Ben Roberts feels Australia is going through a crisis in the commentary box.
(Image: commentary legends Greig and Benaud share a moment)
The recent passing of both Tony Grieg and Christopher Martin-Jenkins, along with that of Peter Roebuck a little over 12 months ago forced me to reflect on the poor state of cricket commentary in Australia. Where the sound of cricket musings used to form an addictively pleasant and informative background to the summer, I find myself increasingly easily turned away.
I have almost given up on watching the cricket on TV, even with the sound down. Channel 9 constantly flits about with replays and technology, trying to ensure the viewer has no down time whatsoever. But this counters one of the great appeals of cricket as a game, the pauses and time between balls allow for anticipation to rise, anticipation in cricket and life is often the greater thrill. The need to play with the technology means that the likes of Michael Slater & Mark Nicholas who are great cricket thinkers (refer their earlier work) might as well be robots, and look ridiculous most of the time.
Grieg never shied away from the technology available, but he always seemed to be giving it a pinch of salt and not taking it too seriously. Funnily enough Richie Benaud (who you struggle to find an article about where the word ‘doyen’ does not precede his name) still inhabits the commentary box and famously advises – “… put your brain into gear and if you can add to what’s on the screen then do it, otherwise shut up.” The current day producers might want to reflect on that.
Even the ABC (usually a safe option) is flagging. The use of present day first class cricketers is only ever going to give you cliché’s and platitudes, do you really believe that cricketers from states other than QLD & WA think that highly of Mitchell Johnson’s selection? Not likely, they have been getting stuck into him for years in domestic cricket for being picked ahead of their own teammates. Roebuck is sorely missed because he provided a strong independent analysis on proceedings. As a listener even if you didn’t agree it made you think. Kerry O’Keeffe’s comedic anecdotes are getting tired also, and without an appropriate foil (like the straight laced Roebuck), fall flat.
Regardless of what medium it is carried on the domestic T20 tournaments have allowed sickening levels of hyperbole to enter commentary boxes. Yes, a fringe first class cricketer (who no one except his mum has ever heard of) or a past it former international cricketer (of questionable talent then and now) has swung ridiculously hard at the ball for the sixth time straight in the over and finally connected enough for it to just clear the ridiculously short boundaries. But this does not mean that you, a fringe first class cricketer (who no one except your mum has ever heard of) or caller usually employed as an “around the grounds” man during football season, sitting in the commentary box need to burst into unbridled whooping.
Granted he was afforded high cost fee paying education that gave him clipped tones and high command of the English language, but Martin-Jenkins could speak ten words that will be recalled for a lifetime where an infinite amount of screeching at an unimportant T20 match will be forgotten immediately; and what took more of the speaker’s energy?
Let the greatest game on earth speak for itself.
Suggested further reading:
- Channel 9 Commentary team the worst in history?
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