We all love a good stat and today’s numeric nugget from The Sun’s man at the World Cup Ali Martin (@Cricket_Ali) was a belter.
In the process of transcribing an Ian Bell press conference our intrepid redtop reporter discovered that the England batsman had used the phrase “like I said” 49 times in about 20 minutes.
On further investigation it seemed that the inevitable question about Steven Davies’ sexuality had caused something of a powerplay for Bell with 36 like-I-saids in the last seven minutes of the interview.
Clearly, it matters not a jot if Belly’s twinkle-toed batting is not matched by his verbal dexterity but it does raise one or two things about the public/media requirements made on cricketers these days.
Unless Bell was simply asked the same question over and over (possible up to a point) or unless he had literally become a broken record, it’s fair to assume that he had fallen victim to the inevitable tic of the over-interviewed sportsman.
One of the many downsides of the length of the World Cup is that the ravenous media beast must be fed on a daily basis (unless you’re an Indian player of course who simply can’t be arsed most of the time but that’s a separate issue).
This means England, for example, will make a player available to the press and broadcast media every single day of the tournament. When you have a number of days between each match that places a strain on everyone involved, not least the punters who are expected to soak up this drivel.
England could simply put up Graeme Swann every day but we might even get bored of that and it would only be a matter of time before he put his foot in it, or his cat, or something.
Bell has always been an earnest chap. I’ve known him since he was 16 and I remember bumping into him at a dinner a few years ago. I asked him nothing more probing than how he was but his response was an unblinking, in-depth critique of his season.
My impression is that the relationship between press and players in the England cricket circus is mostly good and there is a tacit acknowledgement on both sides of the fence of the absurdity of the ‘story a day’ culture that exists.
Buzzwords and phrases emerge and become contagious. Duncan Fletcher’s ‘come to party’ or ‘putting his hand up’ caused regular sniggers in the audience as they became part of the England coach’s lingua franca.
Likewise, ‘taking the positives’, ‘executing our skills’ (coaches various) and ‘the right areas’.
At Old Trafford in 2006 while waiting for a Monty Panesar end-of-day press conference, one journalist went to the table where Panesar (a cliché culprit) would sit and wrote on a pad a number of Monty’s particular buzz phrases.
When Monty arrived he looked at the pad, smiled and turn it over. Then, throughout the conference, he nearly managed to avoid any reference to the banned words.
But very close to the end when talking about his bowling yet again, he stuttered and staggered into “er, the right areas”.
Oh well, like I said…
John Stern is the editor of The Wisden Cricketer. Follow him on Twitter @WisdenCric_John