Crikey has been enjoying some of the best Test cricket played in
Australia for years over the break but unfortunately the commentary
both on the radio and TV hasn’t always been up to the same standard.
For a couple of summers, Nine has focused on developing big names –
Taylor, Healy, Warne – rather than the best commentators but they are
improving. It is hard to compare the efforts of these relative
newcomers to the old stalwarts like Chappelli, Greig and Lawry. Does
anyone remember what Richie Benaud was like when he first started? Was
he a natural or did he need time to develop into the doyen he is today?

The inclusion of Shane Warne this summer has been a controversial decision for Nine. A subscriber writes:

“I’ve gotta say that I haven’t watched much cricket this summer, but I did settle down on the couch to watch the Sydney Test.

To be honest, the sight of Shane Warne interviewing the Umpire one day
and Tendulkar the next in the middle of the SCG just before the days
play made me feel very uneasy. His commentary during the day was
actually quite articulate and informative, which made me a little less
aggro about it (but I did ring Channel 9 on the second day and complain
– they didn’t take my number or name for reference) and I guess that’s
exactly the purpose of the exercise from Channel 9. Soften us up.

But some questions remain unanswered. Is his ban from the GAME or
simply PLAYING THE GAME. Why is he allowed into the arena and no doubt
socialises with the players (he certainly interviews them) Why is
everyone (players, umpires, officials and Channel 9) treating Warne as
if he is off injured as against a drug cheat on a 12 month suspension?
If he can socialise, interview, be at the ground, be a commentator and
just about everything else, why isn’t he training with the team
too…..or is he banned from that?

Why is Channel 9 endorsing a BANNED player.

Or is all this about Channel 9 running the game and not the ACB?

What is the status of the ban?”

Crikey agrees that Warne shouldn’t be working for a company contracted
to Cricket Australia while he is banned by Cricket Australia but Nine
has invested a lot of time and money in Warne and he is obviously a big
part of their plans for the future despite his numerous indiscretions.

Warne’s commentary has been quite good though he can be a bit blokey
but that probably appeals to some viewers. He is always talking about
the “cherry” and balls “decking back”. He certainly can’t be appealing
to many female viewers.

Ian Healy is the best of the new generation, providing interesting and
well-informed commentary, though the certainty with which he states
what players are thinking and planning can be little disconcerting.

Pom Mark Nicholas is a good addition to the team but he thinks everything is fantastic.

On the radio, Kerry O’Keefe is far too self-indulgent, with his fellow
commentators often having to cut off his never ending jokes and
anecdotes to call the action. It will be interesting to see if the ABC
sticks with O’Keefe, as listeners seem to either love him or hate him.

On the other hand Indian Harsha Bhogle is the consummate professional
and often seems bewildered by O’Keefe’s antics when the two are paired
in the commentary box. Bhogle’s alternative point of view is certainly
a welcome change. Nine seems to have dispensed with the custom of
including a commentator from the visiting nation in its team – or has
ESPN contracted all the decent Indian commentators?

Geoff Lawson doesn’t really add much to the ABC’s coverage though Peter
Roebuck is usually very good. And while Jim Maxwell and Glenn Mitchell
have been doing a reasonable job we’re all really missing the work of
Tim Lane. You couldn’t fully appreciate how good Lane was until now he
is gone.

The PM took a stint in the after Mark Latham’s effort in commentary box earlier in the match, which 

What do you think of the current cricket commentary teams, on either TV
or radio? Who do you enjoy listening to and who really annoys who? Send
your responses to [email protected]

CRIKEY’S TOP 10 CRICKET COMMENTATORS

1. Harsha Bhogle
2. Peter Roebuck
3. Ian Healy
4. Richie Benaud
5. Ian Chappell
6. Jim Maxwell
7. Mark Nicholas
8. Glenn Mitchell
9. Shane Warne
10. Kerry O’Keefe

Harsha Bhogle is a clear favorite with the Crikey readers and his
wonderful combination of professionalism and enthusiasm for the game
made him our top commentator of the summer. He proves you don’t need to
be champion player to be an interesting and well-informed commentator –
Channel 9 should take note.

Richie Benaud would have been much higher had it not been for the fact
he started plugging The Block 2 while we were putting together the list
which obviously counted against him. Ian Healy is clearly the best of
Channel 9’s new breed, though the certainty with which he states what
players are thinking can be a little disconcerting.

The sheer weight of reader support for Kerry O’Keefe got him in at
number 10, though we still think his constant stream of inane jokes and
anecdotes, especially the constant references to his drinking problem,
overshadows his often insightful commentary.

 
==================================

YOURSAY ON THE CRICKET COMMENTATORS

Kerry adds a spice to the ABC team.  He is out of the usual
mould but has a very humorous outlook, but still knows his cricket.

Channel 9 is straight out boring.  How much longer can the dinosaurs
continue.  Do everybody a favour and put them out of their misery,
or is the Packer/world series promise still in place for Ian Chappell,
Tony Greig,Bill Lawry and Ritchie.

Warne is good, as is Healy – Taylor does not have it.

Luke

 
==================================

Has anyone noticed that the commentary on ABC radio has become an
“alternative” to the Nine TV commentary rather than a standalone
commentary. Commentators are constantly referring to the replay’s on
Nine and often pause while crucial replays are aired on the tele(!!).
Gone are the days when the ABC commentary team used to boast about
receiving prizes from the Blind Society for outstanding cricket
commentary.

Would it be to much to ask for the ABC commentary team to
comprehensively call the cricket ball by ball, give us the score
frequently and describe the atmosphere?

Cheers,
Bob Cricket.

P.S. Love Kerry O’Keefe! On the odd occasion when he sticks to the plot
and offers expert commentary his comments are sharp and insightful –
often the best around.

 
==================================

I tired of Channel 9 years ago, and now with young kids, it’s
compulsory to have the TV down and radio up to avoid the blare of the
TV advertising.

I love Karaoke (as Harsha seems to call him), but I agree that his self
indulgence could do with a little tempering.  I think Harsha and
KOK do make a great double act.

Lawson should stick to optometry.  His commentary is dreary,
negative and rarely adds anything meaningful.  Greg Chappell was
OK for special comments, but spare me Stacky, that parochial time
machine.  Roebuck is the shining light, but occasionally forgets
that not all light shines from him.

Tim Lane is the cricket’s Bruce McAvaney.  Never knew how good he was at doing his job until he’d gone.

Nathan

 
==================================

Kerry O’Keefe presents the best and worst of cricket commentary. His
historical cricket related anecdotes are often amusing and can fill in
the gaps when not much is happening on the ground. However, he seems to
forget (particularly after lunch – funny about that ) that he’s doing a
national broadcast and not in the front bar of the local joking with a
few mates.

Did he say the ‘F’ word the other day while recanting some story
completely unrelated to cricket or is my hearing playing up ? The ABC
should stick with Kerry but make sure he sticks to orange juice over
lunch.

cheers
Rob

 
==================================

Yes, O’Keefe can be a bit distracting for more staid listeners with
inferences to smoking pot, erections and getting blind with his mates
the night before, but he is also the most insightful and knowledeable
commentator the ABC has. He can read the game and interpret the nuances
better than the rest of them, so on balance he is absolutely worth
having and clearly the ABC knows it given they have used him all along
the east coast this summer.

Cheers, Andrew.

 

==================================

I agree with your subscriber’s concerns about the apparent
endorsement of Shane Warne by Nine, despite a serious ban from the
game. I have stopped watching Nine’s coverage this summer. Between the
transparent and embarassing plugs of Nine programming and the lack of
professionalism on the part of some commentators, I can’t take it any
longer (was it Greig who asked Ganguly how, after the toss on boxing
day, asked Ganguly how he celebrated Christmas? An apparently
embarassed Ganguly replied that Christmas was important in Australia
but not so much in India).

The ABC’s coverage has been quite good. My only criticism would be of
their lack of familiarly with Internet technology. During the early
tests, email addresses were confused with website URLs and email
addresses were misquoted. Occassionally, references to material on the
ABC website were premature as I couldn’t find the content until 30
minutes later.

I think, however, your criticism of O’Keefe is too harsh. He is a bit
chatty and the laugh is… unique… but a few laughs don’t hurt (those
interested strictly in the scores/facts/figures should check out the
live score board at the ABC. It is certainly more userfriendly than the
very slow and at times non-functional cricinfo/baggygreen/ninemsn
effort.

As for O’Keefe, I cannot think of any times when cricket has been
missed as a result (unlike on Nine, which stops for news and the latest
miracle diet from ACA).

I definitely agree that Harsha Bhogle has been an excellent
commentator. He is professional, knowledgeable, articulate and
interesting (Nine has no excuse, by your criteria, for not having an
Indian commentator, since Bhogle appears to have an ESPN contract as
well). Bhogle did make a slight slip up yesterday morning however.
Either O’Keefe of Maxwell were commenting on Gillespie’s fitness,
describing him to be as stiff as three whiskies (must have been
O’Keefe). Bhogle asked just how many stiffs his opposite enjoyed each
night. Dead air for 10 seconds and then a fair amount of laughing.

Gavin

 ==================================

My wife takes very little interest in cricket but happened to hear
Warne’s commentary and made the unsolicited comment that it was very
good. Don’t know how you could come to the conclusion that he wouldn’t
appeal to female viewers. He seems to be one of the few commentators
who actually know what there talking about and not just repeating the
same old boring rubbish that they have year after year eg Greig and
Lawry.

Regards

Ewan Mitchell

 ==================================

The game is not the same without McGilvray. No-one even compares esp.
Tony Greig who is too busy selling “created” investments involving
cricketers.

Julian

 
==================================

Warnie as commentator is a mixed blessing.  He is insightful,
direct, economical with language and has an unequalled current
knowledge of the Test game – yet at the same time he is banned and in
disgrace and thus shouldn’t be there.  I thought it was a bit rich
when he chastised one or two of the Australian bowlers for their
mediocre performances, especially Brett Lee re his high proportion of
no-balls.  Warne would do well to remember that at least his
bowling compatriots were out in the middle competing, and not selfish
and/or stupid enough to take a prohibited substance and get themselves
banned from the game entirely.
 
Melbourne subscriber

  ==================================

Bill Lawry gets my vote for becoming a caricature of himself.  His
first day observation that the umpire was ‘as calm as a cucumber’ in
turning down an lbw appeal goes down as one of his finer moments.

This was elegantly complemented by Shane Warne’s insightful comment
that the pitch was still in good shape after the first few overs.

Jim

 ==================================

I LOVE Kerry O’Keefe – and I could listen to him and Harsha Bhogle
together all day (the bit about what a real Aussie would do in a
situation at the end of the first day’s play in the boxing day match
was hilarious). I can’t stand the Channel 9 commentary – not only for
how limited their insights are (with probably Ian Healy as the
exception for me) but how derivative they are. Their comments are
merely padding for the next piece of technology (hawkeye, wagon wheels,
bar charts, graphs, averages on each ground per over per player) or
tacky merchandise (tony grieg’s overpriced rubbish, sponsors products
& words of the day – which I just don’t get), so I have the TV on
mute with the radio on in the background for the commentary.

The other thing that really upsets me is the really poor quality of
service through baggygreen.com.au – the site is always down or
overloaded & the live commentary (Channel 9 not the ABC anymore) –
is forever dropping out.

Claire

 
==================================

I’ve been listening to the cricket for the best part of 35 years
and Kerry O’Keefe is up there with the best. He adds great colour to
the game.

They were talking the other week about Sasha Tendulkar’s slump in form
with the bat, Kerry popped up with a gem. “Slumps, I tell you about a
slump. I retired from cricket in 1981 and all I ever wanted to do, was
to be a cricketing commentator, I achieved this in 2000 – now that’s
what I call a slump”. He then had one of his ‘mad’ chuckles and brought
the house down.

Regards

Rob East

 
==================================

In one of his monologues, Kerry O’Keefe revealed that he had spent
more than 20 years trying to get on the radio commentary team. The
managers of ABC’s cricket coverage should be shot for weakening. With
his contrived jokes and inane sniggering, O’Keefe is vastly more
interested in himself than the cricket – and somehow he thinks that the
listeners are too. Poor Harsha Bhogle !

With great good taste, he simply refuses to join in with O’Keefe’s
inanities, but Bhogle must be bemused to find that he is pissing on the
hide of an Australian rhinoceros. I have never heard him once respond
positively to O’Keefe’s old-fashioned pub  humour – in fact it
seems to be a point of pride for him  not to do so. Kerry O’Keefe
joins John Howard as one of the great spoilers of  the game’s
enjoyment.  Anyway, both
are butting in where they are not wanted. The Two Throwbacks. 
O’Keefe is the worst commentator I have heard in more than 40 years of
listening to the cricket, and as long as he  is on, the days when
one would tune out the TV commentary in favour of  radio are gone.
The rip-off memorabilia offerings on TV are funnier than O’Keefe. 
As Captain Blackadder concluded his cable to Charle Chaplin : ‘please,
please, stop.’

Jeff

 ==================================

Couldn’t agree more re ABC Radio and O’Keefe. I’ve already emailed the
ABC complaining about his rambling, nonsensical comments about
everything from his (apparently serious) drinking to his inability to
understand hotel soap.

They claim that he goes down well with some members of the audience.
Surely those with the least understanding of the game you’d have to
think. Harsha Bhogle isn’t the only one who seems nonplussed with his
remarks. Listen to Glen Mitchell’s responses too.

The loss of Tim Lane underscores the lack of good cricket commentators
now facing the ABC. Remember Alan McGilvray, Michael Charlton, Norman
May and others. Jim Maxwell and Peter Roebuck are really the only ones
able to discuss the cricket with a modicum of authority. Listening to a
two hour

footy match you can forgive much. Listening to five days of commentary
about cricket you need to be able to speak to those with a true love of
the game.

Froggy Thomson

 
==================================
 
The great un-used talent is Dennis Cometti.  He called cricket
for many years on the radio for both the ABC and 2UE.  His
partnership with Ray “Slug” Jordan on 2UE’s cricket coverage in the
late 1980s was brilliant.
 
These days is one of the “stars” of 9’s AFL coverage and his
entertaining style has seen him cement himself as one of Australia’s
best sportscasters.  Given that he is in the 9 stable and knows a
thing or two about cricket, I find it amazing that he’s not a key part
of the 9 coverage and is only used sparingly for ING games and the odd
Australia A match.  Mark Nicholas is pretty good but I think
Cometti would have been more suitable “new blood.”
 
Of the current TV commentators Chappelli is the best.  His
anecdotes are boring but his analysis of the game is second to
none.  He and Benaud are the stand-outs.  Healy is a good
newcomer and the rest should be put out to pasture.
 
Cheers
AHL

 
==================================

The combination of Harsha and Kerry is some of the funniest radio I
have heard in a long time. Their commentary is very good, but the
banter is sensational.
 
I disagree with Crikey about Kerry being self-indulgent – it is his life history that is so interesting.
 
I think Jim Maxwell is the least appealing – he sounds tired to me.
 
But please, just make sure that Keith Stackpole enjoys a permanent
retirement from the microphone. He is such a waffler and so tiresome
that I actually turn the radio off when he chimes in.
 
Greg Wharton

 
==================================

Anybody who can abide the blatherers on channel 9 deserves a nomination
for Australian of the Year, make that Australian of the Century. If
they’re not trying to flog some grossly overpriced tat they’re up one
another’s arses with crap like “That great century you scored in
Barbados” “Those 5 wickets you took in Calcutta”. Their never ending
blokiness makes me think they’re trying desperately to hide the fact
they’re all raging nancy boys.

The ABC and Jim Maxwell are 10 classes above them. Peter Roebuck is
pretty good in the papers but woeful on radio. Never seems to be
enjoying himself.

Rog

 
==================================

Now back at work, having watched and heard much cricket over the break, a few comments on both the Nine and ABC teams
 
Nine – Pom Mark Nicholas sounds terrific compared to most of the
others. Why do we have to have Simon and Ritchie both doing the CCP
role? Simon isn’t up to it and if Ritchie is too old (which I doubt),
send him to pasture and get some one half decent. Shane repeats him
self far too often and his interview skills well… Some of the others
need to be put out to pasture also (Bill and Tony in particular). I
actually liked Mark W when he did a stint a while ago, but perhaps his
space is being kept for his (slightly) older brother. Over all the team
looks tired and I wouldn’t say no to a complete generational change.
 
ABC – Kerry O is one of those who I find amusing only some of the time.
(On balance we could do with some one with a bit more gravitos I
think). I actually thing that Geoff Lawson ads some sense and he has a
really good cricket mind, so keep him. Keith Stackpole how ever, as
nice a bloke as he is, should be retired. Peter R is good but at times
I think he takes himself just that little bit too seriously. (Remember
Peter you didn’t even play for England, unless you count a loss against
the Dutch or similar leading a second eleven team as I recall ). I
agree on the limited appeal of the “ball by ball” team, bring back Tim!
 
Chris

 
==================================

Well Richie was magnificent from the day he started on the BBC in the
early 1960’s.  Remembering that he was not seen by Australian
audiences on a regular basis until 1977.

A former C9 producer once told me that the ideal number of commentators was five.  This summer they have had eight.

1.    Benaud-still magnificent
2.    Chappell-tells you things you don’t know which is what an expert should do
3.    Lawry-great, exciting and colourful
4.    Greig-just terrible but a mate of the owners
5.    Taylor-good, seems to improve each year
6.    Healy-better than good, got a real future
7.    Warne- an ocker bloke and a drug cheat-get him off.  He adds nothing.
8.    Mark Nicholas-presenter of channel 4 in England.
Yeah, he’s ok.  But why is he here?

Warne is a drug cheat and is banned from playing the game or gaining
any benefit from Cricket Australia.  As Cricket Australia has
provided Warne with media accreditation, I assume he does not pay to
get in, so perhaps he is gaining a benefit from Cricket Australia in
the form of accreditation which enable him to earn money from C9.

Kerry O’Keefe is great. Harsha Bhogle far too far behind the
play.  Does not have the voice for fast action sport.  Never
gives the score
 
Peter Roebuck is a disgrace.

 
==================================

THE STEVE WAUGH LETDOWN
Sealed Section January 5, 2004

The Indians must have really enjoyed ruining Steve Waugh’s farewell
after all the pain he and the Australians have inflicted on them and
other countries over the years.

And isn’t the media looking silly for hugely overcooking and hyping the
occasion? It’s another classic example of Australia’s unhealthy
obsession with sport with the Packers and the Murdochs carrying most of
the blame for going way over the top with the media hype.

Rohan Connolly best summed up the farce with this excellent column in The Sunday Age:
Misguided worship demeans us all

Try these lines for size:

“Somewhere in among the commemorative prints, medallions, posters, John
Williamson records and red handkerchiefs being flogged to cash in on,
sorry, celebrate, the end of one of Australian cricket’s great careers,
there’s a match going on to decide what has been one of the better Test
series in this country for some time.”

“Worse, the corporatisation and merchandising of emotion and sentiment
in sport insults the intelligence of what is supposed to be a very
discerning sporting public. Not to mention robbing it of spontaneity.”

“Somehow, though, I can’t quite picture Channel Nine ever marking
Chappell’s stand (on refugees) with a photo stuck on a tacky frame, and
flogging it for some outrageous price. Thank God.”

Connolly is right. Tony Greig’s personal profits from all that
over-priced memorabilia just looks cheap and opportunistic during what
should be an auspicious occasion for Steve Waugh. Besides, this whole
hero stuff is at odds with what has turned into an embarrassing
thrashing for the Australian bowlers and a middle order collapse
yesterday afternoon.

Crikey can’t recall another Australian sporting great receiving such an
extended and overblown send-off. The Packers weren’t going to do Allan
Border any favours when he announced his retirement on Channel Seven.
Ever wondered why Border is not in the Nine commentary team? Although
they’ve used his name to concoct another awards night that generates
more ratings for Nine and revenue for Packer’s Crown Casino?

Maybe this is why the Australian selectors have been very unsentimental
in the past in denying players like Ian Healy and Mark Waugh farewell
matches at their home grounds?

The media’s attempts to put a positive spin on India’s dominate
performance in Waugh’s last test, particularly the TV colour pieces,
have been painful to watch. Reporters sent out to cover the crowds who
flocked to the SCG have tried to claim that the scoreboard doesn’t matter to these
fans.

Doesn’t anyone really believe that? It certainly matters to Steve Waugh.

Finally, our occasional cricket commentator Sparkie has filed a few
pars on what history says about the prospect of an Australian win:

“In case anyone was entertaining hopes of Australia pulling off a
miracle and winning the last test, they should probably know that no
team has ever scored over 600 runs in an innings and lost a test.

The most runs scored in an innings by a team that went on to lose was
586 by Australia against England, way back in 1894.  The most
recent example of a team scoring over 500 in an innings and losing is,
ironically, Australia in Adelaide less than a month ago.

And the prize for the silliest statistic goes to Sun-Herald contributor
Kersi Here-Homji, who boasted that Steve Waugh was the only player to
achieve the ‘Test Triple’ of 10,000 runs, 90 wickets and 100
catches!  If you can’t achieve the numbers required (10,000, 100,
100), simply alter the criteria…

Peter Fray

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