Sport On TV: Grim for England while Greg grins and wears thin

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The Independent Online
People always used to complain that British tennis players lacked a killer instinct, but it is not a charge you could level at Greg Rusedski. After he had beaten Tim Henman in Hanover on Friday afternoon, the Eurosport anchorman pointed out that in order for Rusedski to progress any further in the tournament, Albert Costa, who had never won an indoor match before, would have to beat Alex Corretja a few hours later.

"Realistically, he's got to win for the first time in 16 tries, but you never know," Rusedski said with his trademark goofy grin. "Tonya Harding could be coming to town before the match and anything could happen."

Had a masked assassin indeed appeared from nowhere and smashed Corretja's knee to bits on the way to the match, Rusedski would undoubtedly have been shocked and distressed (not to mention under arrest). He was only joking, after all. But as jokes go, this was a bit rich, not least because it was only Andre Agassi's injury which let him into the tournament in the first place, where two victories earned him $270,000 and squeezed him back into the world's top 10.

Perhaps he just assumed that because it was Eurosport, no one was watching, and to be fair, the post-match interview suite was not about to persuade him otherwise. For a start, there was the blue Formica table around which Rusedski, Pat Cash and Heinz Gunthardt, the anchorman, had arranged themselves on bar stools. It was as Seventies as Rick Wakeman, and even less attractive. Then there was the lack of a microphone stand, which meant that Rusedski had to hold the mike himself.

And above all, he might well have caught the earlier moment, as the interview with Henman drew to a close, when Gunthardt reminded him to be sure to leave "the antenna" behind on his way out. It was, clearly, the only one they had.

If Cash had been hired to make the surrounding studio look presentable, it didn't work. Yet despite - or perhaps because of - the obvious lack of a worthwhile budget, it is hard not to like Eurosport. For one thing, they are touchingly devoted to their Euro-ness. Where Sky Sports would fill a break with plugs for another part of the Murdoch sausage-machine, Eurosport runs public information films on the single currency. Viewers in any one of a dozen or more countries receive live commentary on the action in their own language. And while the studio discussions are in English, no one feels left out, because the presenters' accents tend to be so thick that viewers from Britain to Belarus are left equally perplexed.

There were plenty of bemused souls at four o'clock on Monday morning too, asking themselves why on earth they had sacrificed an entire night's sleep in order to watch a cloudburst over Brisbane. And at that very moment, as if the memory of England's shambolic batting performance was not sufficiently fresh in the mind, Sky's producer decided to plug the gap by showing it all again. Someone should remind whoever is in charge that Rupert Murdoch is not an Australian any more.

So grim was the sight of English batsmen marching back to the pavilion every five minutes (or 10 if the drinks break had intervened) that the mind was forced to look elsewhere for entertainment. For instance, towards the man who was sitting just above the right shoulder of first slip when the bowling was from the Vulture Street End and the slo-mo camera was looking from midwicket. He was, it seems fair to assume, a newly arrived Brit. On the first day, his bare torso was probably white and he would have needed just one seat. By the fifth morning, he was bright pink and his beer gut was spread out across three. If only the cricketers could have shown the same devotion to duty.

But no. When Michael Atherton threw away his wicket just half an hour into the final day, someone in the commentary box suggested that "he could be appearing in the next Bugs Bunny film with Glenn McGrath." But what as? Elmer Fudd? Daffy Duck? A carrot?

It was one of the stranger observations in a week which had its fair share. During Liverpool's match with Celta Vigo on Tuesday, for instance, it was noted that the Spanish side's manager was "like an orchestral conductor, conducting his troops". Or even his orchestra.

Bruce Grobbelaar, meanwhile, seemed to suggest during an interview with John Inverdale (BBC1) that his match-rigging court case was a personal tragedy to compare with Heysel and Hillsborough. Nothing, though, was quite as off-beam as one of Inverdale's comments earlier in the same interview. "Whatever else you may achieve in the future," he told Grobbelaar, "a lot of people will always think of you in terms of that trial." Which is, of course, complete nonsense. What everyone will always think of him in terms of is that video.

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