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Test Cricket As Played In The Botham Barracks.

By Man at Gully. Also Known As:'The Botham Falls Out of the English Commentary !!

English cricket fans who call themselves the Barmy Army, should device a name for the English commentators. The British threesome are an army, but are far from balmy by any stretch During the whole test series, they've been getting hot under the collar, and have displayed a siege mentality which has characterized the whole British attitude to the ongoing test series in this island.

In Kandy for example, this Botham's army in unison went on about the "local umpire'' and his decisions, forgetting to mention that most of the decisions taken by the "local umpire''went against the local side. No matter. Any opportunity to paint this test series as a "Sri Lankan cricket conspiracy to rob England of victory'', on the assumption that England is the superior side, due to fluke victories over Pakistan and the West Indies.

Justice was not only not done by the British commentators in this series, it didn't appear to be done at all. Ian Botham, a cricketer who is remembered as a rambunctious unruly and un-gentlemanly player who set the trend of "victory at any cost'' in his salad days as a cricketer, is fond of giving lessons on "the spirit of the game.'' Inference being that the spirit of the game is being violated by the Sri Lankan cricketers However, if there was an award for violating the spirit of the game from the other side of the boundary line, Botham will surely be Man of the Match and an Oscar recipient all rolled in one. Count David Lloyd and the other what's his name as runners up. When a British batsman is clearly out like in the case of their captain Nasser Hussein in the first innings at the Asgiriya Test it's a bad umpiring decision because the culprit is B.C.Cooray. When Aravinda de Silva is clearly out in the first innings of the Colombo Test, it's not a case of bad umpiring decision by South Africa's David Orchard but Botham thinks Aravinda should have 'walked' in the spirit of the game. Yes, Aravinda ought to have walked. But our issue is why didn't Botham think Hussein ought to have walked-in the spirit of the game. What's sauce for the goose, eh what?

If a close-call decision has favoured the English, there are no replays. But if one has favoured Sri Lanka, all hell breaks loose in the Botham's barracks. The army goes berserk, and there is whining about "the spirit of the game'' and the innuendo that furthers the general British construct,which is that there is a "massive Lankan conspiracy to deprive Hussein and his world class team of their obvious victory.''At least in the commentary box it is, and it is so blatant that "conspiracy'' is the wrong word - it is a heist and a hijack. Botham and his broadcasters have taken over the commentary box, and are running a propaganda campaign for their country that would have made Goebells blush. Though the match is played on the cricket fields, if it's not cricket on the airwaves, it's not cricket for millions of viewers. If bad umpiring is bad, biased commentaries for most viewers is worse. What's pertinent is that TV rights are today the top financial draw in any international cricket match. It's not the gate collection or the sponsorships that bring in the buckshee, but the selling of TV rights. Which is why the Board of Control of Cricket in Sri Lanka has been sold down the drain in this test match by the British, and their "we are terribly hurt'' bluff.

If the Sri Lankan cricket fans are to be retained as TV viewers and prevented from getting sickened by this whole Botham barracks barrage, then the Sri Lankan authorities should definitely change the contract rules for TV rights in the next test series. Before neutral umpires, insist on neutral commentators. A Shashtri, Gavaskar or a Chappell would have been much better than three clones in the box. But, what' more important is the larger political underpinning of this whole exercise. In these tests, we have seen that the British have been allowed to craftily and arrogantly set the whole agenda for the whole test series, on and off the grounds. The British bluff is that ''Sri Lanka is screwing us.''The umpiring itself, though questionable as most umpiring is in this modern day of slow - motion replays, is made out to be a giant conspiracy against the English side.The BCCSL bites that, and obviously has bitten even before the test series began, considering that they have agreed to the commentary barracks being taken over by three Englishmen, all with dubious commentating ( I almost said umpiring ) records.

The less said about Boycott the better, but with him at least we know where he stands. But , Botham, and the rest are, um, just hicks... ( no pun intended ). They wouldn't know about the spirit of the game of cricket, even if the ICC rule book was read to them every Sunday in church.But also, why three British commentators in the first place, why at all, and what's the rationale for it? Obviously, the British wanted to cook this series even before it began, and to broadcast to the sporting world that the British, poor blokes, lost because Sri Lankans played unfair, were too shrill on the grounds, and had spoken in the morning to the umpires. A neat insurance policy against defeat.

A big round of applause for instance, for preparing the Asgiriya grounds, at the presentation after the match. Inference - that it's the only grounds fit for a cricket match, because the British won playing on it.. Another: "Local'' umpiring was bad in Asgiriya (and this is the one that takes the cake and the whole bakery) and the British were sold down the river because of it. Face it Barmy Army and all ye! the Sri Lankans won in Asgiriya, if not for the patently bad decisions by the local umpire which went against the team. The margin of victory, three wickets, seals that argument. As for the Galle match, yes the British had the bad decisions against them, but not by any stretch of the imagination, enough to alter a convincing innings rout.But then, who is to believe that? The commentary box is British, the Board of Control loves the British - and blimey, even the artists allowed to prowl the grounds are British. The Sri Lankan cricketing establishment is at least fifty years late. Or else, how did these guys hand over the entire game, soap-box, lock, stock, stump, barrel and farm to these English?
By Gad Sir, Howzzat?

Compiled by a colleague of the Seeing Eye for Sightscreens Unlimited;MAN AT GULLY and forwarded to Lankaweb.

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