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Shane Warne. Photo by Chris Brown (Wikimedia CC)
I'll tell you what, Seymour. Here's the problem with the World Service being moved to some god forsaken frequency that can only be picked up by psychic bats and Jodrell Bank. It is December, that pure first snap of cold has just kicked and one's internet still doesn't work at home because Deutsche Kabel are complete bastards. Through the snow and straight to the day job through the perpetual dark and ice, safe in the knowledge that you'll be online there and that at least you can catch up on last night's play in Adelaide. Aaaargh, no internet there either, at least the World Service will have a report..... You see what I'm getting at? Do you, Seymour?
It's a tough place to be a cricket fan, Germany, and during the Ashes more so than ever. I've only just caught up on my sleep from the second test and the next one starts in Perth on Thursday morning at 3am. Not only does it ring a death knell for all pretensions at sensible conversation I was going to have for the week, but also brings on the inevitable "Eh?"s and the "You do what?"s.
Trying to explain the game of cricket to people is difficult. With nothing to reference it to, they cannot get their heads around the fact that a sport can last for five days and still end in a draw. And still be the most engrossing, beautiful, brutal theatre imaginable. One can get there in the end, usually they just give up the will to live and agree with you. Then you press on, thinking you've really got them by the balls here. You tell them that actually the reason you've not slept for four nights is because you were listening to it all on the radio. Well, you would be if the BBC had the international broadcast rights (it's UK-only online). You're actually listening to a load of partly objectionable toffs talking about watching it live on TV, ball by ball, hour after hour.
The look received can only be equated to one that you would receive from a vet having asked him to attach metal tips to your cat's paws so that he could better play the guitar solo to "War Pigs" – utter and total incomprehension. But cricket on the radio is a beautiful thing if you can find it, a harking back to simpler times when everybody was nice to each other and one could still holiday for the summer in Rhodesia, a place where Blowers joshes with Aggers before grumpy Geoffrey turns up and then they all have cake for elevenses.
Alright, it doesn't sound good on paper, admittedly, but I would give limbs to be able to get Test Match Special on the BBC. Just a five minute report on the World Service was a start. Now I listen to the aforementioned Test Match Sofa (which actually gets better as the night wears on and they concentrate more on the actual game).
So, imagine my surprise on buying the Berliner Kurier yesterday morning to find Shane Warne on the back page – with a photo too. I love the Kurier and it will always have a place in my heart for having the headline "Fuckingham Palace" plastered over a shot of Fergie's mug, but this was weird. Cricket, on the back pages?
Needless to say, they weren't interested in the sporting aspects. The fact that he is the second highest wicket taker of all time, a man who could turn the ball on glass – the man who did this to poor fat Mike Gatting matters not. No, he has been having some kind of affair (mostly Twitter-based, it appears, which confuses me) with Elizabeth Hurley, a woman famous for sort of wearing a dress once and for having married that posh bloke who once got noshed off by a prostitute... Hugh something. He's a cricket fan, of course.
So the world hasn't turned on its head, one must remember that the existence of John Emburey proves that it is neither necessarily a game on a higher moral plane (he toured apartheid South Africa in Rebel English teams twice) or one for gentlemen (on being asked by Simon Hughes how his leg was, he said: "the fucking fuckers fucking fucked"). But at least the Kurier have now heard of one of Cricket's greatest protagonists. It's a slippery slope from here on in and before you know it they'll be asking how to listen to it on the radio too.