I think I have just witnessed one of the most spontaneous television moments of the year.

During the “Super Test” between Australia and the World XI, Simon
O’Donnell is interviewing Shoaib Akhtar – The Rawalpindi Express (I
love that nickname) – on the boundary shortly into the Australian
second innings. Simon wants Akhtar to talk about the Pakistani
earthquake.

For those who don’t know, Akhtar is far from being the sharpest tool in
shed but is a likeable character who doesn’t shy away from speaking his
mind. Simon asks whether he has been affected by the earthquake in any
personal way. Akhtar, in a very matter of fact way, says that in the
town he came from, 15,000 people have died and that his mother was at
home and the house started swaying like she has never seen before.

Akhtar then said that he was trying to get a One Day International game
played in Pakistan (similar to the tsunami benefit match) where the
money raised will go towards helping victims, but the International
Cricket Council wouldn’t agree to it.

Simon O’Donnell who (now obviously) is also not the sharpest tool in
the shed, doesn’t immediately recognise the grievous blow that
the ICC has just been dealt. Simon continues with, “And I believe it is
winter and snow is falling on the homeless.” At this time there is a
great kerfuffle taking place around the ground and it is obviously from
crowd interference.

Channel Nine, as is current policy, does not show what is happening on
the ground. O’Donnell and Akhtar (ground side) are clearly
distracted by this but both are sharp enough to recognise that they
aren’t supposed to mention it.

At the same time the producer must be screaming down the earpiece to
O’Donnell that Akhtar just suggested that the governing body of cricket
is not doing its utmost to help with the Pakistani disaster relief
effort and he had better sort it out. He then, in a none too subtle way
asks “and the ICC have been very generous haven’t they?”

Akhtar, trying to shake the distraction of the streaker (who is still
entertaining the crowd to their uproarious delight) understands he was
a bit cheeky and that he better not piss the ICC off too much, back
pedals and thanks everyone for their generosity from the ICC, to the
Aussie crowd, to the Australian government. The word “generosity” must
have been said a dozen times in 40 seconds by the pair but mainly
Akhtar. In these times of conspicuous generosity, this was a classic
moment.

On returning to the commentary to the box, Mark Nicholas bluntly says
that there has been a streaker interfering play and it has taken 21
security staff to catch him.

Post-script: a couple of minutes later the commentary team inform us that the ICC has given $500,000 to the relief effort.

Peter Fray

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