Radio 2 and cricket

Heard a new song from Duke Special on Radio 2 this morning, as I was wending my way westwards towards the coast and another visit to Northern Ireland. The Admin Supremo expects me to derail the peace process while I’m there, having been thwarted by hitherto unknown goodwill and peaceful intentions on my previous visit, but nothing could be further from the truth.

I started receiving emails advertising Duke Special’s forthcoming gigs some years ago. Didn’t come across as spam, but had no idea who Duke Special was/were, and so I binned the emails and requested my name be taken off the mailing list. Which it was, so it can’t have been spam. Now, having heard the song on the radio, it sounds uncommonly like Peter Wilson, who I emailed via Friends Reunited some time ago after spotting his name in the inlay notes of a CD I was listening to. Which maybe explains how I ended up on his mailing list. Peter Wilson used to go to my school, Down High, which is why I was interested in the first place. So Mr Wilson joins Ash in the select group of people who have left my school and had a song played on the radio. Although, strictly speaking, I think Ash achieved that feat before leaving school, the upstarts. Perhaps Broon, another DHS ex-pupil, may yet make it a hat-trick. It would be a shame if her skills on the slide trombone were not exposed to a wider audience than just Bellevue Chapel.

Potentially even more exciting (I know, I know) is that I heard Jo Mango on Radio 2 last night. Apparently Stuart Maconie had highlighted a song of hers earlier in the week, and we heard another snippet of it last night. I heard her perform the same song live, in a barn somewhere between Perth and Dundee, a year or two ago. In fact, you could say I actually played on the same bill as Jo Mango, although it would be stretching the truth a little.

But enough of my brushes with A-list celebrities for the time being. Back to cricket. Two weeks ago, I noted with some relief that the Australian government had decided to bite the bullet and ban their cricketers from touring Zimbabwe, which they were due to do this year.

A note of explanation. The ICC, who mismanage cricket on a global scale, have a Future Tours programme, which all Test and ODI-playing countries are obliged to subscribe to. This commits them to playing against all the other major cricketing countries home and away within 6 years. Failure to fulfil this obligation would incur a heavy fine for the guilty cricket board, possibly along with a ban, which would bring even heavier financial losses. Accordingly, countries that have been contemplating a refusal to play in Zimbabwe on account of Robert Mugabe’s regime, e.g. England, have decided to tour anyway because they can’t afford to be banned from world cricket. The ICC have copped some flak for their stance, it being widely believed in some parts of the cricket world that they (the ICC) should suspend Zimbabwe from playing international cricket until the situation in the country improves. The ICC refuse to do this, claiming that they don’t get involved in politics, only cricket. The only way a country’s cricket board can legitimately not tour without incurring a fine is if the government actually BANS the cricket team from going.

Cue the Aussie government’s announcement. Compare this with the British government’s approach: when England were faced with the same quandary a few years ago, the government refused to have anything to do with it, saying it was a matter for the cricketers. The ECB, conscious of the financial implications, hummed and hawed for a bit, then prevaricated, chewed things over and weighed them up, before finally giving in and going ahead with the tour. Money is money, after all.

“I don’t think it’s fair to leave a foreign policy decision of this magnitude on the shoulders of young sportsmen,” the Australian PM John Howard was quoted as saying. “It’s much better, in the end, for the government to take the rap.” Must be good to live in a country where the politicians talk in straight lines. Unlike the UK, which moreover sanctimoniously outlaws Australia’s tourism advertising slogan “So where the bloody hell are you?” but has no issue with French Connection’s grubby marketing. One wonders idly if Australia taking money out of the UK economy, and French Connection putting it in, might have anything to do with it.

A prime minister that says it like it is, and loves cricket too. Now there’s a thing. Midway through his re-election campaign in 2004, Howard was asked how things were progressing. “It’s like having built a very solid Hayden-Langer partnership,” he replied. “We’ve made a good start.”

Brilliant. Perhaps Gordon Brown will someday describe a stinging reply in the House as a “Pietersen slap through midwicket.” Or a wide-of-the-mark question as a “Harmison”…

Well, it’s about time for me to return to the P&O Express car deck and drive off into the homeland. The smell of a ferry’s car deck evokes so many memories of childhood holidays to Scotland and beyond (England, occasionally). Not so much a whiff of nostalgia, as an intense petrol vapour-fuelled sensory experience. The whiff of nostalgia has come instead from an unexpected source. A girl has just started playing a recorder in the passenger lounge. A RECORDER. Three notes in, I am reminded of what an irritating noise they make. Don’t think she’s in line for a record deal.

Unless, of course, she goes to my old school…


During England’s second innings of the 4th Test at the Oval, on 20 August, the following happened…

• The umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove confer and decide to change the ball that Pakistan are bowling with. England are awarded 5 penalty runs and the two batsmen at the crease get to choose a replacement ball. The only infringement of the Laws which could lead to all this happening is if the ball has been tampered with.

• Some brief history. Pakistan have been accused of, and sometimes found guilty of, ball-tampering in the past. Therefore they are rather sensitive to the issue. In addition, they have issues with Darrell Hair, who is a ‘no-nonsense’ Australian umpire. This is because he has called some of their bowlers for ‘chucking’ (illegal bowling) before. They have previously asked the ICC (the governing body) if they would mind not appointing Mr Hair to officiate in games involving themselves. The ICC refused, and in fact appointed him for four consecutive series involving Pakistan in one year.

• After the tea interval, the Pakistan team do not re-appear on the field. The umpires decide (within the Laws) that Pakistan have forfeited the game by refusing to play. After the umpires and the England batsmen have gone off the field, Pakistan’s captain Inzamam-ul-Haq leads his team back on to the field, but no-one else is there, so they troop off again.

• Play is abandoned, and eventually England are declared winners of the match due to Pakistan’s forfeiture. This is the first time in 129 years of Test matches that a game has been forfeited. Pakistan had been in a strong position in the match at the time it was abandoned.

• Pakistan are somewhat narked at Hair (and Doctrove) alluding that they’re cheats and various Pakistani cricketing dignitaries make noises about resigning, the subcontinental teams (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh) making a break from the ICC etc etc.

• The story makes the front page of two American newspapers, including the New York Times. This is possibly the most unlikely event of them all.

• Hair makes an ill-advised emailed approach to the ICC, offering to resign for a one-off payment of $500,000. The ICC describe it as ‘silly’ and make the emails public.

• On 28 September, Inzamam faces charges of ball-tampering (without a specific individual in the team being identified as culpable, the captain takes the rap) and bringing the game into disrepute (for keeping his team off the field). He is acquitted of ball-tampering but found guilty of the second (lesser) charge and banned for 4 One Day International matches.

• Pakistan are content with this verdict and decide not to appeal. However, they may press charges against Darrell Hair for bringing the game into disrepute himself…

• Darrell Hair is removed from his umpiring duties for the next major ICC tournament, the Champions Trophy, which starts next month in India. India had requested that he not officiate. For Hair the future is unclear. But he is bullish and upbeat, unusual behaviour for an Australian, as he has been throughout. He does not appear to suffer from low self-esteem.

• Excellent article on the current situation here

As I mentioned in another post, I think the judgement of the match referee yesterday was correct. I can’t see how ball-tampering could have taken place, but I do think Inzy was correctly punished for keeping his team off the field and causing the abandonment of the game. Such behaviour belongs in the playground, surely. No matter that Pakistan were aggrieved at the perceived injustice, it’s not like teams haven’t felt aggrieved at umpires’ decisions before, often with justification. Anarchy would reign if teams could on a whim decide not to take the field, and a lot of people pay a lot of money to see them play.

And that’s my view… hardly earth-shattering but there it is 🙂