Channel Nine force feed more noise – just let cricket speak for itself

Matt Webber Columnist

By Matt Webber, Matt Webber is a Roar Expert

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    Let cricket commentary speak its own language, and let commentators speak for themselves. Channel Nine’s approach to the Test matches has become more than just a little grating.

    The WACA Test dressing shed celebration intrusions didn’t do anything for this viewer.

    Let me first tell you a short story: A few years back I toured England with Sydney University Cricket Club. Our travels coincided with the 1997 Ashes series. Remember that one?

    Matthew Elliott swatting Andy Caddick to all parts. Greg Blewett upright and imperious. Michael Bevan struck frozen by the rampaging Dean Headley’s belly-high medium-fast bouncers. A relatively reliable Graham Thorpe. An occasionally stoic Mark Butcher. Brendon Julian tagging along for a look. And rain. Buckets and buckets of the stuff.

    Ah, the splendiferous John Smith’s fog of so many delays in play…

    I digress.

    Back then the Australian side was managed by Alan Crompton, a one-time chairman of what we now know as Cricket Australia. As luck would have it, he’d also been a treasured contributor on and off-field for Sydney Uni in his day.

    ‘Crommo’ was a delightful bloke. Warm, affable and generous and only too willing to extend a welcoming hand to representatives of his Alma Mater.

    Which brings me to Lord’s and the Second Test.

    It was Crommo who orchestrated the Sydney Uni tour group’s ‘Access All Areas’ pass. The bacon-and-egg tie brigade – at least those young enough to remain conscious during a rain break – didn’t seem to mind us politely tottering about the Lord’s Members Pavilion, admiring the artwork, absorbing the ambience, all of us in total awe of the history that decorated the place. The Long Room? You bet.

    We trod the same spike-beveled floorboards as the Don himself, the very same that Mark Taylor led his men through when the rain stopped tumbling.

    Near enough to smell the damp on rain-sodden baggy greens and the tobacco that had permeated Warnie’s whites. As the players made their way out to the impeccably manicured turf with its wacky slope we stood behind a havoc-wreaking Glenn McGrath.

    We were so close it was as if we could have reached out and given him a little push to get him started. He took eight-for. England crumbled for 77. It was heaven.

    “You want to see the dressing rooms?” asked Crommo during another rain break later.

    Now most of us were aware of the great sacred decree about the sanctity of the Australian sheds. In fact I vividly recall sharing a ‘this-ain’t-quite-right’ look with Brendon Hill, one of the more thoughtful members of our touring party.

    But despite our wariness we soldiered upstairs. I mean if Crommo said it was okay…and the Australian players were elsewhere doing some kind of warm up.

    And we’d travelled a long way. And the dollar wasn’t buying us much back then. You took what you could when it was there.

    All I really remember is mess. Gear strewn like the guts of a lawn-mown cane toad. Michael Slater’s acoustic guitar – yes, really – propped precariously against a chair sporting most his kit. The stench of sneaker sweat and wet lawn. White light through those quaint balconies. The emerald turf below.

    But then a ruckus. Pretty much as soon as we were in we were briskly urged out, not unlike fire evacuees.

    You see, the Australian captain had slipped back to the rooms to change his shoes. Taylor took most unkindly to our underserving presence in such rarefied quarters.

    I didn’t hear what he actually said about us being there, but I certainly saw his disapproving scowl. He looked livid, truth be told.

    Later we’d learn Ian Healy, among others, went similarly ballistic at our encroachment on the Australian squad’s realm.

    This, after all, was the sanctuary of a team otherwise doused in the spotlight. This is where together under the Southern Cross they’d stand, sprigs of wattle in their hand. It was special. Moreover, it was earned.

    The moral of this tale? We shouldn’t have been there. Seeing it added nothing. Stupid, stupid idea.

    And so to Channel Nine’s commentary team and its abominable post-match cross to the players in the WACA change rooms.

    It’s one thing to luxuriate in a tremendous success. It is another altogether to coat it in crap and call it Lindt.

    As ABC Grandstand broadcaster Zane Bojack tweeted:

    When did getting sploshed by celebratory piss become something for commentators to revel in too? Why are they force-feeding us triumphalism?

    Why are we gorging on cheap pornography when the curve of Marilyn Monroe’s bare shoulder was always more than enough?

    Why are we even there? Tubby! For chrissakes, man! Has the memory of your righteous 1997 dressing shed snarl simply become lost in a funk of pre-commentary makeup and Fujitsu ad scripts? Tubs, old son…when did you change so?

    But before we lament the post match twaddle that Channel Nine impressed upon us on Tuesday evening, let’s take a quiet step to the side.

    We assume it’s an easy task filling the voids that exist between pivotal moments in a sluggish game. It’s not. It’s a craft.

    Still, it’s one at which the ABC continues to excel.

    Around stalwarts Jim Maxwell and Drew Morphett, good ol’ Aunty has assembled a colourful and authoritative bunch of describers.

    Quentin Hull has been an entirely admirable and justified inclusion: the volatility that comes with his inner football caller brings a genuine in-the-moment excitement.

    Kerry O’Keefe has his detractors, but his rascal charm is as undeniable, his ‘been there’ knowledge gifts him proper insight, and like most rapscallions, he’s wily and bright.

    Everyone loves Aggers’ self-deprecating wit, of course, especially when his mob’s being trounced. ‘Henry’ Lawson’s often bluntly delivered black-and-white world finds its place.

    That’s just a few of the crew, but you get the picture. All add something by being little more than themselves. Day in, day out, it works.

    On the other hand, Channel Nine is officially out of control.

    Michael Slater is charming and quick but instead of calling as he batted – with instinct – he’s forced to play some sort of quiz show wag. Shazzam, anyone?

    Mark Taylor betrays his reputation as an astute cricket thinker by allowing someone to puppet-string him as Tubs the Dancing Clown.

    Mark Nicholas undermines his undoubted and articulate nous by glistening in a younger man’s suit, winking at the wives of Australia and salivating over interview subjects just as Alan Jones might Christopher Pyne.

    Shane Warne, a commentator I’ve admired during spells in England, now gibbers on about hostile Koala Loompers and slips in Root jokes that were already tired before a ball had been bowled in anger in the last Ashes series.

    And James Brayshaw? You know what I was saying before about Quentin Hull? Well Brayshaw – far from a dill, it must be said – is cast as an oafish, boorish antithesis.

    Meanwhile Ian Healy tries to tie it all together as some kind of brainstrust, but he’s herding oily cats fuelled by trucker speed.

    Imported duo Bumble Lloyd and Michael Vaughan valiantly try to play along. They’re fooling no one.

    Cricket is a game that affords us the time to think hypercritically and that in itself makes it easy to pick on commentators. But this mob is sticking its collective neck out.

    Billy Birmingham has made a living out of lampooning personal peccadilloes. How would he go with this current lot? Probably a whole lot harder taking the mickey out of a bunch who already present as caricatures.

    The cricket’s with us all summer. So then is Channel Nine. Skip the bored housewife/inattentive husband/well endowed pool boy plotline. Let Marilyn’s glorious pout return.

    It’s all us cricket types ever needed, really.

    Matt Webber
    Matt Webber

    Matt Webber is a former lawyer turned author, a presenter on 91.7 ABC Gold Coast, a once busy cricketer, and a fuzz-blues guitar aficionado who surfs when he can. Melbourne-bred but Sydney-raised he now calls South East Queensland home. Matt wrote about the Suns' first year as an AFL club in his book House of the Rising Suns (Random House).

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    The Crowd Says (182)

    • December 20th 2013 @ 5:20am
      Dexter The Hamster said | December 20th 2013 @ 5:20am | ! Report

      Good article. Thanks mainly for:

      “Michael Bevan struck frozen by the rampaging Dean Headley’s belly-high medium-fast bouncers” and “Brendon Julian tagging along for a look”

      I do miss the days when there was a bit of silence in the box, instead of the non-stop chatter, mainly from warne and slater. get rid of them….

      • December 20th 2013 @ 10:28am
        Bobo said | December 20th 2013 @ 10:28am | ! Report

        I remember one Dean Headley bouncer that was 148kmh and nearly took the batsman’s head off. When he was on song he could bowl as fast as anyone.

    • Roar Guru

      December 20th 2013 @ 5:47am
      no show said | December 20th 2013 @ 5:47am | ! Report

      It would be OK if the ABC broadcast was synchronised with the Ch9 feed so that we could watch the TV and listen to the ABC.

      Aunty please help!

      • December 20th 2013 @ 8:19am
        Gremlins said | December 20th 2013 @ 8:19am | ! Report

        Actually, I rather like the gap, given that the ABC is in front. You know that a certain delivery takes a wicket before you see it, so that you can therefore pay it particular attention. However, I suppose that the endless replays on Ch9 do serve much the same purpose (they wake you up with the excitement when the wicket happens, in nice time to watch the replays), but without the “as it happens” factor. Give me the ABC commentators and their spontaneity, even Kerry’s sniggers, any day. I do agree with Matt that there is potential in the Ch9 for good, informed comment, but they fail to deliver much more than advertising up-and-coming shows that I have no intention of watching.

        • December 20th 2013 @ 9:21am
          cwrigh13 said | December 20th 2013 @ 9:21am | ! Report

          +1

      • January 12th 2014 @ 9:56pm
        Byron Egan said | January 12th 2014 @ 9:56pm | ! Report

        I agree. I am watching the first ODI and I can not recall a worse commentary in 60 years of following cricket. Just occasionally I would like to know the score of each player at the crease and perhaps how many overs have been bowled .

        Instead I am subjected to what can only be described as trivial bullshit from a vast array of commentators.

        Why not focus on the game being telecast and stop massaging the egos of these overpaid has beens.

    • December 20th 2013 @ 6:18am
      Christo the Daddyo said | December 20th 2013 @ 6:18am | ! Report

      It really does seem as if the Ch 9 commentators think they’re being paid by the word. The constant chatter might be bearable if it’s halfway intelligent, but much of it is inane gibber. Putting three on at once just makes it worse.

      Ditching Brayshaw, Slater and Healy would be a good start. And if everyone could pray for a speedy recovery for the great Richie Benaud that would be much appreciated.

      I thought Tom Moody ran rings around most of his colleagues – maybe put him on permanently?

      • December 20th 2013 @ 8:50am
        Kev said | December 20th 2013 @ 8:50am | ! Report

        Benaud is the only one who knows when to keep quiet and let the play do the talking. Considering it’s TV and not radio, the rest of the commentary team could speak far less. It’s not like we can’t see what’s going on.

        • December 20th 2013 @ 9:07am
          Praveen said | December 20th 2013 @ 9:07am | ! Report

          Ditch Taylor and Brayshaw, Chappell, Healey and skater are best

          • December 20th 2013 @ 12:14pm
            Kev said | December 20th 2013 @ 12:14pm | ! Report

            Agreed. Chappell is outstanding and like Benaud he doesn’t carry on like a schoolboy in the commentary box and neither of them are prone to hyperbole.

            • December 20th 2013 @ 4:46pm
              Manoj said | December 20th 2013 @ 4:46pm | ! Report

              My favorites are Slater and Healey, love their enthuiasm and they make the cricket excitign, Praveen agree with you on Taylor he is the worse of the lot, very biased towards NSW players only

          • December 20th 2013 @ 1:00pm
            Dexter The Hamster said | December 20th 2013 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

            Think you said Slater is the best, which I seriously have to question. Never shuts up…..

            • December 20th 2013 @ 5:25pm
              Praveen said | December 20th 2013 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

              I like slater too

        • December 20th 2013 @ 12:02pm
          Boz said | December 20th 2013 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

          I can remember Richie once said something like – the key to being a good commentator is being able to add something extra to what the viewer is witnessing on TV, to give them some insight, rather than just put into words what the person has already seen.

          Slater in particular just tends to waft on with all sorts of garbage. As A Rugby League fan, I can only say I can empathise with your disdain towards the channel 9 commentary team.

      • December 20th 2013 @ 9:08am
        RAF said | December 20th 2013 @ 9:08am | ! Report

        Agreed. I was pleasantly surprised by Tom Moody. Thought he was very, very good.

      • December 20th 2013 @ 10:15am
        Nick Inatey said | December 20th 2013 @ 10:15am | ! Report

        Agreed. Slats is the worst commentator of the lot. Healy speaks gibberish (though I have found a true appreciation for his commentary regarding wicketkeeping). Brayshaw is a man who clearly knows he doesn’t belong but is trying so hard to anyway.

        I think Moody is great in terms of what he has to say, but boy he can sound so bored and dull.

        • December 20th 2013 @ 1:15pm
          Straight Balla said | December 20th 2013 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

          Agree, Healy is gibberish, and just repeats himself. If you can tolerate him at all (for a short time) you will notice that he repeats a phrase 3 times. He just seems to find a little slogan and repeat it. It doesn’t matter that it is obviously wrong.

          The Taylor sojourn into the rooms was embarrassing. Took away all the authenticity from the moment. Tubby-TryHard Fails Again!

      • December 20th 2013 @ 10:31am
        davros said | December 20th 2013 @ 10:31am | ! Report

        agree on moody yes he is definitely a class above most of these clowns

        • December 20th 2013 @ 4:46pm
          Manoj said | December 20th 2013 @ 4:46pm | ! Report

          Moody is too biased towards the Marsh brothers, give him an opportunity to talk up either of them and he forgers he is no longer their coach

          • December 20th 2013 @ 5:27pm
            Praveen said | December 20th 2013 @ 5:27pm | ! Report

            That’s t only down side of moody Manoj but I guess that will never change as moody is close to the marsh family

            • December 21st 2013 @ 9:47am
              davros said | December 21st 2013 @ 9:47am | ! Report

              and manoj and Praveen …all they want to talk about is usman

    • December 20th 2013 @ 7:25am
      Mike from tari said | December 20th 2013 @ 7:25am | ! Report

      We the public are treated by the channel nine commentators as dunderheads, just because the majority of them played for Australia it doesn’t mean we don’t know anything about the game, their commentary style has a certain ring to it that we have had to put up with all the way through the footy season, it will be interesting to see how Channel 10 commentators go with the Big Bash.

    • December 20th 2013 @ 8:02am
      Darwin Stubbie said | December 20th 2013 @ 8:02am | ! Report

      A good read ….

      As for C9 – they kill sport … I muted these muppets years ago …it takes time but I’ve got to the stage now where the delay with the ABC broadcast isn’t that annoying if you just blot out the ball by ball calls and listen to to what is being talked about around each delivery and in the breaks … Far better than the listening to the kindergarten call and the non stop plugging of sponsor product and cr@p TV shows

      • December 20th 2013 @ 8:52am
        siddeeky said | December 20th 2013 @ 8:52am | ! Report

        Agreed. In fact once you get used to it, the delay can have its benefits. You get to hear the call, then watch it in a kind of real time replay.

        Ditched Ch9 years ago, Grandstand is streets ahead. Its like they’re commentating a different match.

      • December 20th 2013 @ 10:06am
        Tinfoil Hat said | December 20th 2013 @ 10:06am | ! Report

        I access the bbc commentary via the cricket australia website and use live pause on the tv to sync it up with the ch9 broadcast. The bbc have a great roster. glenn mcgrath, aggers, bumble, blowers, vaughan and the ever gloomy boycott.

        • December 20th 2013 @ 10:16am
          Nick Inatey said | December 20th 2013 @ 10:16am | ! Report

          That’s a pretty clever idea. Might try that.

        • December 22nd 2013 @ 8:51pm
          albert smith said | December 22nd 2013 @ 8:51pm | ! Report

          Bumble is not on the Beeb he’s SKY.

      • Roar Guru

        December 20th 2013 @ 10:49am
        HardcorePrawn said | December 20th 2013 @ 10:49am | ! Report

        I think that most digital radios provide a pause and play option now, with a bit of tweaking and some trial and error it should be possible to line up ABC coverage with Nein’s pictures.

        Of course, it does still mean that you have to watch the interminable ads and trailers, but at least with something decent to listen to instead.

        • Roar Guru

          December 20th 2013 @ 12:30pm
          JGK said | December 20th 2013 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

          This is what I try to do.

    • December 20th 2013 @ 8:08am
      Wozza said | December 20th 2013 @ 8:08am | ! Report

      I’d like to be able to add something of use here but from all that’s been offered it appears I’m blessed to not have FTA TV and can only listen to Kerry ( ah the Kermit Jagger joke )and the crew on the ABC ….
      This has the added benefit of actually being able to achieve something in the shed while tuning in ….

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