While I (Martin) may have been quiet the last few months on Right Off the Bat, the world of cricket continues to make some noise. Currently going on in India is the Women’s World Cup, which is being televised by ESPN (in the United States and elsewhere), and proving as entertaining and full of stories as any competition involving men. England and Australia are the teams to beat, although Sri Lanka and New Zealand are highly competitive. India, however, has crashed out—victims, so some think, of the lack of interest and investment from India’s (male) cricketing authorities. To their credit, several national squads are giving their women cricketers the kinds of financial and career inducements that will enable them to make a living from the game and, therefore, raise the standard and competitiveness of the teams.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t notice the passing of two giants of the game—both within a few days of each other at the turning of the year: Christopher Martin-Jenkins and Tony Greig. Martin-Jenkins and Greig couldn’t have been more different from each other: the former was an old-school journalist, who in his writing and broadcasts for Test Match Special evoked a bygone era when cricket (or so it was imagined) was a sport of gentlemen and manners. Greig, a former England cricket captain, was brash and anti-establishment. In the mid-1970s, he joined a rogue league sponsored by the Australian TV magnate Kerry Packer and broke open the cozy world of international cricket, where players were paid pittance and the administrators made a bundle. More than anyone else, Greig made it possible for players to earn much more money and drive the game. He was, in a certain manner, the Curt Flood of cricket. Like Martin-Jenkins he became a TV commentator—and he was as excessive and opinionated as Martin-Jenkins was understated and recessive. Both loved the game and made their contribution, and both will be sorely missed.
Finally, South Africa’s men continue to steamroll any and all opposition who come their way. Credit must go to their extraordinary bowling line-up, particularly Dale Steyn, who is clearly the best bowler in the world today, and scares the bejesus out of everyone who faces him. Not only does he deliver the ball at pace and with movement through the air, but he looks at the batsman in such a way that you think he’d like nothing more than to tear your head off and chew on it with a fine chianti.