New BBC cricket series Stumped fails to bowl over

The half-hour World Service program is just not cricket.

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Wickets at Headingley Carnegie Stadium, Leeds. Photo: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images Sport. 


BBC World Service

The roof is ragged atop the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium at the Antigua Recreation Ground, damaged by Hurricane Gonzalo last October. Not that it was much cop to begin with. The ground’s shoddy Chinese construction led to a Test match in 2009 lasting for just ten deliveries before the grass started coming up. A friend of mine recalls seeing Richards at that match, running across the field as if he were “looking for someone to kill”. Antiguan cricket fans have felt the shame ever since and were cheered to hear, on the island’s Observer Radio, the sports minister assuring listeners he had set aside money for the refurb to end all refurbs: “Even ministries and departments of government will host meetings at the ground.” There was mention of a gift shop and weddings in the stand (already popular), then an ad for the cocktail of the week: the Coco Loco (“Enjoy with friends. And alone!”).

Nothing so inspiring was conveyed in the first episode of the BBC World Service’s Stumped (Saturdays, 12.32am). Its half-hour about cricket lacked anything much about cricket. “A bit like drinking picture varnish on not a very good day,” Henry Blofeld recollected in an anecdote about a retsina at a match in Corfu, to the amusement of the Test Match Special regulars Prakash Wakan­kar and Jim Maxwell. There was none of the debate that fans might demand from such a show. No mention of the World Cup, or of Mohammad Amir possibly reaching his potential after losing five years to a ban for spot-fixing. Nothing on where the next great spinner might come from in the post-Muralitharan era. And no examples of bowler-batsman abuse! (Merv Hughes to Michael Atherton: “I’ll bowl you a f***ing piano . . . Let’s see if you can play that.”)

Antiguan listeners have one thing on their minds: will the West Indies ever win anything again? Even Richards, who spends his Sundays playing dominoes at the local golf club, might have trouble answering that one.

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She presents The Film Programme on BBC Radio 4. She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 30 January 2015 issue of the New Statesman, The Class Ceiling

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