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The Ten: Legendary TV Vehicles

by Wisden Staff

As cricket finds itself increasingly interlocked with the de rigueur world of celebrity and reality TV, AOC takes a look at the vehicles that have transported cricketers from the back pages to the small screen.

10) DOWN UNDER
 AND OUT
Warnie

Australian TV network Channel 9 made an ill-fated attempt to capitalise on Ashes mania by launching Shane Warne’s cloying chat show in 2010. The probing questions the legendary leg-spinner asked of batsmen were glaringly absent in his interview technique (“So Danni [Minogue], do you like being a mum?”) as Warne repeatedly resisted the urge to throw in a wrong‘un and instead massaged the egos of the rich and famous. Ratings plummeted after a fanfare launch and by the time Strauss lifted the urn after the fourth Test down under, the series had been canned. “I think people were pretty impressed by Shane,” said a Channel 9 spokeswoman, “but the reality is that the Ashes was wrapped up after the Melbourne Test so there was no need for the show.” Nice swerve.

9) COLD AS ICE

Dancing On Ice

Never one to shirk a challenge, Dominic Cork gallantly took to the ice for the sixth series of ITV’s answer to Strictly and approached it with typical gusto, despite minimal skating experience. “I love the sequins, the music, the costumes, the lot!” said the former Derbyshire, Lancashire and Hampshire man. But Corky got a frosty reception from the judging panel. After being asked by former Spice Girl Emma Bunton why he’d bothered to come on the show, fellow judge Jason Gardiner twisted the knife. “The thing I like about your performance is when it’s over,” Gardiner told a peeved Cork, who later admitted he wanted to take the Aussie choreographer out back and “give him a smack”. Already on thin ice (apologies), the former England allrounder, daubed in a Union Jack waistcoat, delivered a shaky routine to The Who’s I Can See For Miles and became the sixth contestant to be booted out after falling victim to the dreaded ice pick.

8) LIKE A HOLE IN THE HEAD
Hole In The Wall

After he was crowned champion of Strictly in 2005, Darren Gough was briefly hot stuff in the world of Saturday night TV, and the BBC soon snapped him up as team captain for this ludicrous family gameshow hosted by Dale Winton. In a nutshell, the show saw celebrities attempt to contort themselves to fit through large polystyrene walls that moved towards them. It was magnificently, compellingly awful stuff as Gough desperately writhed on the floor in an unsuccessful attempt to burst balloons attached to his person so he could fit through a matchstick-thin hole before being sent flying into a swimming pool. Goughie saw sense and left the show after one series.

7) GONE FISHIN
Botham On The Fly

Having appeared as a contentedly mulleted team captain for several years on A Question Of Sport, the Beefster branched out to present his own programme about his passion for fly-fishing in 2005. He was joined by celebrity guests including such luminaries as Chris Tarrant, but despite the show’s grave promise to “not only capture the relationship between Ian and his guest but also provide factual and anecdotal information about each river and its fly-fishing history”, it never really caught on. If you missed it first time around, it’s now being aired on the Discovery Shed channel.

6) SOUL MAN
Just The Two Of Us

A recording artist in his own right, Mark Butcher duetted with wailing Phantom Of The Opera songstress and ex-Mrs Lloyd Webber Sarah Brightman in 2007 for the second series of this BBC show, which saw celebrities paired with professional singers and judged by a panel of experts. Butch made it through to the final after impressing with his rendition of Ain’t No Sunshine (described by none other than Tito Jackson as on a par with the Jackson 5’s version; we thought it was better) but the former England and Surrey batsman was pipped at the last by Eastenders actress Hannah Waterman and wet Wet Wet Wet frontman Marti Pellow. No justice.

5) CAPTAIN PLANET
Freddie Flintoff Versus The World

Rather than kicking his heels after his untimely retirement, Fred decided he fancied a challenge. Never a man to do things by halves, the legendary England allrounder heaved his creaking bones across the globe to take part in a series of daredevil challenges for this thrill-seeking ITV4 show, including white-water rafting down a waterfall, walking on the wing of an aeroplane during flight, riding a raging bull and cliff-jumping in Acapulco. Not content with taking on the world, he invited a few mates along for the ride and competed against guest stars including former England footballer Dennis Wise and NBA ace Dennis Rodman. Unfortunately a cracked rib put paid to the heavyweight contest to end all heavyweight contests – a Nacho Libre wrestling match with Darren Gough.

4) CRACKERJACK CUISINE
Britain’s Best Dish

After a short stint as host of flop reality show Survivor, silver-tongued commentator Mark Nicholas swapped the Bocas del Toro archipelago of Panama for the kitchen, the housewives’ favourite finding a comfy home as host of ITV’s daytime cookery offering. Dutifully ignoring a tedious format that saw contestants return to cook the same dish every week, Nicholas managed to conjure up the same unbound enthusiasm for steak and kidney pudding as a “crackerjack” cover drive and hosted the show for four series before stepping aside.

3) FROM TUFFERS TO TARZAN
I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!

Phil Tufnell was the shock winner of the second series of the ITV reality show in 2003 but those who knew him well weren’t at all surprised to see the former England spinner crowned King of the media-manufactured Jungle. “Two weeks of sleeping under cover with a qualified chef catering for your needs and having a regular supply of booze and fags dropped in was luxury for Tuffers, even if he had to do the odd Bush Tucker Trial,” said his former England and Middlesex teammate Angus Fraser. It was just the beginning of Tuffers’ media career and he has since become a chirpy team captain on A Question Of Sport and fixture on TMS.

2) I’LL SEE THEE
Indoor League

They don’t make them like this anymore. Presented by Fred Trueman and produced by Mr Darts himself Sid Waddell, the legendary England fast bowler would typically open the show with a pint of bitter in one hand and a pipe in the other before contestants took each other on at a variety of pub games, including shove ha’penny, bar billiards and arm-wrestling. Originally aired on regional Yorkshire TV in 1972, it went national the following year and Trueman, whose immortal sign-off, ‘I’ll see thee’, became something of a catchphrase, presented the show until this gem was laid to rest in 1977.

1) FANCY FOOTWORK

Strictly Come Dancing

Not so very long ago the thought of a professional cricketer appearing on TV in a frilly, sequinned outfit and baring his chest and soul while performing 
the paso doble with Brucie stammering gamely in the background would have caused something of a stir, but no more. Darren Gough was the first to break the mould, displaying unexpected panache to hot-step his way to the series three title, before Mark Ramprakash followed in Dazzler’s immaculate footsteps to leave grown women swooning and make it back-to-back wins for the cricketing fraternity. Never one to miss a media opportunity, the ubiquitous Tuffers jumped aboard the bandwagon but unfortunately didn’t show the same flair for the rumba as he did for masticating on maggots and was given his marching orders in week nine.

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