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Amateur Scribe

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Athers' Diary '07

Resolutions:

- Quit commentary and get a proper job

- Write definitive bestselling thriller about handsome, affable Lancastrian

- Start up the diary again

Athers

January 1

Well I’m back, folks.

I suppose the Ashes may have something to do with it. I ditched the old diary after the last debacle - largely because it got leaked to the Daily Mail and they ran several extracts on some of the more lurid entries. Boy, did I have some explaining to do after that. The Test Match Special team were more amused than upset by the whole Henry Blofeld/heroin expose, but they still dangled me from my ankles over the edge of the Lords Media Centre until I promised to be their bitch. Every time I see them now they give me wedgies and call me “Squealer” – it’s beginning to get me down.

Most of the other boys were OK about it. Michael Slater hasn’t spoken to me since but that’s actually been a blessed relief. Even so, I’ll make sure to keep this one under lock and key – mustn’t alienate the few friends I have left in this cursed industry.

Of course the threat to quit the commentary game was little but a hollow charade. I’m at Sky now, obviously. No choice really – it’s the juggernaut of sports coverage. They may have doubled my salary but I can’t help thinking I’ve sold my soul. When I was on terrestrial TV, I at least had my integrity – now I keep having this recurring nightmare where I’m cowering in the corner of some dank cell in a Turkish prison and Rupert Murdoch and Charles Colville are whipping me with wet towels.

I miss the japery of the old Channel 4 team. Most of them have been welcomed with open arms over at Channel 9. It’s like some cruel joke - Nickers is Lord of the Manor over here. The desperate Aussie fishwives can’t get enough of his blazer and his hair. He’s got this absurd habit of flicking it like he’s in some L’Oreal commercial, and he really plays on his clipped, public school accent. Unfathomably, there is an inexhaustible supply of presentable women in this country who come over all unnecessary at the mere mention of croquet or cucumber sandwiches. I bet Douglas Jardine got all the fanny he could use on the Bodyline tour.

Richie and Tony Greig are on home turf over here too - it’s like the whole Channel 4 gang’s back together and I’m not invited. Nickers has hardly said two words to me all tour. Makes me sad when I remember the good times we had over a pint or two of IPA after the test on those balmy evenings at Old Trafford – earnest discussions about de rigeur topics like ball tampering and the role of the third umpire.

There’s been a shift now – it’s all about money and image. Poor old Simon Hughes was once at the forefront of meticulous analysis and innovative gadgetry - These days he can’t even get a job making the tea on CricInfo.com, yet Nasser Hussein’s welcomed with open arms. Go figure.

As for my new team-mates – well, what can I say? It’s dumbing down on a grand scale.

Bumble
Mikey

Tolerable colleagues: Bumble and Mikey are the best of a bad bunch

The only one who keeps me sane is dear old Bumble with his Vulcan ears and mad Lancastrian eccentricities. The others are like a ghastly old boys club. Gower and Botham guzzle champagne for breakfast and Hussein is still like the work experience boy, fawning desperately, kowtowing moronically, tongue wedged firmly up Beefy’s backside. Michael Holding’s a nice bloke but – enigmatic, charming, firm handshake – it’s just a shame I can’t understand a bloody word he’s saying.

We were on air together the other day, and I thought he said something about “beer cans” so I launched into a serious tirade about VB’s long term sponsorship ambitions and the role of the lager lout in the modern cricketing arena. It took me several minutes to realise he was talking about the bacon sandwich he’d had that morning.

January 2nd

It will be a blessed relief when this series is over. I’ve never been a tub-thumping patriot, but our Australian colleagues are such tiresome, uncouth riff-raff. Ian Healy has been insufferable – his level of humour is dubious to say the least but my God, it grates when calls Ian Bell the “Shermanator” for the millionth time or makes fun of Jimmy Anderson’s haircut.

England finally started to play OK today and not surrender meekly as usual, but, naturally, the big story here in Sydney has been the retirements of Warne, McGrath and Langer. Many are lamenting the loss of three heroes from the all-conquering Aussie team. Personally I simply see it as three more illiterate, gurning oiks joining the ranks of the international commentary community. Warne’s the worst – the porky, over-sexed bastard. Have you noticed he starts every sentence with the word “look…”? – “Look, we played well today, but England’s batting was pretty ordinary…” or: “Look, I’ve had my fair share of threesomes with sluts from Essex, but that’s what happens in modern international cricket, eh mate?”

No, “mate”, I don’t want to “look” or even listen to a single thing you’ve got to say, now take your overblown ego and flabby bingo wings and kindly piss off back to the tabloid gutter.

Talk about cheapening the art form. I’ve had to take it down a notch or two myself since joining Sky. I find erudite discourse a little pointless given the TV audience of narcoleptic drunkards clutching their kebabs and flicking between the cricket and Playboy One all through the night. But the standard is still frighteningly low. Honestly, some of the asinine analysis churned out by my new colleagues is enough for me to seriously lament the fact that Bob Willis decided to stay at home – he may be a grumpy sod, but at least he knows the difference between quality bowling and Sajid Mahmood.

Then there are all these gags about Botham’s sodding parties that Nass and I are never invited to. Hey, Beef – give it a rest - no-one cares. I’m trying to deconstruct Stuart Clark’s seam position here – let’s get some perspective. And whenever he does it, they cut straight to the commentary box camera so everyone can watch either me grinding my teeth or Nass crying while Both sits there grinning like the bullying turd he is. I hope his precious boat has some kind of hideous collision with a bloody great tanker in the middle of the Tasman Sea and makes shark bait out of the lot of them. Prick.

harbour bridge

Sydney at sunset: Just ease off the gas next time, Aggers

January 3rd

Day 2 and it looks like we’ve blown it as per bleeding usual. Just look at the tail – it’s about as brittle as Nass’s fingers. Duncan Fletcher carries on bleating about injuries and bad luck, but, let’s face it, my boys did better than this lot back in 1994/5 and we had Steve Rhodes and Fat Gatt in the side.

The Test Match Special team in the box next to us have given up serious job of commentating and have started playing drinking games: Four fingers of VB every time Alistair Cook nervously edges a Brett Lee snorter just short of the slips, a flaming sambuca for every six, and a capful of meths whenever the stump mic picks up Adam Gilchrist saying “’Bowling Shane”.

They seem to have kissed and made up over the last couple of days. All the talk after New Year was of internal strife. I heard later they spent the night in the cells after Christopher Martin-Jenkins nicked some of the fireworks from the Harbour Bridge display and set them off under Jim Maxwell’s car. Those crazy idiots may have kicked the Class As, but they’ve now got this thing for extreme sports.

The big event this year was the inaugural Aussies v Pommies Gumball Rally with the locals represented by Maxwell, Geoff Lawson and Jeff Thompson up against Blowers, CMJ and Agnew. It was billed as a no-holds-barred drag race across the city in classic Aston Martins, but it ended abruptly when Aggers misjudged a handbrake turn round Circular Key and ended up plunging into the water. The word is the BBC will be receiving a hefty bill from the authorities for wasting police time, miscellaneous repair costs to the Opera House and frogmen.

I thought I’d managed to avoid them on this tour, but when we arrived in Sydney, they were in the reception of the hotel terrorising Bumble by threatening to spike his ginger beer with Rohypnol and giving large homosexual men his room number. Blowers set off the sprinklers at 4am this morning hence my less than sparkling performance “opening the innings” – I actually fell asleep at one point, just as Gower was asking me a serious question about field placements. Very embarrassing.

The ante has definitely been upped by the TMS guys since the last Ashes, largely due to the fabled “Boycs on Tour” team ethos. I’ve not seen it before at such close quarters, but it’s like a permanent stag do when “The Yorkshire Ripper” is away from home for months at a time and given unlimited access to bronzed Bondi lovelies and cooking sherry.

Not for Geoffrey the childish shenanigans of the Gumball Rally – I heard he saw in 2007 with a bunch of local gangsters in the Southern suburbs negotiating crack deals and playing Russian Roulette.

As for me, I seem to get paired with Nasser all the time since it got out that we spent the New Year together having dinner and playing Hungry Hippos in his hotel room. Frankly he was so distraught at Beef not inviting him to his shindig on the yacht with Russell Crowe and Kylie Minogue that I felt I should at least make sure he didn’t get to midnight alone and suicidal. Now he thinks I’m his best mate and keeps nudging me and smirking while I’m trying to concentrate. David Gower calls us “bum chums” and sniggers like a juvenile every time one of us mentions “the full face of the blade” or “liking it full of length”. Such is life.

January 4th

Well the end is nigh in the cricket. Bloody Warney. If it’s not his bowling it’s his batting. Don’t have the strength for a long entry today, dear diary. Must conserve all my energies for tomorrow – fingers crossed I’ll be asked to do the on-pitch presentation at the end of the series after my stonking efforts back in Blighty last time. Been spending most of the afternoon thinking up witty, quintessentially English gags to squeeze into the interviews with the captains – I’ll siphon off some of the totty that Nickers is attracting if it’s the last thing I do. Maybe I’ll let slip that I went to Cambridge and was captain of the debate team. That ought to do it.

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