The Ashes test series between England and Australia starts in Brisbane later today and UK pay-TV broadcaster Sky is obviously banking on a big payday, even if it means the loyal audience sitting up through the night.
Sky has built its excellent cricket coverage around a rotating panel of former England cricketers, some of whom – anchor man David Gower, Sir Ian Botham, Nasser Hussein, Mike Atherton and ‘funny man’ David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd appear to be fixtures while others, including Botham’s old fast bowler partner Bob Willis and the even more dour Paul Allott – have been relegated to domestic duties. For the Ashes it’s importing Australian spin bowling legend Shane Warne (plus a copious supply of pizzas no doubt).
The current top team must have been jolly pleased when 2005 Ashes-winning captain Michael Vaughan retired and chose to join the BBC not Sky otherwise one of them (Hussein probably) might well have been dumped.
Sky Sports boss Vic Wakeling, once a humble hack on the long-defunct London Evening News, has always insisted that his cricket panel dress in a manner befitting a game once ruled by the Marylebone Cricket Club so they have to front up in smart shirts and ties even in the heat of Brisbane or Mumbai.
But now to launch the coverage of the Ashes we have a poster, presumably from ad agency WCRS, showing the lads (this is a detail but there’s no Atherton in the poster) looking as though they’ve just staggered in from a Botham-esque night on the tiles with identical red ties all askew. They look like Australians.
Gower too has form in Australia, once taking to a biplane and buzzing the ground in Queensland where England were playing a match in 1991. His successor as England captain Graham Gooch was not amused and is said not to have spoken to Gower to this day.
Anyway do their roistering outfits suggest that they will be indulging in bad behaviour out in Oz? Even that Sky will encourage them to?
Probably not, it’s just agency WCRS being creative. But I’d have liked to have seen the look on Vic Wakeling’s face when he saw the poster.