Having assiduously side-stepped all political affiliations for many years, I am almost ready to tale off my culottes, grab my musket, put on my C.D. of Les Miserables and stand atop the barricades I’ve made behind my house using fruit boxes and disposable nappies. Treat this as a clarion call. Join me in the revolution. Let us resist the attempt by the I.C.C. and Sky to make us watch this lumpen tournament. It is the sports version of the longest Russian movie ever made - endless and mostly boring, with occasional moments of drama that only to serve to confuse us further. And it’s on television at an obscene hour.
Everybody else is happy. The players are happy. Ross Taylor has had weeks to recover from his hamstring pull. Mark Gillespie has got feeling in his shoulder. Hamish Marshall has played himself into form. Stephen Fleming has had time for people to forget that he called the game against Ireland a “tricky match”. Craig McMillan said this morning that the amount of cricket was wearing him out. Six games in over a month. That’s what a club cricketer manages.
The journalists are happy. One patsy interview a day and the newspapers feel justified in giving their man in Antigua an expense account. That’s just one tired metaphor a day. Money for condiment.
Everybody in the West Indies is happy. It is almost impossible not to be. Trinidad has the greatest beach I have ever seen; Grenada the most beautiful capital. The national currency of Barbados is Mount Gay rum. Antigua has a beach for every day of the year, or so they claim. St Lucia has a pair of mountains that look like breasts. I saw a friend of mine on telly at one of the matches wearing a cowboy hat and not much else. She was indubitably happy.
Everybody is happy except the poor sorry viewer on the other side of the world. Any momentum this tournament may have had has sunk like a pedalo. Games have been rationed at one per day for the entirety of the Super 8 series, no doubt to feed content-hungry broadcasters. Good Friday our time, the organisers had enough contempt for us that they didn’t even bother to schedule a game. Or the next day. The broadcasters are happy.
I however am not. New Zealand is in the semi-finals, barring a disaster which I wouldn’t want to watch anyway. We have played with the cold efficiency of Aeroflot stewardesses. There have been only three exciting games this entire round – England finally finding some backbone against Sri Lanka, South Africa almost choking before their tail-enders performed a team Heimlich manoeuvre. And Bangla Tigers mauling the Proteas and providing the smallest of hopes for England or the Windies. Three out of 12 is a bad strike rate even for Michael Vaughan. And you have to remember, I love cricket. I can consume it all day, like bar peanuts.
Admittedly this round hasn’t been helped by the absence of Pakistan and India but they were the necessary casualties of the bloated opening exchanges. If they hadn’t happened this entire tournament would have seemed like a chore, an ordeal, a marathon, or telethon, even. Their elimination sparked our interest. Unfortunately that interest has been extinguished by the glacial pace of the schedule. And the schedule? Designed to allow the big teams to play the most cricket, to sell the most products to line the satin pockets of the cricket’s cigar-chompers.
Of course there have been quality performances. Matthew Hayden’s batting. Baz McCullum’s all round game. Bondy. Malinga. That throw from Shane Watson. And this pitch report from the Guardian: “It looks like a Jackson Pollock reject. There are strange wavey lines all along its length.”
But really, enough. Already. I am a busy man. I can’t really be bothered setting my alarm for 5.30 a.m. yet again with the hope that something magic will happen. The I.C.C., the broadcasters and the organisers have shown a lack of concern for us, the viewer, as we sit in the wee smalls, as liverish draughts tickle our ankles and remind us that its only 20 shopping days till winter. Let us put down the remote. Let’s break the cycle. Start the revolution. Man the barricades. Turn the telly off at the wall. Eschew games where muppets are playing, including the Windies and England. Paul Nixon as Statler. Brian Lara as Waldorf.
Until 1.30 am April 13th that is. Black Caps against Sri Lanka. It’s gonna be a ripper.