Sport on TV: The times are a-changin' but can we change the ball too?
Sunday 18 November 2012
It wasn't just the inclusion of a Compton that made the First Test in India seem like a trip back in time. There was also the lack of a Decision Review System, so it didn't resemble a PlayStation game, and the Sky Sports commentators – like the umpires – had to go back to relying on their own faulty judgement. Not only that, but the pundits were stuck back in a studio in England, just like the dark ages before Sky Sports revolutionised winter cricket coverage.
Then there was the fact that England were being ground into the dust. Regaining their No 1 status seems even further away than Ahmedabad, and quite a lot of dust is gathering in the Lord's trophy cabinet ahead of next summer's all-important tussle with Australia for sport's smallest trinket.
Virender Sehwag was happy to turn back time, even if he likes to make rapid progress. "No century for 31 Test innings," intoned David Lloyd before Sehwag faced a ball. When the opener played a forward defensive to his first delivery, Jimmy Anderson appeared to taunt him with the barb: "Are you playing yourself in?", and that was far too much tempting of the fates. Sehwag was soon slogging away like a caveman with a club in his hands.
After just six overs, Anderson tried to get the ball changed. The reason was "water on the ball", according to Nick Knight. Charles Colvile had described Ahmedabad as the Manchester of India, but it doesn't share the same climate and no one knew where the aforesaid water had come from. It looked more like a case of an opening bowler with water on the brain.
According to Bumble, the ball was "dribbling" and "trickling through to the keeper" on a low, slow pitch. Not much to whet the appetite then. It sounded more like an attack of Delhi belly.
When Cheteshwar Pujara arrived at the crease, England must have thought they had travelled to the subcontinent in a time machine. The new boy was a reincarnation of Rahul Dravid, who could always make time stand still. They called him "The Wall", and now Bumble said it had been rebuilt. That was where the constructive criticism ended. England had picked the wrong team, they should have played Monty Panesar; that much was obvious after an hour's play.
But the pundits were strangely backward in coming forward when Jonathan Trott tried to claim a catch that had obviously hit the floor. Not only was it an outrageous attempt at deceit, but it was a terrible drop too. The slip fielder had actually rolled on the ball, so he might have realised that it wasn't in his hand. Then England tried to get the little orb changed again, presumably because Trott's body had bent it out of shape. Two desperate tactics in one.
England had at least got Sachin Tendulkar out just before tea on the first day. Samit Patel took the catch in the deep gratefully, as if someone had lobbed him a cherry muffin. It's saying something when the "Little Master" is the weakest link in the top order.
Graeme Swann must have thought England hadn't just made one mistake in their selection, they had got the whole of the rest of the team wrong. "It's a good contest," said Lloyd. "It'll tell England a lot about themselves." But they might want to block their ears a bit better than they block the spinners.
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