Stephen Brenkley: Bizarre muzzling of commentators only serves to raise their stock

On The Front Foot: Sky's merry band of pundits were denied the chance to describe the action from the first one-day international

Being a commentator who is prevented from commentating is like being a player who is not in the team. Sometimes your stock can rise without your lifting a finger, purely because of the failings of others. Thus, as Ian Bell was, somewhat oddly, left out of England's side on Friday night, his colleagues contrived to be dismissed for 174 and Bell was left looking more of a batting genius than he already is. Not his fault, guv.

Similarly, Sky's merry band of pundits were denied (by who knows what or whom is still unclear) the chance to describe the action from the first one-day international in Hyderabad. For the first three overs of the match there were no pictures anywhere, after which there were pictures everywhere but, in the United Kingdom, no familiar voices. Sir Ian Botham, David Lloyd, Paul Allott and Nick Knight were all silenced. BSkyB, kings of UK television cricket, were as astonished as they were mystified by the muzzling.

All manner of reasons were being suggested for the refusal of the Indian authorities to let the coverage proceed as planned – the favourite (if probably wrong) being that Indian officials were unhappy about some of their commentators being prevented from commentating in England last summer because of the lack of the required work permits and were operating a tit-for-tat policy. Either way, Sky were left with the Indian host-broadcaster voices, which included Dermot Reeve and Matthew Hoggard. Lloyd et al were much missed and looking like broadcasting gods.

Fitting send-off for Ashes hero

A memorial service will be held for Graham Dilley on 9 November in Worcester Cathedral. Dilley, one of England's fastest bowlers, died earlier this month at the age of 52 after a short illness. He was singled out early for greatness, the youngest England player for 30 years when he was first picked in 1979, though he never quite realised the depth of his talent. Although he played 41 Test matches and appeared in two Ashes-winning series, he was on the winning side in only two matches – at Headingley in 1981 and at Brisbane in 1986. It was a pleasure to have known him.



Snow still going strong at 70

Belated birthday hosannas to another truly great England fast bowler. John Snow was 70 last Thursday, is as fit, patricianly handsome and no doubt as contrary as ever. Snow played a key role in one of the greatest of all Ashes triumphs in 1970-71 (not to mention his part in the victory in the West Indies in 1967-68). His 31 wickets in the Ashes victory did not prevent him being fined his tour fee. As he recalled: "After a while we just ignored the tour management for the good of the team and Ray Illingworth, the captain, called the shots." Notthat it's needed, but it is difficult to imagine such mutiny happening now.



Pros and cons of Eurosport

Perhaps BSkyB are not too fussed, what with all their other concerns. But perhaps, too, it is good news for the British cricket follower that Eurosport have snaffled another series. They will show the matches between Pakistan, England's next opponents in the new year, and Sri Lanka in the United Arab Emirates. But perhaps not. The shortcoming once more is that there will be no Lloyd and Co and precious little insight provided. As Nasser Hussain, one of England's two best captains of the past 30 years, used to say: "You're always a better player when you're not in the team."



s.brenkley@independent.co.uk

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