Brian Viner: Chat with cricketing chicken farmer is best of radio ga ga

Chiles had either not done his homework or had been disastrously briefed

For all the endless versions of It'll Be Alright on the Night, there is something infinitely more precious about cock-ups on the radio than cock-ups on television.

There is an intimacy about radio that the telly lacks, and for pure, glorious, gigglesome gold, nothing visual has ever matched the Test Match Special exchange between the late, lamented Brian Johnston and Jonathan Agnew - "Oh, do stop it, Aggers" - following the innocent observation that Ian Botham had failed to get his leg over (the wicket). Rory Bremner recently selected it as one of his Desert Island discs, and it would be one of mine, too.

I also have some painful personal experience of things going wrong on the radio. A few years back I used to make an occasional contribution to The Johnnie Walker Show on Radio 2; the producer would phone me at home, as arranged, at 6.54pm, and for a couple of minutes I would impart some dubious wisdom down the line.

Normally, I would ensure that my young children were busily occupied well away from my office. But on the fateful - and for my fledgling broadcasting career, fatal - evening, the message hadn't reached me that I was due on the show. And at 6.54pm, when the producer called a minute before I went live on air, my three-year-old son was on the toilet adjacent to my office.

At 6.55, Johnnie duly introduced me, and a few seconds later my little boy yelled, also live on air: "Daddy, can you wipe my bottom!"

I tried to ignore him, tried to carry on bantering with Johnnie, but then my boy burst into the room and, with loud exasperation, said to me and whatever small fraction of the nation was listening to Radio 2 at the time, "Daddy, I've done a POO, can you wipe my BOTTOM!"

I relate that story as a prelude to printing a verbatim account of parts of the conversation between Adrian Chiles, of Radio Five Live, and the former Zimbabwe cricketer, Eddo Brandes. I heard it the Saturday before last, while driving, and nearly veered off the road with delight.

Brandes, incidentally, was the chubby tail-ender who, when batting against Glenn McGrath, infuriated the Australian by edging a four through the slips. "Why are you so fat?" McGrath snarled at him. "Because every time I have sex with your wife," Brandes shot back, "she gives me a biscuit."

I've heard that story many times (sometimes credited to others) and it rarely fails to amuse. Brandes told it to Chiles, but much, much funnier was the fact that Chiles (and let me say right here that I yield to nobody in my admiration for him and his excellent show, Chiles on Saturday) had either not done his homework, or had been disastrously briefed.

Chiles: "Let's go back to 1992, the year that Zimbabwe gained Test status, that year they played England in a World Cup match Down Under and remarkably they won... The Zimbabwe hero that day was Eddo Brandes... How are you?"

Brandes (on the telephone, somewhere far away): "Good, very good, thank you."

Chiles: "Erm, you were known as the... you were a chicken farmer by trade, weren't you?"

Brandes: "Yes, that was my profession."

Chiles: "And, er, how did Zimbabwe cricket fans take to you, as, er, as... as... a black man playing in the team?"

Brandes (bewildered): "Er, sorry, as a black man?"

Chiles (realising to his horror that Brandes is not, nor has ever been, a black man): "Well, no, sorry, no, how did you... were... given, given the erm, g.... g... given the... sorry... the atmosphere at the time in Zimbabwe, what was, what was the racial mix of the team?"

Brandes: "Erm, when I played it was predominantly white, but there were a few black players towards the end of my career."

Chiles: "And what, and how... did the victory against England come about?"

Brandes: "It was remarkable that we beat them, no, look, it was a low-scoring game and we happened to come up trumps on that day."

Chiles: "Right, you got to the final though, so it was a remarkable performance all round."

Brandes: "What, the final of the World Cup?"

Chiles (realising to his horror that Zimbabwe emphatically did not reach the final of the 1992 World Cup): "Yeah, I mean, you... the performance generally of the team was a good... was a good performance... I mean England got to the final so it was a... it was a... to beat them was... to beat them was an achievement."

Brandes: "Yeah, it was. We actually had quite a good World Cup, in the sense that we played quite well."

Chiles: "OK, do you think Zimbabwe can salvage anything in this [first] Test match?"

Brandes: "If you can give me the score quickly, I haven't heard the score."

Chiles (by now clearly rattled): "England were 470 or something in the first... er... first... er... first... er..."

Brandes: "Innings."

Chiles: "Innings."

b.viner@independent.co.uk

Comments