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Opinion

Is the art of good radio commentary dead?

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Roar Rookie
17th June, 2021
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I’ve always loved listening to cricket on the radio.

I grew up in England in the 70s and just lived for the Test Matches on TMS. Brian Johnston, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, The Alderman, Trevor Bailey, Fred Trueman, The Bearded Wonder scoring. They brought it all to life but also made it so much fun. You half hoped that it would rain so that they wouldn’t talk about the boring old cricket but about the good old days (especially in Fred’s case) but it was a wonderful way to follow the game I loved.

Sadly real life took over and things changed.

Dear old Brian passed away. The Alderman (Don Mosey) wrote a book slagging everyone else off and Fred turned feral with the modern game.

I left England in 1984 to return to Australia where, to my delight, cricket on the radio thrived. Jim Maxwell, Tim Lane, Drew Morphett, Peter Roebuck, Glenn Mitchell and many more were not only excellent callers of the game but kept you informed and entertained as well.

I was thinking about those wonderful days while listening to the England versus New Zealand Test at Lord’s the other day. At times, it was so bad I had to turn it off. The final straw for me was listening to Dan Norcross (no, I don’t know who he is either) talking for ten minutes to Michael Vaughan (Ashes captain 2005, lest we should ever forget) about Dan’s flowered shirt and how he has to buy a new jacket. While they were chatting away, runs were scored (obviously Dom Sibley wasn’t batting) but not once did they give the score, tell us what was happening, what might happen or what has happened.

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I know the cricket in this Test wasn’t the most exciting but hearing about Dan’s taste in exotic attire and hearing the peanut gallery at the back of the boxes hysterical laughter about it all was a bridge too far.

It wasn’t just that episode. Jonathan Agnew was once a fine broadcaster but has become complacent. His word seems to be final. The ‘experts’ Vaughan, Phil Tufnell (don’t get me started) and Jeremy Coney seem content to go through the motions and if in doubt, start talking about what happened in their day. Excellent broadcasters like Simon Mann might as well not bother turning up. The whole thing reminded me of Channel Nine’s coverage in its final days. A lot of jokey banter and not a lot about the cricket.

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I’m back in the UK but listened avidly to the wonderful Australia versus India series on the ABC website. It wasn’t much better. Jim Maxwell and Andrew Moore apart, I found it tedious beyond belief. Some of the ‘experts’ male and female simply wouldn’t shut up. I know it’s radio but we don’t need to hear a Shakespearean monologue after every ball. Just talk about the cricket!

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Perhaps we should turn the clock back 50 years and hire commentators who will call the game and tell us the score from time to time. Surely that’s got to be better than hearing about who’s wearing what, what whoever had for dinner the previous night or what function they’ve all been invited to when the games over?

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