Which broadcaster is winning the cricket commentary arms race?

Eddie Otto Roar Guru

By Eddie Otto, Eddie Otto is a Roar Guru

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    It’s the dawn of a new era for cricket coverage in Australia this summer with Channel Nine having conceded the television broadcasting rights for the first time in four decades.

    While many had become frustrated at Nine’s outdated coverage and stale commentary line-up, the pressure will be on Seven and Fox to deliver a better product. Here I take a look at the ‘Arms Race’ to secure talent, and who I think might have the upper hand.

    Which team has secured the better talent? Which network has the better mix or dynamic? Who are your favourite and least favourite commentators? Here I give a few quick thoughts on each commentator, as well as my final Verdict on which team I would rather listen to.

    Fox Sports

    Adam Gilchrist – Host
    In Adam Gilchrist, I think Fox have found the perfect anchor-man to headline their cricket coverage for the foreseeable future. Gilchrist was thrust into the hosting role for many BBL games, and I thought did a terrific job given his relative inexperience.

    He is obviously loved by most Australians, and I found him to be both engaging and vocally animated which added to the excellent BBL coverage. Gilly doesn’t get too caught up talking about himself and his own career, which I believe happened far too often at Channel Nine over the years.

    He’s not as experienced a host as some of Channel Seven’s stable like Michael Slater and James Brayshaw, but is likely to grow into the role and provide a fresh face, which viewers will enjoy.

    Adam Gilchrist

    Adam Gilchrist (Photo by Philip Brown/Getty Images)

    Brendon Julian – Host
    Extremely affable host and imposing figure who has anchored Fox Sports cricket coverage for the best part of the last decade. While he has done a solid job, it’s no surprise that he has been usurped by Gilchrist as lead anchor.

    Has a great voice that can project deeply when called upon. Not a personal favourite of mine, as I’m often wondering if he knows what he is going to say next. Can waffle on a bit in my opinion, but has a head for TV and has experience hosting with several of Fox’s big name colour commentators, and this will provide natural connection.

    Mark Waugh – Commentator
    Personally a favourite commentator of mine, with his dry humour and straightforward approach. To me, Mark Waugh commentates the same way he would talk to you at a pub or in the street, and that is what is appealing about him.

    He just calls it as he sees it with no real filter. Very sharp cricket brain and never afraid to say if he doesn’t rate a player or tactics from any side. Very laid back, but has the ability to use his voice to project key moments of the game.

    Michael Vaughan – Commentator
    An excellent signing in my opinion, as he provides a strong English influence and is not afraid to speak his mind. Channel Nine were at their best when they had Tony Grieg to offset the Australian cheerleading from time to time.

    Vaughan is known to be fairly outspoken on Twitter and in commentary, and I can see him being a good match up with the likes of Shane Warne and Mark Waugh. Has a strong wit and typically English sense of humour. Not the most popular or chummy with modern day players, which is not a bad thing.

    Shane Warne – Commentator
    If you want star power, Warnie would have been the Number 1 player on the table for both Fox and Seven, so consider this a win for Fox, although I’m sure he commanded a large fee.

    He has a huge following around the world. Extremely forthright and tactically very aware, even if he can shove his views down your throat at times.

    Occasionally he seems to go over the top in his praise or criticism of players, but I think that is part of his appeal as he gets people talking whether they agree or disagree with him.

    It will be interesting to see how he interacts with Adam Gilchrist given they have never been the closest colleagues over the years, but now find themselves as arguably Fox’s biggest stars.

    Shane Warne

    Shane Warne has a laugh. Can he coach? (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Kerry O’Keeffe – Commentator
    O’Keeffe is a huge signing for Fox given the point of difference he provides. While he is a very funny man with a wicked sense of humour and sharp wit he also offerrazor-sharp opinion and insight. Few watch as much domestic cricket as O’Keeffe or can pick apart a technique of a batsman as closely.

    Allan Border – Commentator
    Border has been a staple of Fox’s coverage for over a decade, being part of the commentary team for several overseas tours and as a colour commentator from the studio at various times.

    As perhaps Australia’s most respected captain, his voice always carries weight and respect. As a listener, however, he doesn’t have the greatest voice for commentary, and his projection can come across as fairly monotone and dull.

    Isa Guha – Commentator
    This is perhaps a key win for Fox as, with the 32-year-old Guha, they may have secured the most sought after female commentator. Guha is a former England fast bowler and commentator with Triple M Radio and Sky Sports in the UK.

    Still largely an unknown quantity to Australian fans, she made an impression on Australian airwaves over the past two years on Triple M’s Test coverage, engaging in good banter with the likes of Kerry O’Keeffe.

    Known for her impeccable research and preparation and knowledge of the game, which gives her such cut-through in a world traditionally the domain of men.

    Other Fox Sports Commentators include Brett Lee, Michael Hussey and Mel Jones
    Both Lee and Hussey have made a quick return after being unceremoniously dumped by Channel Nine last summer. Looks like they have had the last laugh there.

    Both I found to be very clean but lacking a little in voice discrepancy and ability to really engage a viewer. Mel Jones is a former female Australia batter and commentator with Channel Nine and successfully hosted BBL games for Network Ten.

    Channel Seven

    Michael Slater – Host
    There is no doubt Slater is a very experienced and well respected host, having performed on a number of platforms in television and radio over the years. Slater is just one of two survivors from the old Channel Nine Commentary Team, alongside Shane Warne who was signed by rival Fox.

    Viewers might think he is a little bit stale, but perhaps he’s a victim of overexposure as he was also a large part of Channel Nine’s, at times, tedious coverage of cricket over the past decade. However, given Channel Seven have a number of faces that have not worked together before, his hosting experience could prove vital.

    Mark Taylor and Michael Slater

    Former Australian Test opener Michael Slater (R) is congratulated by former teammate and Australian captain Mark Taylor (L) (WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

    James Brayshaw – Host
    A very experienced host and presenter, having performed on numerous platforms over the years, including the Footy Show, Channel Seven AFL and Channel Nine cricket coverage from time to time.

    Brayshaw never played for Australia but was a very respected State cricketer with South Australia. Should be able to let Ponting do what he does best and lead him into subjects. The negative, for me, is he can get carried away with in-jokes and talking about their own careers, and is prone to hyperbole at times, given he has been highly involved with shows like the AFL Footy Show.

    Mel McLoughlin – Host
    Experienced female host who has excelled at presenting the A-League, and Optus coverage of the World Cup, among other sporting events like the Winter Olympics.

    First passion is undoubtedly soccer, so the challenge will be having the same in-depth knowledge and passion for cricket alongside some big names. I’m she will not be daunted though, given she worked for Network Ten in their successful BBL coverage.

    Ricky Ponting – Commentator
    There is no doubt Ponting was the big fish probably for both networks, given his outstanding commentary on the Big Bash over the past couple of years. For mine, he is the best going around, despite only being on the scene for a few years.

    Ponting is tactically very sharp, and has the rare ability of often being able to predict what will happen next in terms of what ball the bowler might bowl, or what plan a side is working towards.

    I find him insightful, with a cheeky sense of humour, as well as being not afraid to speak his mind and dish out criticism of players. A huge signing for Seven, and would definitely have commanded the largest pay packet.

    Ricky Ponting has a new coaching appointment

    Ricky Ponting will act as assistant coach for the Australian Twenty20 team. (Photo by Ryan Pierse – CA/Cricket Australia/Getty Images)

    Damien Fleming – Commentator
    Fleming has been in the media for years on various entertainment shows, as well as broadcasting cricket on radio, and for Network Ten in the BBL. There is no doubt he is versatile and has the ability to be serious as well as light hearted.

    Personally I find the bad outweighs the good with Fleming. There is no doubt he is very knowledgeable, however he tries to be funny too often for mine, which becomes annoying.

    Anyone who followed his ‘wicket of truth’ rubbish on the BBL last year might agree. The most entertaining commentators in my opinion are those who are amusing without forcing it. Fleming is a great bowling analyst and, if he can find the right mix, could add to the coverage.

    Glenn McGrath – Commentator
    No offence, but this one baffles me a little bit. McGrath has done guest stints for Channel Nine and personally I found him fairly wooden and mundane and not very insightful. His voice is also fairly monotonous. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh here.

    Jason Gillespie – Commentator
    Personally I enjoy listening to Dizzy as, unlike many of the other presenters, he has the unique perspective of having coached around the world over the past decade.

    He has been outside that bubble of either the commentary box or the domestic scene of cricket around Australia. Can be quietly spoken, but very intelligent mind who personally I believe would have been a better choice as Australia’s next coach.

    Not afraid to call out Australian players, as exemplified with his comments during the ball tampering saga. Perhaps a lack of experience as a commentator is the question mark.

    Simon Katich – Commentator
    I have not heard a lot of Katich on ABC Radio, but he could be a smokey, given he is a new voice in many respects, after he disappeared, probably prematurely, from playing for Australia. A quietly spoken but fierce competitor in his playing days.

    He has worked for ABC radio the past few years, so making the adjustment to television could be the challenge. Seven to as of yet don’t have a same depth or the same variety to their team.

    Other Channel Seven Commentators include Brad Hodge, Bruce McAvaney , Tim Lane, Alison Mitchell Abbey Gelmi and Lisa Sthalekar
    Seven have currently signed two female commentators with Abbey Gelmi and Alison Mitchell on board. Mitchell is a broadcaster with a point of difference having previously worked with the BBC and BT Sport in the UK.

    Bruce McAvaney has been one of the biggest and best calls of the past two decades so it will be interesting to see where and how Seven use him.

    Verdict

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    The Crowd Says (10)

    • July 14th 2018 @ 8:38am
      KingCowboy said | July 14th 2018 @ 8:38am | ! Report

      As long as I don’t have to hear Damien Fleming talk about AFL in every game, I will be happy.

    • July 14th 2018 @ 8:52am
      Paul said | July 14th 2018 @ 8:52am | ! Report

      The teams both networks have put together seem terrific on paper, but McAveney and Brayshaw?. It remains to be seen how they work together. Certainly a new era in broadcasting cricket in Australia.

    • July 14th 2018 @ 9:04am
      jamesb said | July 14th 2018 @ 9:04am | ! Report

      I don’t think McAveney is needed. I can understand Brayshaw because he was a first class cricketer and has done commentary. But where is McAveney’s connection to cricket? Even Mel has hosted the BBL in the past.

    • July 14th 2018 @ 10:57am
      Eddie Otto said | July 14th 2018 @ 10:57am | ! Report

      Certainly however it pans out it will be an upgrade on Nine. Speaks volumes that only Warne and Slater were picked up from the whole Nine crew.

      • Roar Guru

        July 16th 2018 @ 10:38am
        The Bush said | July 16th 2018 @ 10:38am | ! Report

        Except Brayshaw is on there, and he was previously with Nine (and just about the worst commentator), so there’s actually sort of three that have survived.

        But yes, you’re right, it speak volumes about how bad they were in the end. Though I’d love to know what sort of contracts Healy and Tubby have with 9, because I believe Nine still has the rights for the WC and Ashes next year? If so, then they likely needed to keep a couple of guys on contract to do that (so they might still have Healy, Tubby, Chapelli and Nicholas on the books for that?).

    • July 14th 2018 @ 3:56pm
      Insult_2_Injury said | July 14th 2018 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

      Don’t have pay, so won’t miss Warne & his hobby horse drivel. They’ll do OK though with Gilchrist, who’s one of the best going around.

    • July 14th 2018 @ 5:19pm
      Reece said | July 14th 2018 @ 5:19pm | ! Report

      Get rid of Mel Jones, Mel McLaughlin and Bruce and Fox and Seven have a set of decent commentators.

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