Picking A Fight With Channel Nine’s Commentary

The Guardian has published an excellent critique of Channel Nine’s cricket commentary. It’s a damning piece that condemns the “matey” exhibitionism and the endless backslapping, jockey-jokes, proud ignorance, and self-referential odes. It’s something any viewer of American morning news shows will recognize–rather than discuss the day’s news, these products turn the cameras within and produce spectacle, with as much silliness and put-on humor as pancake makeup will allow.

I particularly liked this part in the essay:

When Misbah-ul-Haq matched the fastest Test century record against Australia in October 2014, Roar Radio caller Adam Collins launched into an impromptu song of praise. He took us from Misbah assuming the captaincy among the ruins of the 2010 spot-fixing scandal, through his slow and criticised rebuild and on to this joyous moment of vindication, catching the emotion and significance of the moment for his audience with a response that was detailed, meaningful and aptly turned.

In the Adelaide Test after a high-profile funeral, Steve Smith produced a moment of poetry, walking halfway to the boundary during his century celebration to salute the 408 painted large on the Oval turf. That footage will be forever twinned with Nine’s soundtrack, as Brayshaw mustered “I think he might be walking over to the number here to recognise Phillip Hughes and that’s… terrific stuff.”

I’ll end with a little bit of snark. One of the few joys of an ICC event is the collision of commentary teams from around the world. You have these giant egos drawn from separate networks, and they clearly have varying levels of tolerance for each other. The results are (happily) abysmal.

Example #1: During India-Pakistan, Sunil Gavaskar says something about how India was a rank outsider in 1983, with odds of victory in the final at 66 to 1. Mark Nicholas replies that that seems impossible in a “two-horse race,” to which Gavaskar mumbles, “I don’t know about these things…it was a long time ago.” Spot the layers of tension here: There’s the unfortunate allusion to betting (Gavaskar’s protesting a bit too much here; he obviously knows something about the mechanics of odds); there’s also the fact that Gavaskar clearly doesn’t like being fact-checked by the likes of a cricketing nobody.

Example #2: Sourav Ganguly repeats the need for India to keep wickets in the early overs, so they can get 80 runs in the last ten overs. Very clinical and concrete. Nicholas tries to add some subtlety by recalling a conversation with Dhoni, who said he likes to be in a position where the other side is just as worried as he is. Simple enough. Ganguly’s having none of it. “I don’t think about it like that,” he says, and repeats his 80 runs thing. Nicholas is stumped: he wasn’t even criticizing Ganguly’s math! “No, the point is about pressure…” he begins.

Example #3: At one point during the same game, Shane Warne proceeded to talk for a good two minutes about Ian Healy. On and on about how Healy was so good at keeping off Warne’s own bowling, which–we will all recall–was so damned mysterious and brilliant. Ganguly says nothing, until, clearly exasperated, he starts talking about the game at hand.

At this rate, the fist fights should break out in a week.

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