I'm 'sure' that we've all been glued to our TVs, following the England Cricket Team's trials and tribulations during the non-knockout stages of the Home Cricket World Cup. I know that I have. Well, sort of... in so far as it's been possible... but mostly not!
Of course, as many disillusioned fans will already have mourned, and although we are currently in the throes of a home World Cup citing England as the tournament's questionable favourites, one is not permitted to properly watch this international event, unless one subscribes to Sky TV. It barely needs mention that all genuine cricket fans- those currently residing in the UK- should now hold the International Cricket Council and the UK's colluding government in the utmost of contempt for this unprecedented betrayal of the nation's cricket lovers. It takes little imagination to consider quite how the denial of viewing rights to English football fans would be received were this the men's Football World Cup, during either a home oran overseas tournament!
But Sky, and most likely those of the ilk of Jeremy Hunt, have already 'pocketed' the backhanders or otherwise reaped the rewards bestowed by those mighty betting cartels, and cricket viewing is strictly now only available on a pay-to-view basis. That is to write that those responsible for this reprehensible state of affairs have reaped rewards that have thus far been denied to many/most of the rest of the us.
Through one of two probably unavoidable concessions, something to do with this being a home world cup maybe, Channel 4 have been showing highlights in the wee small hours, well after the game's known conclusion, the sort of highlights whereby a strategic-ebbing-and-flowing whole-day contest is reduced to well under an hour's 'play,' the sort whereby well-crafted spin bowling replays are shown from some bizarrely off-set camera angles- invariably not from behind the bowler's arm, the sort that gets away with shaving away approaching 90% of the game? One might easily be forgiven for considering it entirely impossible to capture even the merest semblance of a feel for the great game under such circumstances.
Of note, and because this is a home world cup, it has also been made possible to listen to ball-by-ball commentary via BBC Radio 5LX. Normally, during home or away Tests or ODIs, even this reluctantly conceded offering is jealously guarded as the wider Sky-cartel's interests (TalkSport) has recently stolen also the rights to this service.
In the unlikely event of England perhaps winning this tournament, will the open-top bus celebrations also be covered exclusively by Sky TV? Or will the then government and the BBC be looking to access the glitz, in order to distract from further and other non-related ongoing national injustices, maybe something to do with Grenfell or Windrush or the numbers of homeless people dying upon our streets? Should the BBC eventually report any related bus-top celebrations maybe whole communities within the capital will be left wondering quite what the blazes is going on!
The wonder is that this sort of theft, because that's effectively what it is, is not being more openly discussed... maybe upon the BBC?
And this is where, unlike the England Team's inconsistent performances to date, the fielding has been truly sublime! One might even be forgiven for not having noticed the actions of those careful hands, so seamless is their operation.
The BBC Radio 5LX commentary, which continues to be of the very best quality, as many long-term fans will already know, actually offers easily the most practical of all the options. It is anyway often impractical to view the entirety of many games, whereas listening to every ball alongside the ongoing analysis and banter can usually be comfortably worked into and around many of the day's other chores. Longer sessions may be watched, as and when desired, or one may rush to the screen upon the fall of a wicket or another such thrill! In an ideal world the discerning cricket fan should, unless otherwise detained, always have live international cricket on the TV, inferior TV commentary muted, instead ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary keeping said fan fully abreast of the state of play. If it should transpire that there is such a place as heaven then I'm reasonably confident that this state of affairs substitutes a very close approximation. But we do not currently operate a 'heaven on earth' approach in the sporting realms of cricket, do we? Or, for that matter, in any other aspects of life in sunny England!
The days of Henry Blofeld, John Arlott, Christopher Martin-Jenkins and the unsurpassable Brian Johnston may well be behind us and the younger generation of commentators may almost perfectly have stepped up to the plate, but all of this is going to be of precious little benefit if thieving Sky still retains absolute control of the whole damned package! And is there any real concern that this sport may be effectively lost to a generation of fans, or are 'we' all just troughing to the max until it becomes beyond 'feasible' to continue to pretend that the gambling cartels are just there for the benefit of a casual occasional flutter?
As Boycott never tires of reminding us, old Agnew- somewhat of an intergenerational bridge in terms of commentary- was slightly uncomfortable as a test cricketer, strictly a bowler and, in so far as we can judge from his short test career, somewhat lacking in penetration. But since his conversion to commentating his fielding has been quite impeccable! Never a dropped ball! If any lunchtime guest should so much as hint at the lack of international cricket currently being free-to-air-programmed for the general public he will swoop down and field the ball before one has barely noticed it having been played. Snaffled and pocketed... seamlessly. And, in so far as his own conscience is concerned, well, there we have that old 'lack of penetration' again coming to the fore. Politely he will not commit to comment, politely he will evade the subject. A tidy fielder, uncontroversial! Jonathan may prepare a delightful afterthought upon the day's play, in the form of a podcast, but this is really of little more value than tomorrow's newspapers.
Branching out somewhat, into the outfield, those old enough to remember will perhaps recall that many faces and voices dotted far-and-wide across the current BBC (and beyond) were formerly Tory MPs. They may present or co-present all manner of interesting programmes, and a few more questionable ones ('Anne Widdecombe Versus,' ITV), or perhaps appear in the highly dubious role of 'celebrity.' There is Michael Portillo, there is Matthew Parris, there is Giles Brandreth, there is Anne Widdecombe, there is Neil and especially Christine Hamilton, there is Edwina Curry, there would be a great many more if so many of them hadn't been sent to the House of Lords in order to sleep it off on a generous expenses account. And then there is Andrew Neil (host of 'The Daily Politics' BBC2) and George Osborne (editor of the Evening Standard) and Piers Morgan (host of 'Good Morning Britain' ITV1), partiality spread thick and far! Miles Jupp (host of the 'News Quiz,' BBC R4) was quietly doing a more than passable job at deep square, before a slight tear of maybe conscience brought about a sudden and unexpected period of convalescence. Several of them perhaps mediocre or even passable amateur cricketers in their time, but all now given essentially to the darker art of fielding.
It is truly surprising that England do not win more of these international affairs, so packed is the in-and-outfield with these characters.
John Humphrys (BBC) has been fielding point since the early 1980s, Laura Kuenssberg (BBC) recently brought in to the slip cordon alongside Andrew Marr (BBC). These high-profile characters, key positions, are likely to take the majority of the catches, but credit also please to those who tidy up along the boundary ropes, the Matt Bakers (BBC), the Graeme Nortons (BBC), I would 'say' irrepressible but they're not, are they? Tidy fielders, but otherwise thoroughly repressible.
Yet, rather like one is beginning to wonder if the England Cricket Team have not been slightly overrated, do we think that even the packed outfield of the current English Political Game will ever be quite enough to undertake the immense challenge that lies ahead? Just a hint of the immensity of which was shared with us just the other day ('Our Next Prime Minister' BBC2), woefully patching that huge gap left through the absence of cricket- one would imagine that the remainder will have to be plugged by property programmes, game shows and maybe cookery programmes, reality TV? There it was, the televised debate of the Tory 'hopefuls!' Quite why the whole nation was being foisted with this when barely 70,000 bigots may bother to declare a 'preference,' but there we have it.
We listened to and we watched the Tory leadership contenders trying to dig themselves out- a sticky wicket, another monumental batting collapse- who will be able to place the greater distance between himself and the policies of the last two decades? How will Windrush be dealt with, what about Grenfell, the rise in poverty, the rise in food-bank usage, homelessness, slum landlords, rising hate-crime, inequality, the environment, plastic pollution, the decimation of our wildlife populations, education funding, the covert privatisation of the NHS? Well, it was almost as if none of these chancers had been present throughout those twenty years. Old captain May, watching the 'car-crash' from the pavilion, worrying about her legacy- she needn't, it's pretty much etched in stone (numerous headstones)! "Elect me and I will build a heaven upon this Earth, whereupon all of my children shall thrive." "Sometimes tax-cuts (for the more affluent) actually create wealth," even here Sajid Javid was out of his depth?
And we put them in yet again? We're going to need to pack that outfield!