Dom Joly: The cricket-loving Aussie is an endangered species

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The Independent Online

I've been in my Indonesian hideaway for 10 days now, and my world view has shrunk to the size of the little bay that we're living in. News of the world has been reduced to five headlines posted by my friend Kaj on the dive site board every morning. They are to be found under the heading "News from the outside".

As we kit up, ready to do battle with Japanese divers equipped with space-age photographic equipment in our attempts to capture the flamboyant cuttlefish or the elusive airy frogfish on camera, we scan this information from another world. I do try my best to take in stuff about dead Swedish birds falling from the sky and to care that former Bee Gee Robin Gibb is "saddened" by the manufactured nature of the pop industry, but it all seems very alien. Real news here is about whether we are going to have to share a boat with a "dive bore". These are a very dangerous species who will corner you and insist on talking you through their 500 dives round the world while their long-suffering partners gaze out to sea with a thousand-yard stare praying for a tsunami to end it all.

Evenings are spent huddled over laptops editing the photographs of the day and insisting that everybody then sees their day's "work". Sadly, my photographs tend to be of a Japanese bottom or a blurry fin as scuba kamikazes barge you out of the way to focus their assortment of strobes and lights on a terrified sea critter.

One piece of outside news, however, has kept the tiny English contingent here enthralled – The Ashes. Despite desiring almost no contact with our real lives, news of the cricket is somehow fed to us. We return from a dive to see a figure on the dock waving excitedly. "Anderson has just got another wicket!" he shouts to a dumbfounded boatload of Swiss-Germans and French bankers from Singapore. A lone couple of diving Aussies pretend not to hear while we Brits cheer and proclaim that all is right in the world.

It was only a month ago that I was stuck in the "celebrity jungle", desperately trying to get information on the Adelaide Test from recalcitrant Aussie soundmen. It's therefore been a real pleasure being out here and following the Test in relative "real time", as opposed to having to bribe a cameraman in Oz or stay up all night in the UK. It's one of the peculiarities of cricket that you don't have to watch it continually. A good Test match unfolds slowly over five days with the important moments punctuating your day.

It's a very British thing, however exotic your destination, to want to have news of a sporting event. I remember as a boy, sitting in the passenger seat of a very early Range Rover while my dad tried to negotiate the highest sand dune that surrounded the phenomenal Roman ruins of Palmyra, deep in the Syrian desert, so that we could get decent BBC World Service reception for the Grand National. We were never a particularly horsey family, but this tenuous connection with home was special and strangely exhilarating.

Back in Sulawesi, when the final wicket was taken in Sydney and the Ashes were properly ours, we were sitting by the pool huddled around a little MP3 player. We immediately sought out the Aussie couple, as we were sure that they would want to be the first to congratulate us. Strangely, they announced that they were "not really followers of cricket...." We didn't challenge them further but their crestfallen faces said it all. Sometimes, just sometimes, an English cricket fan's world is a good one.