Friday, November 15, 2002


GETTING HIS HOOKES IN

David Hookes' cricket career may not have sized up to his sensational Centenary Test debut but he's managed to eke out a useful living out of the game since retiring as a player.

He's not quite cricket's answer to Eddie "Everywhere" McGuire's labyrnthine presence in the AFL yet, but Hookesy has managed to spread himself across the cricket media and officialdom. It's a combination of roles that has got him into hot water with the ACB this week.

As well as hosting Fox Sports' weekly TV program Inside Cricket, gasbagging on Melbourne radio and penning opinion pieces that get up the nose of the likes of Steve Waugh, Hookesy is coach of the Victorian Bushrangers. As a result of that latter role, he is governed by ACB's code of behaviour that prohibits officials and players from making public comments about selection and so on.

The ACB took umbrage over comments Hookesy made "in October about individual players" and has appointed an independent solicitor to investigate. The comments in question are thought to be Hookesy saying Tugga's century in Sharjah meant curtains for Junior.

Hookesy got stuck into the selectors this week about the Australia A lineup in Hobart but the ACB says its inquiry doesn't concern this latest outburst. However, the ACB code is going to put a mighty dent in his media hat while he continues to wear the other one as coach of Victoria.

Controversy is what keeps Hookesy's profile high - this is the guy who outed Junior and Shane Warne as the Aussies who took cash from a bookie. Will his media star fade if he can't say anything that gets our attention? Hookesy may have to decide whether he wants to be a coach or a celebrity.

Most contemporaries in the press are taking his side and chiding the ACB for being thin-skinned. Melbourne's Herald Sun apparently went the other way with its headline: "Shut up, Hookesy".

Tuesday, November 12, 2002


STICKING THE BOOT IN

The media's Pom-bashing in the wake of the Ashes' First Test has gone overboard.

Now, I love to see Australia beat England as much as the next person but enough is enough. Yesterday, Sydney's Daily Telegraph devoted its front page to a story about England captain Nasser Hussain being the only regular Test player to show up for a voluntary practice session. The Philippine plane crash that killed five Aussie surfers was relegated to page three!

The Tele had been equally damning of the Poms after their atrocious first day in the Brisbane Test. It's coverage of England's stellar comeback on the second day wasn't quite so vigorous.

The Sydney Morning Herald also joined in to take the piss with a front-page headline the day after the game ended describing a valiant England comeback before ending it with "just kidding".

What's worse for England's players is their own tabloid press goes even harder. But at least the English hacks have some sort of "right" to criticise their national team. Their readers, after all, indirectly pay the wages of their so-called professional cricketers. Who is the Tele writing for - Poms living in Australia?

It's all a bit too easy to cane the Poms in print. England may be facing a whitewash this summer, but they're not alone in getting thrashed by Australia. Just look at Pakistan, South Africa and West Indies in recent series and you'll see England are not the only whipping boys in world cricket.

Sunday, November 10, 2002


THE SIDE THEY NEVER CHANGE

They used to say it was harder to get out of the Australian cricket team than in. That may no longer be the case, but the maxim rings true for the Nine Network's moribund commentary team, aka the Cult of Benaud.

They may keep updating the technology but the same old duffers are lining up this summer once again with no new recruits in sight. (Perhaps Mark Waugh will get another chance to throw a few lazy sentences together when he's not wielding the willow for NSW) Sure, Mark "Tubby" Taylor and Ian Healy joined up about three years ago (a nanosecond in the history of the Channel Nine team) but nobody got dropped to make way for them.

Loyalty dating from the World Series Cricket days of the late '70s seems to ensure a job for life in the House of Kerry. So for yet another season and forever more we have to endure Tony Greig's harsh Seeth Efrikan vowels and Bill Lawry's whining platitudes.

No doubt it's the same philosophy that has seen the mummified Brian Henderson stay at the news reader's desk in Sydney for several millennia. They're like a comfortable, familiar old pair of slippers pulled out of the drawer every summer just in time for Grandad to park himself in front of the telly. But unlike the soon-to-retire Hendo, Greiggy and Bul are here to stay for time immemorial.

Over the weekend, the overbearing former England skipper didn't bother to listen to a viewer's email question on the lunchtime Cricket Show, instead barrelling into an answer to what he assumed was the query. Simon O'Donnell, another relative newbie who cowers before the senior commentators, seemed too timid to point that out before the director apparently set Greiggy straight through his ear piece.

Even the exulted Ritchie Benaud stumbled when answering a trivia question, firing off an answer without listening properly. But Ritchie, of course, is an institution and should never retire - even after death his commentary should live on through computer-generated sampling so we can hear the clipped tones of "Good morning, everyone" and "Marvellous shot, that" for centuries.

Most of the rest should be pensioned off and replaced by professional broadcasters who haven't necessarily captained Australia but can string a sentence together. Tell me I'm dreaming.