Sport on TV: Tall order for Broad beanpole to be a celebratory celebrity
Sunday 06 September 2009
There was no open-top bus ride though Trafalgar Square, no vomiting in the gardens of No 10 this time. Winning the Ashes was celebrated in a more muted fashion. But then Stuart Broad was invited on to the new series of Friday Night With Jonathan Ross (BBC1, Friday) and was greeted by the "Four Poofs and a Piano" wearing T-shirts bearing his cherubic features. Well not the piano, but still, what greater accolade could there be?
Fortunately, Ross doesn't know enough about cricket to bring up the dreaded question "Are you the new Flintoff?" – in the way that Freddie lived with the burden of being the next, long-awaited Ian Botham. For someone as lofty as six foot six, Broad seems to be keeping himself nicely grounded – even when the South Africans kept calling him "Baywatch" last summer because he looked like Pamela Anderson. He may feel a little fearful of this winter's tour of South Africa. It gets lonely up there on the high veld.
The 23-year-old appeared painfully shy to start with – he looked about 12 – and he is not likely to develop the cult of celebrity in quite the way that Flintoff did, even though he could well out-perform him in cricketing terms. But at least he can say that he had an all-star net with Ross, Jamie Oliver, Ricky Gervais – decked out in pink helmet and pads and squealing like a girl – and, even more improbably, Mika.
Cricket doesn't really need celebrities. It already has personalities in abundance, unlike many other sports, not least because the game is played in the mind – and there is plenty of time for thinking.
What cricket really needs is popularity, to build busily on the success of the Ashes campaign. Which is why it was so ghastly to see the second Twenty20 International against Australia (Sky Sports 1, Tuesday) abandoned without a ball bowled at Old Trafford because of a couple of yards of rather muddy turf.
The Twenty20 format is supposed to be the "people's game", as Nick Knight kept saying, but 19,000 spectators – many of whom would have been attending their first-ever cricket match – stood around in utter bemusement in the evening sunshine.
Such was the sense of outrage building up in the stands and the studio, there was a level of excitement as palpable as anything that the game could have produced. Thousands of emails "flooded in" but according to the Sky anchorman, Ian Ward, they were flooding into the room next door and so he couldn't read them out. Everyone seem to be paralysed.
Surely they could have laid on some kind of entertainment for all those who had forked out £50. England's fast bowlers sending down a few bouncers at a selection of heavily padded celebrities might have been just the ticket. Pamela Anderson could have delivered a couple of bouncers of her own.
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