Saturday, February 17, 2007

It's Just Not Cricket

Cricket is probably the world's most bewildering game - and I love it.

Well that's to say I love watching it on tv as I've never been to a game and have no wish to ever do so. I watch a lot of sports with that attitude.

I'll watch a few legs of darts and then give's not the game that puts me off but the voice and general annoying personality of commentator Sid Waddell. He needs to be taken to a darkened room and quietly told that he's the reason that remote controls have a mute button.

And snooker. I used to like it in the days of Ray Reardon, Willie Thorne and even Alex Higgins when there was some excitement in the game and lots of personalities. I was one of the 18.5 million who stayed up that Bank Holiday night back in 1985 to watch Dennis Taylor beat Steve Davis in the best final in snooker history. Holy moley...........that's over 21 years ago !!! I've depressed myself now.

And Rugby Union. I can give the odd international game the few odd minutes of my attention but that's about it.

There are plenty of other sports I'll watch for a while on tv and then switch channels when they lose my interest. Then there are the sports that I'll never even consider as sports and so not watch at boxing, wrestling, fishing, synchronised swimming and anything on a skateboard, surfboard or snowboard. Grown men flying around on bits of wood. Wise up.

Anyway back to cricket and I'm constantly being asked to explain it to American friends. I can't. It's not that I don't want's just that I can't. You see, I don't totally understand it myself.

Well I know the rules and I can follow what's happening and all that important stuff but I just can't get my head around most of the fielding positions. Once you take the bowler and wicket keeper out of the equation (as we all know where they are on the pitch after all), then I start to lose the plot. I'm ok with the slip positions (and I know I'm losing more of you now) but even then there can be anything from 1 to 5 or more of them at times.

Now I know that when you have a large playing field with players mostly standing still all over it, then you need to be able to say that so-and-so needs to stand at such-and-such a position. Cricket isn't alone in this of course but it IS alone in having such ridiculous names for these positions. There are almost 30 of them and the trick is for the captain to place his team mates in a position where experience tells him the batsman is likely to send the ball.

And so I give you.........Silly Mid Off (and it's country cousin Silly Mid On), Long Off, Long On, Third Man, Cover, Extra Cover, Gully (I always feel sorry for the guy in that position as he must only see grass and ankles for most of the game), Short Mid Wicket and a whole plethera of 'leg' positions like Fine Leg, Deep Fine Leg, Short Leg, Square Leg, Forward Short Leg, Deep Square Leg, Leg Slip, Leg Gully and Fine Long Legs Deep Wide Open. Ok I made that last one up !

As if it hasn't enough going against it, a game of cricket lasts 5 days. Yes 5 days. There are several variants of the classic game which last a lot less and the most recent one (called 20/20) can be over in a couple of hours and is therefore very popular and exciting for the modern generation who have the attention span of a gnat.

As someone who needs to replace his tv remote control batteries every few weeks, I'm a bit surprised with myself that I love the 5 day game. Modern tv technology means that we see extreme close ups of everything. Nothing escapes the eagle eye of the instant replay system and when it does, computer software like 'hawkeye' shows us what WOULD have happened if someone hadn't been in the way.

As I see it, there are few better ways to spend a cold, wet winter's day in the UK than to sit in the cozy warmth of my living room with drink in hand, watching a cricket game from Australia or anywhere in the Caribbean. The only down side to having a sporting event lasting 5 days is that you get the same commercials over and over again - and cricket is an advertisers dream as it gives many hundreds of opportunities for commercial breaks. I mean drinks breaks for the players are even built into the game !

And so at long last I come to the point of this post. A really really annoying commercial. THEY tell us that there are no bad commercials. If we talk about them for ANY reason, then the commercial has worked. I'd go along with that IF when talking about it, one could remember the name of the product ! And that's the case in point.

During the recent cricket one day series between England, Australia and New Zealand, there has been a specific car commercial shown during just about every one of the breaks and that's a LOT of showings. It is SO annoying and even if I'm in the kitchen and can't see the screen, I still hear the tinkling piano music and know that the damn ad is on again. So what is so annoying ?

Well the awful tinkling piano is bad enough and sounds like the music was recorded in an aircraft hanger at Luton Airport. But it's how they are trying to show us how smooth the ride is with this wonderful vehicle that gets my grrrrrrrr going. A little girl is sitting in the back seat of this moving car with her colouring book open and is carefully painting between the lines of some flowers or something..........and doing it perfectly. Ok now colour me sceptical but I don't believe she could do this even if the book was super glued to a table set in concrete.

I think I take these things too seriously. Maybe it was supposed to be giving a visual impression of stability and not meant to be taken literally. Probably. I mean I was very critical of the recent King Kong movie by pointing out numerous silly impossible action points......and as someone then said to me "you do know the movie is about a 60ft ape, don't you" ???

Ok fair enough but in this case the annoyance factor, for me anyway, means I actually switch channels or mute the sound or, if the remote is not to hand, la-la-la-la to drown the voice over.
And the car model ? I've really no idea.

So tv producers and planners be warned. I'm not one of the gnat generation. Hey, I can sit through 5 days of a sporting event. No problem. But I know my way around my remote and so don't waste my valuable retirement time with annoying commercials, annoying non sport sports and annoying Sid Waddell.

It's just not cricket.

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