Alongside the frustration caused by the Old Trafford ‘wet patch’, was the equally frustrating behaviour of the Sky TV coverage.
To begin with, as the story broke, they did everything right.
There were suitably grave faces on the three panellists. I haven’t had the same love affair with Bumble enjoyed by most other England fans but you could see he was genuinely livid and verbalised his mood well, Nick Knight, by contrast, was trying to sit on the fence – but because he’s genuinely intelligent and seems to be natural commentator, it was a nice contrast to Bumble’s pent up rage. With Ian Ward as the host it was a decent studio line up, unfettered by the Botham ego or the Blewett ‘rabbit in the headlines’ expression.
There were interviews with a suitably embarrassed Paul Collingwood, and a rather touchy Michael Clarke, then Alittle had a word with an incandescent Jim Cumbes who was understandably hacked off, but his comment about the pitch ‘sweating’ seemed rather odd. Just sweating in a two metre square area then Jim?
The crowd got a namecheck too - ‘’they are going to be very angry and who can blame them’’ said Bumble, and Wardy made reference to some booing – although to me it was more akin to the sound of a discontented cow mooing in an adjoining field.
They called for e-mails and, apparently, had over a thousand – though fluffed it slightly by admitting that they couldn’t read them because they are next door.
But just as things started getting interesting, Ian Ward made some comment about English cricket shooting itself in the foot, and it was all over.
Any journalist will tell you that the best time to get opinion that is genuinely worthy of the name is immediately after the event – before the PR teams and spin doctors can get hold of the story and weave it the way they want it to go.
By this morning you had the ECB coming out with the usual – ‘we’ll have an investigation to make sure this sort of thing doesn’t happen again’ blandishments and that’s it – lid firmly on the story, time to move on chaps.
Here’s what they should have done –
- Vox pop some of the crowd. After all, you’ve told us they are angry – well prove it. Make sure you don’t simply get the drunken ranters, but some people who can string a sentence together. Be cynical if you want and get someone with a human interest angle like ‘my ten year old son has been saving his pocket money for six months to come here – it’s his first ever international game’.
- Then put that to an ECB official. If Sky couldn’t get one in front of the camera initially then they should have simply reminded them who pays their bills and put the request in again.
- Also put Shane Warne’s idea of only bowling from one end to them. Alongside that, suggest that the game could have gone ahead with bowlers with short run ups bowling from that end. Before anyone suggests that this would have turned it into a farce, remember that a lot of games take place with external conditions having an influence on who bowls from which end – short boundaries, two paced wickets, wind direction, the ‘blind spot’ at Edgbaston which Andrew Flintoff used to torment Jaques Kallis last year. What’s the difference?
- Put the thought that 99% of the pitch is playable, so how farcical is it that the crowd won’t see any cricket
- Also make the point that it was a ‘one off’ 20/20 game with no long term implications, so they could have easily stretched the rules slightly to facilitate some sort of game.
- Then go back to Jim Cumbes and suggest that no pitch should ‘sweat’ selectively like that, and maybe we’re looking at Old Trafford incompetence here – especially in the wake of the £600,000 present they had from the ECB last year to improve covers and drainage…
- Finally get everyone’s opinion about Nick Knight’s good point/future exam question – “20/20 – cricket or entertainment?”
Intersperse all this with some e-mails from viewers – (after all, why ask for them otherwise?) and you’ve got a decent hour’s viewing. Instead, we got another re-run of the ‘How the Ashes were won’ programme. Very watchable, of course, but something that’s been on a seemingly permanent loop since last Monday.
Sky had a real story, the airtime to fill, the cameras and all the important characters in place, and ignored it.
(PS – Why wasn’t there a bowl out?)