When something that has a cult following finally reaches mainstream popularity, those fans from the early days are often quick to disparage it. This applies to music (there is a rush to announce a love of some new band, and an even bigger rush to say they’re now crap the moment they get on a national radio playlist/cover of a magazine), television, film, comedy and probably all kinds of culture (“You like La Boheme? Pah, it’s been middle of the road washed down crud ever since it was first performed outside of Turin.”). A similar kind of trend can also be applied to famous people and particularly television personalities – as someone becomes more ubiquitous, the more they appear to be on the verge of being criticised by their hitherto fans. Football pundit Chris Kamara for one: whereas ‘Unbelievable Jeff’ was once as amusing natural reaction to something hard to fathom, it is now as cool a catchphrase as ‘Garlic bread.’
Talking of slightly wacky sports presenters, David Lloyd has often struck a fine line on Sky; on one hand he is full of knowledge and insight, on the other, banter and antics can easily annoy. That he generally maintains the balance is why he is often thought to be one of the stand out commentators. When a match is befitting of tomfoolery, such as the sixty-third T20 match of a season, he can be expected to deliver. In a compelling period of play in a Test match however, he knows to reign in his japery. And furthermore, unlike Mark Nicholas for example, he doesn’t always resort to hyperbole.
However, we fear that in recent weeks he is on the verge of falling off his pedestal.
Maybe, just maybe, his cries of ‘wallop’ were intended to offer light-hearted passion amidst his co-commentators’ sea of faux-incredularity and general rubbishness. Lloyd certainly stands out as a personality compared with many of the ICC commentators, and those that don’t lack ‘personality’ make up for it by being just awful (hi Tony). But thankfully Lloyd simmered down in the light of complaints and / or abuse.
To give him his dues, he has the background to justify his position. Player, coach and umpire, Lloyd’s done it all (he is still involved with Accrington CC) and one feels he’s probably the sort of cricket club stalwart who’d happily mow the pitch, paint the sightscreen, keep score, man the bar and retrieve balls from the clutches of a marauding bull in the next field.
Of the Sky team, only David Gower (and C-teamers Rob Key and Marcus Trescothick), has a higher Test score than Lloyd’s 214*, which was made at Edgbaston against India in 1974. It was a victory by an innings and 78 runs (and eight wickets, with England declaring their innings for the loss of just two wickets). However this undefeated double century – in just his second Test – was his only score of more than 50. Indeed his nine match career is probably better known for being struck in an unflattering place by Jeff Thomson.
His Lancashire career lasted 18 years, of which five were as captain, leading the team to one Gillette Cup victory and two further finals. His first-class batting average may have only been 33.33, but when married to a bowling average of 30.26 it shows a very decent county batting all-rounder. After retiring he became a first-class umpire for three years. His coaching career started with Lancashire (including an altercation with Dermot Reeve in which he said, “I don’t like you Reeve. I never have liked you. You get right up my nose and if you come anywhere near me, I’ll rearrange yours”) and then England.
His stint as national coach was varied; the peak was probably defeating South Africa over five Tests in 1998, but the nadir may have been the two drawn Tests against Zimbabwe in which, according to Lloyd, “we murdered them. We got on top and steamrollered them. We have flipping hammered them. One more ball and we’d have walked it. We murdered them and they know it. To work so hard and get so close, there is no praise too high. We have had some stick off your lads. We flipping hammered them.” He remained coach until the dreadful 1999 World Cup, standing down in advance of the summer Test series that saw England drop to the bottom of the Test rankings. However, more than a decade on, it is generally accepted that some of his ideas and aspirations, particularly in conjunction with Michael Atherton, saw proper fruition under the system that began to take shape under the leaderships of Lord MacLaurin, Hugh Morris, Duncan Fletcher and Nasser Hussain.
So yes, we love and admire Bumble and we hope he continues to reference Half Man Half Biscuit, namedrop Northern comedians from the 1960s and comment about the crowd as much as the play, but only when it suits the occasion. He is a fine commentator – amongst the best – and can still play some fine cricket shots when called upon. Despite his book, and his appearance on countdown and his voiceovers, he’s not yet an arse too big for his boots. But one more ‘wallop’ and we might have to reconsider our position, which would be a dreadful, dreadful shame.