Video of Kevin Pietersen…playing golf?

A colleague sent this to me today and it is required viewing. Sky Sports’ advert for the US Open, featuring Kevin Pietersen. If you can’t see the video below, try here.

If…with Mike Atherton

Has anyone else listened and watched Sky’s advertisement for their all-consuming coverage this summer? It’s fronted (for want of a better word, as it’s a voice over) by Mike Atherton. Now then. Athers is many things, but a voice-over artiste he is not. He sounds about as enthused as a prisoner who’s just been told that, yes, today he is allowed one hour of sunlight as opposed to the usual 45 minutes.

Athers recites Rudyard Kipling’s If and it’s as sickly and inappropriate as it sounds. (not Athers’ fault of course, but Sky’s ferocious marketers)

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

Incidentally I came across some viewing figures on the Beeb yesterday which make make interesting reading. I put them on CI…will dig them out later.

Broadcast Views

Reverse Swinging Mark has his say on Sky’s broadcast roster.

The classic sports arrangement consists of a commentator who actually describes what’s going on out in the middle, alongside a ‘colour’ man who, well, adds the colour to the picture the commentator has described – effectively providing deeper analysis of what’s going on.

Every other sport seems to recognise this – football commentary is left to the professional commentators (Motson, Davies, Tyler) with ex-pros like the exemplary Andy Gray, just providing the ‘colour’ – the same with Rugby Union where Miles Harrison and Stuart Barnes have developed a level of understanding that rugby hasn’t witnessed since Gareth Edwards and Phil Bennett were strutting their stuff.

Sky Cricket’s problem is that they have too many ‘colour’ guys and not enough commentators – in fact, they haven’t actually got any at all. You need balance to ensure that the commentary flows with the game – but instead, with Sky, we get a series of ex players who feel that they have to continually justify their presence with elaborate analysis of every thought, word and deed of the players in the middle – plus a whole lot more beyond that, without realising that all we actually need is some sort of insight into what is actually happening, and why. No one is doing orthodox commentary, because no one has been asked/told to – so the Sky product is fundamentally flawed.

As it happens, I tuned in my television to watch the New Zealand vs Sri Lanka Test match, and to my surprise the first voice I heard was that of the veteran West Indies commentator, Tony Cozier. Whether or not he’s emigrated to New Zealand, or doing some freelancing, I have no idea, but it was a delight to hear him.

Cricket in New Zealand is broadcast by Sky NZ, and it suffers from almost the opposite problem to that described by Mark- too much commentary, and not enough colour. I’m not sure where Jeremy Coney has got to, but the rest of the local commentators are too descriptive and.. boring.

Unfortunately, there’s not a great market for Test cricket in New Zealand. Shane Bond is giving the Sri Lankans a royal grilling before a nearly empty stadium, and so when broadcasting in this sort of environment, it is important to ‘pep it up’ a bit. You do not need the ‘Barmy Army’ to create atmosphere but you do need to have more then 15% of the seats sold.

This isn’t meant to be an attack on Sky NZ, who are doing a great job- the camera work is as good as anything Nine in Australia can come up with. The graphics are smart and professional. They just need to think ‘outside the square’ somewhat to liven things up. If they hired Tony Cosier to this end, then they have made a good start.

An odd couple: Colville and Willis

There’s a scathing attack by Jim White in today’s Telegraph on Sky’s coverage of the first Test. It’s done with humour though, and had me in stitches – especially this on Charles Colville and Bob Willis:

While Bhasin is all eager and enthusiastic, bouncing round Boycott in puppyish thrill at being there, Colville has taken it upon himself to become the Mr Angry of the Ashes, fuming about England’s selection decisions, poor bowling and limp fielding.

Anything and everything is capable of sending him into a tailspin of rage. After the first Test ended in ignominious defeat on Monday, he became so incensed he had to be restrained by his guest, Nick Knight.

“Whoa Charles,” Knight said, wearing the startled look of a man who had stumbled into a recording of the new series on Bravo, When Normally Mild Mannered Cricket Chaps Attack. In fact, it was lucky Knight was there to tip a verbal bucket of water over the steaming presenter. Had Colville’s guest been – as it sometimes has – Bob Willis, the blood pressure in the studio would have turned thermo-nuclear.

It takes an act of significant will not to cower behind the sofa every time Willis – almost as angry as Colville – comes on screen. Especially now he has taken to delivering his goggle-eyed rants direct into the camera.

All he needs is to borrow Boycott’s headgear and he will morph seamlessly into the John McCririck of cricket.

There is an obvious solution for Duncan Fletcher as he searches for the speediest way back into the series: put Colville and Willis out there in Adelaide and even the battled-hardened Aussies would take flight at the very sight of them.

Chuck’s great value – I’d rather him, with his passion and anger, than a bland, shiny toe-the-line presenter. More at the Telegraph.

BBC claw back lost ground

So, the BBC are going to broadcast highlights of the Ashes this winter – an interesting development as it appears to have come from nowhere. Sky, who were awarded the rights from the ECB almost exactly 12 months ago (earning the English board a reported £200m) – a decision which caused the ECB to hide under the table, with just their greens for comfort in the Anderson shelter. The doodle-bug passed by, though.

Initially I was angry at the ECB – angry at Sky, too. But it’s not Sky’s fault they have the money to beat off the competition; it’s also the apathy, or disinterest of certain other broadcasters, which ended free-to-air cricket. I wonder now if the BBC are starting to regret it.

At the BBC’s Sports Editor’s blog, the director of BBC Sport, Roger Mosey says:

Now, before anyone says it: yes, we’re talking today about highlights and not live cricket on TV. The question of live cricket returning to the BBC is something we’re keeping under review for the future when the contracts next become available.

Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but “…something we’re keeping under review for the future” is either a typo or suggests the Beeb are almost certainly going to bid for the rights in 2009. When I first read it, I thought Roger said “keeping under wraps” and it still smacks of that.

A criticism, though. With the greatest respect and understanding of the arduous task a TV scheduler must have, the decision to air the highlights a mere couple of hours before the next day’s play is ridiculous. It’s almost not worth having them at all. If I was just a fan and not writing about the game, I’d still sign up to Sky in spite of the BBC’s highlights gesture.

I remain a fan of the Beeb though. Their website is outstanding; they’ve grasped Web 2.0 and are breaking new ground each year. It’s just a shame that they spend more money on makeover shows like What Donkeys Shouldn’t Wear At Christmas rather than what the public really want: live sport.

Anyway, it’s very much a moot point and outdated too. Sky have it, so get over it. They’re ploughing a lot of money into the English game, too.

Video of Shoaib Akhtar “fiddling” the ball

He’s been cleared today. I’m not making any comment. Here’s the video for you to make your minds up. (click here if you can’t see it below)

The issue is more to do with Sky, than Shoaib…

The clapping seal

Jenny, my colleage at Cricinfo, has had two rather good days in the past week. Firstly, during the final Test at Trent Bridge, she spent a day with David Gower, Nasser Hussain, Ian Botham and the other Sky commentators. Naturally she’s in love with every single one of them (our ears are bleeding) but they all sound like great fun (and they have a lot of fun, too). David Lloyd (“Bumble”) is as you would expect him to be: sharp, constantly witty and an allround top bloke. Anyway I can’t spoil her piece; she’s writing it up and it’ll be published at Cricinfo quite soon.

As if that couldn’t be topped, today she faced an over (I think) at Shane Warne! And interviewed him and other stuff. So that’s two fairly cool (and unique) things you should keep an eye out on Cricinfo.

Cricket AM on Sky

I nervously anticipate Sky’s Cricket AM Saturday morning show, which starts this weekend. It could be a winner, or a right winner. Am I at all swayed by the notion of an ex Blue Peter presenter fronting the programme? (sorry, but I am! “Here’s one I made earlier” and all that)

Cheat sheet

Some pretty cool photos from my boss, a fellow photo geek, of yesterday’s play including this lazy cameraman.

Who says Sky’s coverage is inferior? Also, note the cheat sheet on his camera to identify the Sri Lankans…

Cricket on Channel Five

Cricket on Five
So, the first Test is upon us in a matter of days. This time tomorrow, Jon Lewis will be even less knowingly underbowled (probably); Sky will be wheeling out their trucks and TV monitors (and waking up Bob Willis from his slumber; “over rates. over rates. always the slow over rates”) and, more interestingly, Channel Five will become only the third terrestrial TV station in the UK to show cricket highlights.

Pleasingly, they’ve chosen a good spot – 7.15 pm. As good as Channel 4′s coverage was, they rather shot themselves in the foot with their highlights which were, frankly, dreadful. Half-an-hour of highlights is all very well, but not when the anchor man – Nicho! – speaks over most of the action. In a moment of particular boredom one day, I timed the actual cricket. There was 2 minutes of intros and over a minute at the end, not to mention the 2/3 minute advert-break in the middle. Worse still, they rarely stuck to one timeslot. It was sometimes on past midnight! Good one – yeah, that’ll draw the viewers in. The pervy freaks looking for soft porn must have got a shock when they heard the less-than-seductive tones of Simon Hughes talking about the lack of a fine leg or worse, pulling a bowler into the confectionary stand (and out again).

Anyway, Five have recruited The Great Nicho (Mark Nicholas), Sir Geoff (Geoff Boycott) and Mr Trucky himself (Simon Hughes). A fine team, that. In fact, so fine, I’m almost inclined to say it’s a shuper team, in honour of Richie Benaud who quite honestly deserves a post all to himself. This is the first summer since the Jurrassic era that Britons won’t have his quiet, understated musings in the background while they make their tea; pick up their shopping; shout at the kids or whatever. Worse still, we don’t get to hear Choo for Chwenty Choo again. Travesty upon travesty. Console yourselves.

Incidentally, don’t try saying his name if your moustache is wet. It has a tendancy to sound like the perfect chav-mobile for a chavette (Bitchy Renault). Stone the crows – why didn’t I think of that before? Someone get me Renault on the phone!

Anyway, the reason for this inane, banal stream of tripe – masquerading as a post – is Five just emailed me to say their site is now live. So go and look at it and tell them how wonderful you think it is, and also tell them what a wonderful blog this is and that you found their site because of the Corridor. And seeing as you’re being so generous, you might as well tell them how great you think I am (you can lie. In fact, please do).

The summer has begun. Incidentally, I went to the dogs on Friday (Wimbledon) – and what a brilliant night out it is. My mate had a bunch of coupons from the Racing Post so not only did we all get in free, we got a free pint to start proceedings and a free £2 bet. I’ll have some of that, oh yes. One of our crowd is particularly keen on the old gambling…not sure how much he won, but it was into the hundreds. Or so he told us…great night though. Masses to drink, masses of laughter, masses of shouting at dogs (and greyhounds) and “what colour’s number 3? what bloody colour is trap 3? Oh nevermind, that’ll be the dog at the back. At the back and on his back!”

Posting will be up on and off for a bit, as mentioned the other day. Scott’s around to keep it fresh and watered.