THERE is so much cricket going on around the world these days that it comes as something as a surprise that there isn’t a dedicated satellite/cable channel broadcasting exclusively on the sport around the clock.
International cricket continues virtually 24/7 – and the fixture list is growing all the time.
There’s talk of timeless Tests and the Australians, with their customary delicacy of expression, have come up with their version of Twenty20, the Big Bash League – now there’s one for the cricket purists!
Sky almost invariably have all bases covered when it comes to cricket, and even ITV4 clear their schedules for a good part of the winter to screen the Indian Premier League.
Nonetheless, broadcasters missed a trick recently by not showing the Roses match at Headingley, where Lancashire just sneaked home in a match that ebbed and flowed, with Yorkshire making an unlikely fist of it and pushing their old enemy all the way.
In fact, it was a classic which will go down in the annals of Roses history – or will at least get an honourable mention in dispatches.
There were even times when you would rather have been watching that on TV than the opening stages of the First Test in the England v India series.
Yorkshire were mainly playing catch-up but at times must have frightened the life out of Lancashire.
Strangely, the Roses match is largely ignored by TV these days ... but it wasn’t always the case.
In fact, the BBC and ITV used to share the honours and it was given coverage on par with a Test match ... except when Granada did it.
The ITV North-West region never did get the hang of it, and got in a right muddle one infamous year.
They cut to Old Trafford during the tea interval and left just as the players were trooping out of the pavilion to resume play!
Meantime, both TV and radio have been paying due deference to one of the most exciting series in modern cricket – the 1981 Ashes, which England won 3-1 after losing the first at Lord’s.
Most memorable was the match at Headingley, which had the most unlikely climax on the final day.
Muggins here went to Leeds on the first day – and, true to form, nothing much happened.
It all kicked off later as Australia famously failed by 18 runs when set what looked a highly attainable total of 129.
Ian Botham famously excelled with both bat and ball, while in the second innings Bob Willis broke the back of the Aussie batting, taking eight wickets to ensure a most improbable victory that sent the country into raptures.
If ever a sportsman was in the zone or in his own world, it was Willis that day.
Spaced out, zonked, utterly consumed – call it what you will, Willis was seemingly oblivious to the crowd and his colleagues, and in an entirely different place to the rest of us.
TV marked the 30th anniversary well as did BBC Radio Four, devoting their Archive Hour to the series. England’s captain of the time, Mike Brearley, narrated the programme which featured recollections from a disparate cast-list which included players who took part and the film director Sam Mendes, who had watched as an impressionable, admiring schoolboy.
Cricket also featured in another audio offering over the past week – Radio Two’s Sounds of the 20th Century.
The latest episode focused on the music and news of 1966. That sporting year is famous for England’s triumph in the World Cup but there was also a Test series between England and the West Indies.
A fragment of commentary by John Arlott illustrated how much cricket has changed since then, not to mention sporting values.
Charlie Griffith was bowling to the England No.11 Derek Underwood and Arlott could not believe what he was seeing.
In those pre-helmet days, an unwritten law of cricket was that fast bowlers did not hurl down bouncers to tail-enders, especially batting rabbits like Underwood.
Arlott couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
The written word does not convey the depths of Arlott’s feeling when he declared: “He’s chucked a bouncer at Underwood. Oh dear, dear, dear, dear, dear...”
Quite apart from the fact that the term ‘chucked’ had an added resonance as Griffith often stood accused of throwing during his controversial career, Arlott’s anguished tone conveyed all manner of emotions – disgust, dismay, disquiet.
If you ever wanted to hear the sound of a cricket man’s heart breaking this was it.
What Arlott, an arch-protector of the game, would have thought about the introduction of lie-detector tests for cricketers can only be imagined.