Channel Nine’s cricket commentary team needs an injection of youth

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Even before Ian Chappell has put his wide brim hat down on the desk, I know what his commentary stint will involve, almost word for word.

“It’s important the batsmen take singles and get down the other end,” and “I just don’t understand these field placings,” as well as the use of the word “bloody” to create controversy. Over the summer of Test matches the commentary team has sounded so stale, I muted the TV and put the radio on.

I have been listening and watching the Channel Nine cricket coverage for 20-odd years and have enjoyed each summer, getting fantastic insights into the players’ mindsets. This season, however, has been dull. Even the nostalgic voice of Bill Lawry during the Boxing Day Test wasn’t enough to keep me enthused.

Switching to Triple M’s commentary team when driving or whe I was just too bored with Channel Nine’s offerings, I was immediately impressed. Of course, not everyone was great at providing an insight into the players’ thinking, due to their lack of experience, however, there was some wonderful commentary.

Isa Guha was a standout during the Test matches; funny, subtle, charming and able to give Merv Hughes and Kerry O’Keefe banter back when needed. The atmosphere in the commentary box was fun, exciting and never took itself too seriously. The opinions of the commentators seemed genuine and free, thought-provoking attitudes were allowed to be explored and discussed.

The Big Bash juggernaut is still chugging along with families and viewers throughout the summer. A cornerstone of their success is no doubt the commentary team. The team has enthusiasm for the game, adding recently retired players as well as current players, giving fresh ideas into a game that has changed markedly from the days of Chappell, Healy and Tubs.

Twenty20 cricket wasn’t invented during their playing careers, and surely the Test arena has been influenced by the rise of T20 cricket in some ways.

The Big Bash commentary box has been light and fun, with enough enthusiasm and realism for the viewers to be entertained but never lied to. If a game is becoming an easy win for a team, they are more than happy to accept that fact and move on.

Channel Nine funnels energy into ridiculous situations, with statements like “Pakistan could bat two days and make 400, you never know…”

Please spare us, we’re not stupid. Adam Gilchrist, Damien Fleming, Kevin Pietersen and probably the biggest surprise packet for me, Andrew Symmonds, have all kept me going through the Big Bash tournament, with intelligent conversations about cricket and some anecdotes for entertainment.

I understand it is hard to compare the Test commentary to the Big Bash due to the nature of the games. However, I believe Channel Nine desperately need to inject some youth into their squad for the summers to come.

Shane Warne has always seen the game differently, using his great cricketing brain to good use, especially when discussing fielding and spin bowlers. Michael Clarke has been okay, but is inexperienced and a lack of people to bounce off has seen him become a carbon copy of the other Nine commentators.

Shane Warne

While I’m at it, is the Channel Nine commentary box an exclusive men’s club? A female voice would be a welcome change.

Isa Guha and Mel Jones have both proven they can provide wonderful insight into the game and I am sure there would be many more women in the game of cricket who could provide interesting and insightful commentary during our Test matches.

Commentary is a very personal topic; some commentators on both Triple M and Chanel Nine are hard to listen to and that’s fine. I’m not saying I want all my favourites into the one box.

I am saying surely, Chanel Nine needs an injection of youth and enthusiasm for next summer. We have seen fantastic examples across various mediums this summer and I haven’t even mentioned the ABC Grandstand commentary team.

Channel Nine, it is time to inject some youth into the commentary team.

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