On the Front Foot: Cricket on the Beeb is a joke but the Empire strikes back

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The Independent Online

In essence the coverage of cricket on BBC Television is a national disgrace. There has not been any to speak of since they lost the rights to live Test coverage 11 years ago and the perfunctory nature of their occasional forays into the world of highlights merely highlights, as it were, their lack of enthusiasm. It is all they can do to get a Test match score on the main television news bulletins and their lack of zeal, endeavour and obligation to the game is at odds with the general excellence of the coverage on BBC Radio. Anybody who ever moans about Sky having live rights to English cricket – and they should not – ought to bear that in mind. Therefore, it is important to welcome with jubilation and surprise the splendid new series which begins on BBC2 tonight. 'Empire of Cricket' does what it hints, exploring the history of the game in four corners of the British Empire. It begins with England and then visits the West Indies, Australia and India. The opening programme tonight at 10pm examines the development of the game in England taking WG Grace, and how he changed the game forever, as its starting point. Its gripping theme is how the game thrived in spite of the differentiation between amateurs and professionals, gentlemen and players. Some facets are dealt with too lightly, occasionally the narration lacks spark and poetry, but this is to quibble and Alastair Laurence, the producer-director has done a loving job and chosen his contributors carefully. It might even wake up some people in telly at the Beeb in this Ashes year to the fact that they could and jolly well should do better.

Warne not on same page

Two engrossing books are out listing the world's top hundred cricketers. Engrossing, of course, because lists simply are that, part of the fun being to disagree with the compiler and also because these have been assembled by Christopher Martin-Jenkins and Shane Warne. Both are shrewd, experienced judges. CMJ has picked his 100 best of all time, Warne the top 100 of his time. It is nonetheless instructive, the first containing 34 England players and 24 Australians, the second 16 from England, 29 from Australia. A quarter of players make the cut in both books, demonstrating the preponderance of cricket in the past 20 years. Sachin Tendulkar is number one for Warne, nine for CMJ, Adam Gilchrist is 10 for CMJ but only 16 for Warne, Allan Border four for Warne, 55 in CMJ. Fascinating.

T20 out of this world

According to a missive from the ICC, the World Twenty20 can be seen in 218 countries around the world. Considering that there are only 194 recognised countries on this planet, the spread of T20 is indeed worryingly galactic.

Sparks fly in Cardiff

One of the biggest clashes in the Ashes is already being fought. It is concerned with the First Test in Cardiff, already beset by controversy because it is in Cardiff. As part of its revamp, Sophia Gardens has taken (temporarily as with all these sponsorship deals) the name of a public utility firm which deals in electricity. But the Tests themselves are already sponsored by a rival, npower, who are desperate to ensure their competitors are given no publicity and that the ground retains its original name. So it should.