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  • Philip Bryer

The Mighty Arms of Edrich

Yesterday afternoon, at home with Mrs B:

“What’s he wittering on about now?”

“What? Who?”


“I don’t know, I sort of tuned him out.”

Richie Benaud

Which was fine, if only I could tune out most of the Sky cricket commentators at will I might enjoy the experience more.

I’ve had enough of ‘Who had a curry last night then?’ and ‘How’s your head this morning, Beefy?’ Of the overseas tours and ‘Look I went on a tuk-tuk!’ and ‘They’ll be firing up the braais* in Jo’burg right about now’.

So, is this going to be an It’s Not Like It Used To Be piece? No. There are things that Sky do very well, not least of which is at least they show the cricket. A basic requirement, the new fan might think. Not so. In the BBC days of Test Match coverage, every hour (on the hour, as they say) we left the ground for the weather forecast, a trailer for Nationwide, the news, the local news, and then the bloody weather again for people too thick to identify their region on the national map shown 10 minutes (or 2.3 overs) ago. Channel 4 – as good as their coverage was, it was no good at all when they spent most of Test Match Saturdays broadcasting horse racing, assuring us we weren’t missing a thing at the cricket while actually we were missing about 90% of it.

The other problem with Sky is that they all talk too much, they repeat themselves and each other ad nauseum. It’s like being at the worst of workplace meetings where people desperate to get noticed by making a point are untroubled by the fact they don’t have an original one, so simply recycle someone else’s. There are more of these trenchant observations in my comic novel None of Your Business (now, back to the cricket).

I think we’re also way past the time that certain of the longer-serving of the long-suffering viewer should be offered the blindfold and last cigarette.

Here we go then, dissolve to 1968….

With my dad watching the Test. Enthralled as ever by the massive forearms and beetling brows of the phlegmatic John Edrich, the elegance of Colin Cowdrey, and the sight of Alan Knott striding out, intent on shoring up England’s current batting collapse (see coaching manual under plus ca change.)

Cowdrey was my boyhood hero as I supported Kent. Kent? For no other reason than to get back at the old man who, despite having zero interest in football, affected support for The Arsenal solely because he knew I didn’t like them. I soon saw the light from the North though, and hitching up my boots, I went back to my roots and have followed Yorkshire since my early teenage years. So it’s not all been gravy, lad.

The BBC coverage consisted of 2 commentators (Benaud and Laker) which was ample. If you’re on for 50% of the day on your own clearly it makes sense to conserve the voice, and anyway Laker could often be heard chuffing on a B&H so time had to be allowed for that.

Initially there was a camera at one end only, so you’d either be watching from behind the bowler’s arm or behind the batsman’s arse – and when the hefty Colin Milburn was batting this was a restricted view to compete with those old concrete pillars at Earl’s Court.

As for highlights, there would be 3 replays of the wickets which had fallen. Just before lunch, tea, and if the Magic Roundabout permitted, the close. That was it. You missed ‘em, did you, faithful licence payer? Tough titty.

Attention, People of Sky; I’ll leave you with a few words from the peerless Richie Benaud:

"My strength is knowing what not to say," says Benaud, after some coaxing. "There's so much opportunity to keep talking. If I am able to pull it off, it's because I started off as a journalist in 1956. If your editor says to you, `I want a story about Fred Smith in 400 words,' it's no good putting in 750, however great you think the story is. I was taught then how to condense a story, and I've always found that of great value in television.

*The braai is a piece of South African barbecue equipment which Sky commentators are contractually obliged to mention every 20 minutes when on tour there.

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