Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Satellite, betting and misplaced balls

Lisa Stansfield's 'All Around The World' isn't, of course, about the ICC's commitment to playing countless Test cricket, but I know what she means in terms of switching on cable TV here.

Yesterday saw a clatter of wickets around the continents on both ESPN and Star Sports. (Add a replay of a recent Indo-Pak ODI game on Ten Sports and the day was set).

It started early. The West Indies, attempting to stop a run of 14 Test defeats in 16, began to lose wickets at a steady rate in their second innings chase against New Zealand.

Then, in late afternoon, the fireworks began. About the same time as Ricky Ponting was thinking he had just played himself into a man-of-the-match position, Anil Kumble was going through England's top-order batsmen.

England managed to finish the fourth day five wickets down in Mohali, just before Herschelle Gibbs started his beligerent innings on ESPN, which Tony Greig said was 'the greatest one-day game of all time'. It also ended the South African's 'choker' tag awarded to them after the 1999 World Cup semi-final.


There's no accounting for hard work during a day's play in the Press Box, but you've got to hand it to the young British 'journalist' who only seemed interested in gambling on the Betfair website.

Sometime before lunch yesterday, myself and the man from Wisden watched bemused as Rajeev Mulchandani, 22, was asked to follow an official from the Punjab Cricket Association.

Shortly afterwards, he packed his laptop and was escorted off the ground, into the hands of the television cameras who had been tipped off by the journalist who reported him in the first place. He attempted to leg it but found a dead end and so the barraging of questions began.

It has since emerged that the Oxford graduate turned professional gambler was rumoured to have won £21,000 over three days, after gaining valuable insider information and a media accreditation. With the use of wi-fi access, it meant he was always one step ahead of the bookmakers when it came to the odds being updated by Betfair.

It makes sense now as, taking him for a rookie journo, I saw him shaking at the back of the box during tea. In hindsight he was probably sweating on a major punt on the final session of play.


There have been constant interruptions during this Test series.

It even got to the point yesterday when the big screen flashed it's harshest warning yet; that anyone caught walking behind the bowler's arm would be ejected.

However, the most farcical stoppage was played out before a ball was bowled. Umpire Hair had dropped the match ball just inside the boundary ropes for the Indians to pick up, but when they came onto the field there was no sign of it.

It took over 10 minutes before it became clear; India's sports science coach Ian Fraser had picked it up while clearing away all his pre-match fitness clutter and had chucked it in his bag.