Dan Corbett, complete with bleached mohican, said: "If I was gonna sum myself up in five words I'd say I was a 'bad animal'." So he can't count. At least if he tells you to do 20 press-ups you could probably get away with only doing 15.