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The change of Australia’s televised cricket coverage means not only can we hope to see new technologies and techniques, but there is the chance to wipe the slate clean when it comes to commentary and revive the lost artform.
After 40 years of listening to the Channel Nine commentary team, which has moved from the revered to the reviled over recent years, we can now expect to see a whole slew of new faces gracing our screens as both Foxtel and Channel Seven roll out their respective commentary teams for Test matches, the Big Bash and women’s internationals.
Everyone has their own opinion on what works and what doesn’t, and who is worth listening to and who is in the ‘James Brayshaw’ category of commentary.
Should there be two people in the ‘comm box’ or should there be three? How much video and statistical analysis do we need as viewers to enjoy the game? Do we need to hear about the ‘old boys’ stories between commentators when the cricket on the screen should be speaking for itself?
One wonders if any of the Channel Nine commentators will survive into the new era on either network. One also wonders will the viewing public care?
Mark Nicholas would appear likely to pick up a role, and the universal worshipping of Shane Warne will probably see him involved. Ian Chappell and Michael Slater do gigs overseas, as does Michael Clarke, but both Mark Taylor and Ian Healy have rarely ventured away from their summer jobs, while Bill Lawry may finally move into retirement.
All these commentators have been subject to criticism of their style in recent times, and a complete change will be a breath of fresh air.
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Both networks will likely need two commentary teams, especially when the Test matches and Big Bash games are scheduled on the same day and evening. Given the success of the coverage and commentary of the BBL in recent years by the team at Ten, you would expect that Damien Fleming, Adam Gilchrist, Mark Waugh and Ricky Ponting will be picked up.
The ability to mix these commentators into the Tests and ODI coverage as well will give the game a fresh sound and outlook, which can only be a benefit.
But beware Foxtel and Seven – the choices you make now will severely affect how popular your coverage is in the future.
Both networks need to heed the public outcry in recent times on the state of the commentary, and ensure the proper people and protocols are in place before the season begins. A return to the Benaud doctrine of ‘if you can’t improve on what is on the screen, say nothing’ should be at the forefront of any discussion. Needless dribble between balls is not necessary.
The choice of commentators is paramount, not just utilising who they already have on contract. Seven deciding to use Bruce McAvaney and James Brayshaw would be a disaster. Foxtel pushing some of their network stars would be a similar problem. Foxtel already has some good people, such as Allan Border, in place, and perhaps even an experienced host in Gerard Whateley, depending on his contract obligations with SEN.
Whatever direction our new cricket networks choose, their commentary teams are arguably the most important decision. Hopefully both networks will consider the public’s opinion and, much like Indiana Jones when in his pursuit of the one true Grail, they will choose wisely.
For the record, I am interested and can be contacted at any time.