Jeremy Wells

Jeremy Wells on cricket

Jeremy Wells: Let's base the Roast Beefs, tattoos and all, in Whangarei

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Luke Wright of England bats during the T20 International between New Zealand and England at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images
Luke Wright of England bats during the T20 International between New Zealand and England at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images

It's upon us. The tour we've been waiting all summer for. Finally, we're hosting a decent international team who also have English as their first language.

It's fair to say the tour has started steadily. While New Zealand lost the first T20 in Auckland, a selection of our best up-and-comers drew the warmup series with England at the sensibly proportioned Cobham Oval in Whangarei. The games have been competitive. And the England squad appear to be enjoying themselves, despite being holed up in Whangarei for three days.

At least our cricketing administrators have returned to thinking about the best way to dampen the spirits of our guests.

Historically, some of our best performances have come from sending teams usually accustomed to playing cricket in temperate climates to open the tour in Dunedin, where they struggle to get warm enough to leave the dressing room.

Of course with England, it's the opposite. If you want to unsettle the Roast Beefs send them to the hottest, most humid city in New Zealand with the worst food, beverage and entertainment options available. The bus ride to Whangarei alone is worth 15 runs to the home team.

When planning English tours our administrators should ask - would Ian Botham like it? If the answer is no, you're on to a winner.

Antipodean discomfort aside, this England team will be difficult to beat. Their test team on paper is world class from 1 to 11. They've just come off a test series victory in India - their first in that country for 28 years - and while the conditions will be totally different here, recent touring English teams have enjoyed our playing surfaces, certainly in the longer form anyway. Since 2000, they've toured twice, drawing one test series and winning the other. In 2007 they won the T20s but lost the one-day series.

To succeed, our young stars - Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill, Tim Southee, BJ Watling - will have to produce at least one match winning performance each.

Watching the game at Eden Park on Saturday it occurred to me that this is the most tattooed English team to hit these shores. At the time of writing I've not viewed the tourists naked, but already I've spotted more indelible ink than ever before, and one thing's for certain, engraving permanent pictures or words on your skin does not endear you to the cricketing masses.

It's long been my view that the New Zealand public's unfair perception of Brendon McCullum as arrogant stems from his possibly sober decision to scribble stuff on his torso. And while I have no problem with players constantly reminding themselves and others of their kids' names it seems the majority of the cricket world views this behaviour unfavourably.

Take Australian captain Michael Clarke for example. He's batting better than anyone in the history of cricket, but the public are lukewarm on him at best. Why? Well, it's hard to pinpoint exactly but he does have permanent Japanese writing on his arm. Couple this with bleached hair and for many fans you have an unforgivable combination of fashion faux pas.

Dale Steyn is the best bowler in the world at the moment but the public don't particularly like him. Why? My theory is tats. Mitchell Johnson, Jade Dernbach, Kevin Pietersen - the list goes on. Even a player like Doug Bracewell, who has Maori tribal tattoos - possibly to show people he's Maori - comes under far more talkback pressure than, say, Tim Southee - who has no visible skin drawings at all.

From my wealth of sports talkback listening experience I've also come to realise that a caller who bags a player with tattoos is also 78 per cent more likely to oppose gay marriage.

Wouldn't it be great for talkback revenue if one day, somewhere in international cricket, we see an openly gay opening partnership consisting of two players with moko and bleach blond hair.

- NZ Herald

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