Robin Scott-Elliot: Coalition produces mixed results as Twenty20 gets sexy
View From The Sofa: ICC World Twenty20, Sky Sports
Monday 10 May 2010
Coalition may be a whole new ball game here, but over in the Caribbean it could not be working better as three South Africans, an Irishman and some Englishmen have joined together under the guidance of a Zimbabwean to see off a whole lot more South Africans and some Irishmen with South Africans and Australians stirred in. It's complicated.
Describing the ICC World Twenty20, as every commentator calls it for fear of the wrath of the ICC, a collection of Indians, Aussies, the English and Vince Cable (I think), is a commentary coalition. Each country has sent along their best speaker – insert your own John Bercow joke here – to form a sort of Commonwealth talking shop. Talking up Sky's cricket commentary team has become something of a theme of this column and it is when they have to share a mic with colleagues from around the world that their ability is most apparent.
The one issue with Sky is sartorial, as they insist in dressing their men in matching outfits. In London, Ian Ward, Michael Atherton and Nick Knight were kitted out in blue polo shirts and some sort of khaki slack. Ward and Knight resembled holiday reps from an upmarket travel firm taking the youthfully challenged on tours of French chateaux. In which case, Atherton was the one who loads the luggage as this is a man who can crumple a shirt with one glance. It's probably what becomes of spending too long at creases.
Nasser Hussain and David Lloyd – cricket's Clegg and Cable – were the lucky duo in Barbados. They were split up among their international colleagues and were comfortably the best of the bunch, although the Kiwi Simon Doull is a likeable Antipodean straight talker with a wry twist. The remainder are graduates of the Roy Walker school of commentary. They say what they see, and then say it again. And again. There was the occasional gem. Eoin Morgan has very strong wrists for a little man – which explains why you so rarely see little men arm wrestling.
A World Twenty20 in Barbados is a made-for-TV event; entertaining and at times spectacular viewing, even if there have been few really close results. The fielding is breathtaking and some of the batsmanship is completely unexpected, as if David Gower had chosen a red with the fish course, or Ian Botham voted Labour.
The totals scored compare with what counties used to reach in double the overs in the old John Player League. To those of a certain generation the JPL was as sexy as cricket got, and not just because of the fags as it tumbled over hour upon hour of Sunday Grandstand, apart from when they went off to the show jumping. In those days a strike rate was what police were paid for beating up miners and every game inv-olved a squat man from Northants hurling down flat off-spinners.
The suitably square Michael Yardy at least offers an evolutionary link with those days, although his impudent step outside off stump to conjure a leg-side boundary in the last over against South Africa was anything but old-fashioned.
On the radio, too, coverage of cricket maintains its touch. But in this age of relentless change more barriers were broken down on Saturday and leading the charge was one esteemed cricket correspondent, who, while discussing Kevin Pietersen's impending fatherhood, surely broke Test Match Special's duck in this area by confessing his "ignorance of gynaecological affairs".
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