KNOW what's occupying the minds of many of the populace on a little island that calls itself the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? Just a thumb. That's all. More to the point, it's Nasser Hussain's thumb.
The agencies which supply photographs can't get enough of it, it appears. Hussain holding his injured thumb behind his back. Hussain grimaces as he holds a bottle of champagne using his injured thumb. Side view of the injured thumb. Rear view. A view through the main gate of Lord's and one from the balcony. The thumb encased in plaster. A comparison of the thumbs to illustrate how badly he was hit. And so on. You probably get the point by now.
It's something which is rather sickening because it doesn't end there. It looks like someone is releasing these pictures from a serial. Andy Caddick running up to bowl to Abdul Razzaq. Andy Caddick appealing for lbw against Abdul Razzaq. Andy Caddick exults as he traps Abdul Razzqq lbw. Andy Caddick rejoices with his teammates after dismissing Abdul Razzaq. Overkill would be the mildest adjective one could use to describe this.
I thought England had got used to winning. It appears that the Poms are still finding it difficult to believe that they can actually win a Test. And yet they go on about having won their last four series and being on the verge of winning a fifth! The British news agencies are over the moon and can't employ enough superlatives to describe how good the England team is. When there is a net session, there are 72 pictures of the team issued by the photo agencies every day. Test days, they go one better - provided England is batting or getting wickets. Else, one is denied certain perspectives.
I'd like to think it's part of the verbal warfare indulged in normally before an Ashes battle. In past years, ever since Australia won back the Ashes, the media knew well before the Aussies landed in England (or else before the Poms came over to Australia) that there was no hope at all. They hoped for one victory here or there and were well satisfied with that.
But now things are different - or so the media would have us believe. England, we are told, are genuine contenders, they have a good chance of getting back that sacred urn, they can beat the Australians. Hence the flood of pictures and stories, the endless television coverage, the comparison of Hussain to Mike Brearley (which reminds me of Colin Croft comparing Carl Hooper to Clive Lloyd and the late Sir Frank Worrell), the blitz that they and all England hope will aid the English cricket team to at last mount a challenge and come out victorious.
But is it just that? There is such a marked bias in the coverage that it seems to be more a case of paying attention to what the teams from England and Australia do and very little to what the others are involved in - unless, of course, the Australians or English are their opponents. South Africa played the West Indies in a very low-key series in media terms - there was plenty of good cricket, though. India played Australia and were guaranteed coverage. Bangladesh and Zimbabwe played a Test series but who knew about it?
But, dear reader, let's get back to more important things. Like that thumb. Let's have a weekly column written by the thumb - call it "Nailing the truth." Let's have a domain registered fast - www.thethumb.com. Manufacturers of plaster strips take note - here is the best vehicle for all your advertising needs. Amazing, isn't it? And to think it's all because one man doesn't have the proper technique to play the rising ball. All he needed to do was to fish out a video of Gordon Greenidge or Rohan Kanhai and he would have seen how that ball should be treated. But then this is England, the home of cricket, the place where technique is made...