On the front foot: Love him or loathe him, it's impossible to ignore Clarke
Sunday 01 March 2009
Forget the cricket, the week's most memorable presence in Barbados has been Giles Clarke. He has variously attempted to charm the media, thank his wide circle of supporters (9,000 emails, he claims), and mock his enemies.
It has been, in its way, a riveting spectacle, not least because he has managed to avoid fully addressing the sleazy love affair that the England and Wales Cricket Board enjoyed with Allen Stanford and from which they have now extricated themselves. This has further annoyed those who see Clarke as the devil incarnate.
No sooner had Clarke been confirmed as the ECB chairman for a second term than he offered himself for interview by all and sundry. The upshot was feathers being spat. Rod Bransgrove, the chairman of Hampshire who is Tom to Clarke's Jerry, was understandably miffed at the scathing references to himself. A day later, an email arrived from the Hampshire Cricket Members Committee, defending their owner and saviour. Sides have been taken. Sir Ian Botham, once recruited by Clarke during his tenure as Somerset chairman, is now firmly aligned with the Bransgrove camp. News has also emerged of Clarke's elderly mother being pestered by reporters. For what reason, nobody has yet adequately explained. Clarke courts controversy because he excites opinions, and while he will not be resigning he will add to the gaiety of the nation.
Ashton knows the score
'Test Match Special' has appointed a new scorer to replace the late Bill Frindall. He is the genial Malcolm Ashton, who is already familiar to listeners as BBC Radio's one-day scorer. Ashton has a splendid track record. He has the doubtful distinction of being England's last official scorer on tour, a job he did (together with that of all-round organiser) with accuracy and joie de vivre until it was decreed that an official scorer on tour was no longer needed. He knows that he has a hard act to follow in Frindall but Ashton, who was in Barbados to test the water this week, may not be quite so eager to intervene in the commentary.
Tharanga fails first test
Amid the plethora of Test runs scored in the past few days, Philip Hughes (pictured below) and Tharanga Paranavitana might have felt distinctly alienated. There can be no lonelier feeling than being a Test opening batsman making a duck in your maiden innings. Paranavitana, in Karachi, and Hughes, in Johannesburg, became the 35th and 36th examples of Test openers to score nought on debut. Len Hutton remains perhaps the most illustrious after 72 years. Paranavitana's plight was slightly worse than that of Hughes, who at least faced three balls. He is one of only a handful of openers dismissed by the first ball they received in Tests, though he might have been given succour by his partner. The same fate befell Malinga Warnapura in 2007.
Windies tour a turn-on
The West Indies is a good tour for cricket on satellite television and therefore, by association, for Giles Clarke. He was a prime mover in negotiating the original deal with BSkyB and whatever the rights, wrongs or misgivings, has seen off his assorted opponents – including the likes of Mark Nicholas, who might have seen a return to terrestrial as his only way back into live UK coverage. The last day of the Antigua Test, astonishingly, drew Sky's largest-ever coverage for Test cricket at 1.2 million viewers. That the match took place was in many ways down to Clarke's drive. He is imperfect; his opponents look a rabble.
s.brenkley@ independent .co.uk
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