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Thrillers, weddings and Boycott the umpire

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Adam Mountford | 16:21 UK time, Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The last week has taken me from Chennai to Colombo, included yet another England thriller and excitement at a royal appointment.

Wednesday 15 March

Michael Vaughan arrives in Chennai to join us for the remainder of the tournament.

Vaughan is scheduled to be the TV guest, alongside Rishi Persad, at the end of England's match here on Thursday. Rishi is also a member of the BBC racing team and Vaughan is very keen to garner some tips ahead of the Cheltenham Festival.

Vaughan tweets Rishi later: "All the best presenting the highlights on your own. After the tips you've been giving out don't expect any help from me."

Vaughan is not the only reinforcement. I get a call from Christopher Martin-Jenkins who is on his way to Colombo. I have decided that there must be an outside chance of CMJ turning up at the right place and at roughly the correct time if he is positioned in the same city for a while and, as there are three matches taking place in the Sri Lankan capital, he is to be based there for a week.

I put these fears behind me and settle down for what I hope is a good nights sleep but am woken by a call from the Times newspaper who are looking to write a story about Aggers commentating on the Royal Wedding next month.

I hope its more successful than when he was part of the BBC radio team covering another major state occasion, the funeral of Princess Diana in 1997. Aggers had to be strapped into a safety harness to take his place on the roof of a hotel close to Lord's. He had to be in place hours before the funeral began because of tight security and had plenty of time to craft his words. But the funeral cortege went past his position much faster than anyone expected - and Jonathan never got to say a word on air!

I manage to get back to sleep but wake up in a cold sweat. I remember that in Colombo there are at least three international grounds. CMJ will never turn up at the right one. Remember this is a man who once arrived at Lord's when a one-day international he was supposed to be working on was getting underway at The Oval.

Thursday 16 March

Day of the crucial England v West Indies match. I am standing with Michael Vaughan when a man comes in and looks earnestly at Michael's accreditation. "Your record broken today," says the man, before taking his leave. Michael looks a bit perplexed before realising that Andrew Strauss will pass his record of one-day matches as captain of England.

Any thoughts of a straightforward England victory for a change go out of the window as they muster a meagre 243. I decide to invite comedian Andy Zaltzman - a cricket fanatic who presented an Ashes programme on 5 Live in 2009 - onto TMS during the interval in the hope of lightening our mood.

Things don't start well when he confesses to being a pessimist when it comes to watching England.

"I still think that we might somehow manage to lose the Ashes series that has just finished," he quips.

But his travel tales raise plenty of smiles in the box. "I've just come from Colombo but rather than taking a 90-minute direct flight I thought I'd fly to some random Indian city and go on a train for 18 hours. Why go for the easy option when you can take a needlessly circuitous route? It's my tribute to the England team."

As the match swings towards West Indies there is plenty of excitement in the commentary box on our left, which is being used by Bangladesh Radio. A win for the Windies would also put Bangladesh through to the quarter-finals. As Chris Gayle starts to smash England's bowlers to all parts, I notice they are sticking a Bangladesh flag onto the window at the front of their box. But as West Indies wickets start to fall I notice them starting to peel the flag off.

It wouldn't be an England match in this World Cup without a few more twists. Suddenly relatively unknown Andre Russell is playing some amazing shots. But, to be honest, while the match is twisting and turning I am sitting with my World Cup plans trying to work out what each result means for the rest of our coverage.

England celebrate victory over West Indies

England celebrate victory over West Indies. Photo: AP

Just as I start to plan on England going home, Swann takes two wickets in an over and Sulieman Benn is run out. Like Andrew Flintoff to Brett Lee during the 2005 Ashes, I immediately offer my sympathy to the folk at Bangladesh Radio, who are already packing away their things.

Friday 17 March

Simon Mann leaves our hotel in the early hours to fly to Mumbai, where he is leading our commentary team for Sri Lanka's game against New Zealand. Alison Mitchell goes off to Delhi to sit with the England team as they await their fate.

I speak to Steve Houghton, our producer in Dhaka, who is now busily trying to put together some sort of a commentary team so that we can bring some coverage of the now crucial Bangladesh v South Africa game, and then to Kevin Howells, who is in Colombo ahead of the Australia-Pakistan match, which will have an important bearing on who plays who in the quarter-finals.

I decide to take small break and have a hair cut. The Indian hairdresser is a massive cricket fan and I ask him for his tip as to who will win the World Cup. "Well, India have a chance. Sri Lanka will probably also have some home advantage. South Africa look strong. Never write off Australia. If England, Bangladesh or the West Indies get through then they could do well, and New Zealand have looked dangerous at times." No mention of Pakistan...

Saturday 18th March

Go to the ground to cover the pre-match press conferences ahead of the India v West Indies match. As normal these are running late.

While we wait, the ICC media manager , an Irishman called James Fitzgerald, compares waiting for press conferences to "Waiting for Godot" and mentions that the play's writer Samuel Beckett is the only Nobel Literature prize-winner to have played first-class cricket. You learn something every day.

Meanwhile on the nearby TV screens, one of the thousands of cricket based adverts is showing. It is from a series featuring innovative players who "change the game". For example we see Kevin Pietersen inventor of the "Palti hit" - the Hindi word for his "switch hit" - Tillekaratne Dilshan, inventor of the "Dilscoop"; Harbhajan Singh, inventor of the "doosra" and Mahendra Dhoni, inventor of the "helicopter shot".

I speculate with some of the other journalists that they should get our own Geoffrey Boycott to do one of these adverts - "Geoff Boycott - inventor of the forward defensive block".

Sunday 19 March

South Africa's victory over Bangladesh yesterday means England somehow scrape through to the quarter-finals, but it is the result of today's India v West Indies match that will determine who they play.

A few minutes before the match starts, Geoff Boycott arrives looking a little stressed. "Its mayhem out there" he says. "They've closed all the roads because of the thousands of Indian fans trying to get into the ground".

I ask him how he managed to get through. "I told the policeman that I was one of the umpires and I had to get to the ground sharpish as the game was about to start."

India suffer the early loss of Sachin Tendulkar against West Indies

India suffer the early loss of Sachin Tendulkar against West Indies. Photo: AFP

Can you imagine if Geoffrey was an umpire. "You are out, now hop it - and by the way that was a really poor shot. You've got to show better technique. Let me show you. I was brought up on uncovered pitches you know ..."

India bat first and we witness a remarkable incident which sees the crowd change from raucous excitement to complete shock and total silence in a split second. Most had come hoping to see Sachin Tendulkar score his 100th international century, but there are no heroics from the 'Little Master' today as he is beaten by a Ravi Rampaul delivery in the first over.

India recover, but as the match ebbs and flows it is not until a late West Indies collapse that we can be sure of the result. With each twist and turn I am on the phone changing travel plans and commentary line-ups and am relieved when we can finally be sure which team is playing where.

Monday 20 March

The TMS team disperse to the three countries where this week's quarter finals are to take place. Simon Mann, Vic Marks and cricket organiser Shilpa Patel are off to Ahmedabad for the India v Australia match and Aggers is helping them with some tourist tips.

"You must go to the utensil museum," he says. "I'm told it is fascinating." As someone who once went to a museum dedicated to Spam when covering a golf tournament in Minnesota, I am frankly a little jealous as I'm off to Colombo with Michael Vaughan.

I quickly realise there are advantages to travelling with an Ashes-winning legend as we are immediately upgraded to first-class but am a little disappointed the flight is only an hour long.

It is great to be back in Sri Lanka again. On the way to the hotel Vaughan points out the spot where, on a previous tour, England managed to get part of the road closed off to stage a team tuk-tuk race. Even the coach Duncan Fletcher joined in!

At a reception we bump into Sri Lanka legend Muttiah Muralitharan and he and Vaughan give each other plenty of stick, before Murali disappears off to the gym. "Top bloke," says Vaughan. "And it's a damn sight easier to talk to him than it was to face him."

Tuesday 21 March

Just before heading off to an England press conference I come across an email from Kelvin entitled "Aggers and Royal Wedding".

It reads: "Surely Jonathan Agnew must have Geoffrey Boycott as his co-commentator on the big day. The day would be made more merry by comments such as: 'That Archbishop were terrible. My Mum could have conducted a better marriage than that one.' Or: 'The band were not bad but I'd like to see them trying to play on uncovered parade grounds like we had to do..."


  • Comment number 1.

    The quarter finals get underway on wednesday morning with the match between Pakistan and the West Indies from Dhaka. Test Match Special will be on the air at 0815GMT on Five Live Sports Extra and Radio Four Longwave with commentary also available on ABC Radio in Australia, Radio Sport in New Zealand and SABC in South Africa. The commentary team includes the voice of Caribbean Cricket Tony Cozier, Dhaka resident Shamim Chowdhury who will have all the local knowledge, Bryan Waddle and Lee James of the BBC World Service. Expert summarisers include former West Indies fast bowler Ian Bishop and ex Pakistan captain Rameez Raja. Plus during the interval we will look ahead to the other quarter finals with live previews from Ahmedabad and Colombo.

  • Comment number 2.

    Rameez is the leading Pakistan run scorer in World Cup matches between the first two quarter-finalists. IVA is top of the tree for both sides. I've collected a few more stats in a preview of the game if of interest to anyone

  • Comment number 3.

    Great article. Just get the sound right at games and instead of getting a 9.5 out of 10 you will get the full marks!

  • Comment number 4.

    It has beeen good cricket so far. There was vast improvement in the level of competition from the associate nations.

    If we are to encourage the game abroad and expand, it is papamount that the associates continue be part of the WC. Any thought of removing them is both premature and retrogressive. Is this what we want?

    Cricket must take a backseat to nothing or to no one. Long live cricket, lovely cricket!

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think you've just illustrated very well why it's high time to get rid of the old wife-beater Boycott. He's now just an irritant.

  • Comment number 7.

    Another good blog Adam, in particular thanks for the commentary team details.

  • Comment number 8.

    @no.4 "Papamount"... tres funny. The P and R are no where near each other (brought a little tear not gonna lie)... Really enjoyable article.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think the Royal Wedding tv coverage would be enhanced by Geoff Boycott and Jonathan Agnew- you can imagine some of Prince William's former uni chums who are not at the wedding would enjoy it.

  • Comment number 10.

    Great coverage and blog. Thanks.

  • Comment number 11.

    A wonderful blog entry. As a confirmed fan of Sir Geoffrey I loved the comments about him. The anecdote about CMJ is new to me: is he really that bad? Last night I was watching the highlights of Headlingley '81 and was surprised to hear him doing TV commentary: I assume that it was because he'd actually been booked for another match and had wandered into the BBC box at Leeds by accident...

    Please ask Alison Mitchell to tweet more often where ex-pats like me can pick up the TMS commentary on the Internet even if we are outside the UK.

  • Comment number 12.

    *Sigh* Once again, a BBC correspondent gets a basic cricket fact wrong. The Indian fans were hoping to see Sachin Tendulkar's 100th international century not his 100th ODI century. Please proof read articles before posting.

    NB; Although it was the Indian TV commercial's mistake to name Harbhajan Singh as the inventor of the doosra, you should have corrected it Mr Mountford. Saqlain Mushtaq is widely accepted as the inventor of the doosra.

  • Comment number 13.

    Justcallmeroy - pedantry of the highest order. Do you take a pen out with you to correct shop window signs? Just to correct your pedantry, Adam is not in fact a cricket correspondent, but a "producer correspondent".
    *exaggerated sigh at how important and worldly I am*
    Nice writing Adam, really enjoy the behind the scenes look at how the production team is run.

  • Comment number 14.

    Thanks for all your comments so far. In answer to post 12 - many apologies that this error appeared. In my original copy i did state that it was the 100th international century that was being chased , but inadvertedly the mistake was made after the piece was edited. Hopefully this will be rectified shortly and apologies again.

  • Comment number 15.

    Thanks for post 7 from David Shield. Just to let you know the line-up for the other games. For India v Australia it will be Simon Mann, Glenn Mitchell and Alison Mitchell with Geoff Boycott, Vic Marks, Ian Chappell and Sourav Ganguly.
    For the game on Friday New Zealand v South Africa it is Bryan Waddle, Shamim Chowdhury and Lee James with some contributions from South African broadcaster Neil Manthorpe. Summarisers will include Simon Doull, Pommie Mbangwa and Danny Morrison. Then for the Sri Lanka v England game on Saturday its Aggers, CMJ and Roshan Abeysinghe with summarisers including Michael Vaughan and Russel Arnold.

  • Comment number 16.

    The best blog on BBC Sport! Would love these blogs to continue through the English cricket summer and when on tour in the winter! And the more Boycott stories you can fit in the better! Sent straight round the office after reading!

  • Comment number 17.

    Just read Boycott's comments about Michael Yardy:"For me, he was always going to be a liability or a poor choice at international level out here."
    Could somebody have a word in his ear (Boycott's) I remember him being a bit of a liability to the England team because of his selfishness.

  • Comment number 18.

    Adam Mountford , would do me a favour and find out who (the lady) sings the england national anthem for pre-game ? Thank you !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 19.

    I forgot to thank you Adam for post 15 so thank you.

    Its been nice to hear from Neil Manthorpe today. I really enjoy matches like today with a mix of the great commentators from around the world Bryan Waddle, Neil and Shamim together with Lee James and also nice to have had Danny Morrison back on TMS during this world cup.

    I think this has been an excellent world cup, the best one since I've been following cricket and the best feature has been having quarter-finals.

  • Comment number 20.

    To those who caught the typo "papamount", I realsed it right after posting, but didn't bother to amend, but the regulars here will know that it was just that.

    "It has been good cricket so far. There was vast improvement in the level of competition from the associate nations.

    If we are to encourage the game abroad and expand, it is paramount that the associates continue be part of the WC. Any thought of removing them is both premature and retrogressive. Is this what we want?

    Cricket must take a backseat to nothing or to no one. Long live cricket, lovely cricket!"

  • Comment number 21.

    Adam , a reminder of post 18 .. :-)

  • Comment number 22.

    gnat [18] wrote:

    Adam Mountford , would do me a favour and find out who (the lady) sings the england national anthem for pre-game ? Thank you !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    I can confirm that the lady who sang for England today was, in fact, "the fat lady."

    Well done Sri Lanka - what an absolute thumping!

  • Comment number 23.

    England's exit from this year's cricket world cup is really disappointing - they certainly provided some of the most entertaining matches which were nail-bitingly tense to the very last moments.

    Thankfully, England won't be able to take over the dubious Cricket Chokers of the Year title, which South Africa proudly retain after their awful performance against New Zealand last week. After 5 consecutive failures in knockout stages in world cricket tournaments, they definitely need a very new approach to cricket coaching to come to their rescue! Hopefully the new captain in Botha and the replacement coach will make some difference, but it's going to take at least a convincing win in a big match to recover some of the confidence.

  • Comment number 24.

    I think Vaughan's claims that Broad should be captain imply that a change of captaincy may fix all problems when that was only a minor problem. England need to look at their ODI policies, instead of whinging about fixtures and then saying they aren't blaming them, pick less Test players or indeed none at all.

    Let the Test players focus on Tests, bring in a squad of ODI players who get revised every two years and therefore have experience leading up to a World Cup. If none of them are playing regularly in the Test side they can play more ODIs and of course county matches, gives the Test players a rest.

    What England have done since 1992 is make no progress whatsoever, first five World Cups we reached three finals, since then we've made no semis. We are about 20 years behind the top sides

  • Comment number 25.

    Let's take a few positives away from this winter, which has been a brute for the England cricket team. The Ashes were a magnificent display -- how many times have Australia lost 3 matches by an innings plus in a series...? That fact alone contributed to Alastair Cook not breaking all the Don's records for runs -- he didn't get to/need to bat as many times.... Jonathan Trott -- both Ashes and 1 dayers -- for the first time in 1 or 2 generations we have a # 3 who, when we see him at the crease, we can say "It's all right. We still have him. We'll be OK." Any number of great individual performances -- Jimmy Anderson, Ian Bell, Matt Prior, Chris Tremlett, Tim Bresnan, "The Outstanding Graeme Swann" and Kevin Pietersen. So what if it all went belly-up due to fatigue, injuries, and exhaustion? We were beaten by Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka -- there are a bunch of guys who are the Rodney Dangerfields of cricket -- for some reason they never get mentioned in the same echelon as some of the other high profile teams, but they are incredibly tough to beat in their own back yard. More power to them -- and see ya later this year in the UK.

    Now as to one day captaincy -- how about Ian Bell? Stuart Broad -- one worries about injuries. But I do hate to see Andrew Strauss be knocked back for all the good he has done for the team, leading by example, being a fine fellow anyone would want to play for, and lest we forget, conducting himself with utmost professionalism with the media. Go on your own terms, Straussy, and thanks for everything you've done to make this one of the most entertaining summers (Aus) and winters (UK) in recent cricket memory.

  • Comment number 26.

    Talking about thrillers, the CWC final this evening was the most amazing match to watch and I'm glad to see India defeat Sri Lanka despite the many forecasts to the contrary. It's been an amazing tournament and for me Dhoni's captaincy was one of my highlights of the cricket world cup - cool, calm and collected, under it seems, any circumstances.

    My only regret is that Sachin didn't get to complete his 100 centuries milestone in the match today but what a well-deserved victory for India!


  • Comment number 27.

    @Nayna (26) - I hear you about Sachin. I think as he said in the recent interview on NDTV yesterday though that the real milestone for him was finally getting his hands on the coveted trophy rather than the 100 centuries. For me, he is the greatest cricketer of all time and certainly most of the Indian public including Bollywood celebrities have been tweeting about the epic cricket victory indicating a similar sentiment. I think this is going to be a seriously unproductive week in India all round, and happily so!


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