Look at me, my banner's great

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The Independent Online
As veterans of BSkyB's cricket coverage will confirm, there's nothing a satellite television cameraman finds more interesting than a really massive pair of breasts. It has always fascinated me that so many well-endowed young women with frighteningly low-cut shirts should happen to attend so many Test matches in Australia, and that the cameras are always positioned so that the television audience can stare straight down their cleavages. No doubt it's pure coincidence, a joyous collision of circumstances that no one, not even Geoffrey Boycott himself, could have forseen. And if that's true, I'm Reginald Maudling.

But in India the cameramen are having a much tougher time of it. Vital cultural differences have meant a shortage of readily available mammaries, and to compensate, the cameramen are having to seek out other attractions. As a result, we've seen an awful lot of smiling young Indians holding up banners referring hilariously to Gooch's dietary problems, the word 'runs' usually figuring prominently.

But then appalling puns are the very lifeblood of the banner makers. 'Tendulkar' is magically transformed into '50-dulkar', or, from next week no doubt, '165-dulkar'. Yo ho ho, smile the English players as they lean over their lavatory bowls. But thinking up the sort of wild, wacky, pithy banner headlines that catch cameramen's eyes is not a simple process. Hours, if not days, of back-breaking, pencil-chewing, creative toil attend the creation of each one. 'Twinkle twinkle little star, Sachin is a superstar' - well, I doubt even Wordsworth in his prime could have come up with a couplet as resonant as that. 'East or west, India is best.' It's not just on the cricket field that they've got us beaten.

Some banners are more cryptic. One I saw on Friday read, 'Mr Henry, it is Good Hearing about Earrings', which may be a reference to the South African off-spinner Omar Henry, or, more probably, a sign of incipient mental collapse. And one young Indian lovely, who obviously knew on which side her bread was buttered, held up a banner that read, 'I am Proud to be Indian, But I Love an English Cameraman.'

But then, it is the cameramen at whom these banners are obviously aimed. After all, many banners refer to events far away from the actual cricket being played ('Bring Back Gower'). Few people who hold up a notice saying 'Hello Mum' do so to attract the attention of a lost parent on the other side of the stadium. As it is, most banners seem to have been written on exercise books in biro. If you were sitting on the other side of the stadium, you'd need the Hubble telescope to read them.

Dotted in and amongst the crowd, though, are a few sad pale figures, wearing ill-fitting Essex County Cricket Club sweatshirts and smiling inanely in the way you do when your side is being mashed into the ground. Unfortunately, despite greater resources, the English have been disappointing on the banner front. One I saw read 'Shrewsbury Portsmouth', which sounded like the sort of name pompous British characters were always given in Hollywood films of the 1930s. Most Brits just waved a Union Jack every time an Indian wicket fell, which needless to say was not that often.

It's all a far cry from the great days of British sport, when the simple truth that 'Norman Hunter Bites Yer Legs' resounded across the world. Perhaps we should attempt to resuscitate the lost art of banner-making in this country, at least before the Australians come over this summer. Well, it's either that or the silicon implants . . .

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