It’s been very interesting watching the coverage of the first two days play of the Ashes. In Australia, the series is being played on a free-to-air station, SBS, and the pay-TV provider, Foxtel. Both are sourcing their coverage from BSKYB. The interesting element of the coverage has been the incredible extremes of bias found in the comment and commentary. Former test players Mark Waugh and Damien Fleming host the Foxtel coverage, whilst the SBS telecast is fronted by Stuart MacGill, Damien Martyn and former spin bowler Greg Matthews.
Listening to these ‘wise heads’ preview and review each session is absolutely extraordinary. Each little variation in play is claimed as a glorious victory for the Aussies, and is seen as a sign that the Ashes are already won. England’s lower order resistance with the bat, was claimed as a great sign that the pitch was playing well, and thus the Aussies with their batting would have the ascendency (that this has proven to be the case is beside the point). The analysis of wickets fallen, or those not given, is equally unbelievable. Seriously, you’d imagine that these guys only ever saw one angle on each decision. I don’t mind analysis that supports the team that you are barracking for, but some kind of balance is just so crucial.
However, if it is balance you want, don’t think for one minute that the commentary from BSKYB is any better. With more former captains than you can point a stick at (Messers Atherton, Gower, Hussain anyone??), the analysis of the game from the host broadcaster is equally despicable. In fact, many of the commentators don’t even bother referring to the English team as ‘England’, they just saw ‘we’, for example, ‘we are closing in now…’. Really, it’s just not good enough. Even Michael Holding, once as fearsome to English batsman as a mouse is to an elephant, is tooting the Pommy horn, over and over again.
So, what is the answer? Well, I guess it’s just some bloody balance! Why can’t some of the Aussies, join up with the Poms, and give both sides of the tale. I remember the Channel 4 coverage from the last Ashes featured a range of Australian and British voices, and it was much the better for it. At the moment it’s just ridiculous when you hear the British commentators claim a certain part of play as a victory to England, and then the exact same passage is reported as a sign of Australian dominance.
Perhaps the answer is the radio coverage from the BBC and ABC. This excellent service features a great blend of scribes and past players, from both sides of the coin. Mind you, any time I have to listen to ol’ Boycott for too long, I start to turn as batty as he is.
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