Why did Nine leave drop Ian Chappell as a commentator? – it’s just not cricket!

Is the Nine Network about to inflict a Pom on us as our ‘voice
of summer’ replacing the doyen of broadcasters, the man in the Beige
Jacket (got him!) Richie Benaud?Though it seems this crisis has been averted for moment at least, with the news this afternoon that
Richie has agreed to stay on as captain of the commentary team for the
next three years.

So why then have they signed Mark Nicholas, a former captain of the England A cricket team?

This
is a question that should be answered by the Nine network now that some
anonymous executive has cut Ian Chappell from the roster of
commentators for this weekend’s second cricket test against New Zealand
in Adelaide.

The manner of doing it, a phone call, a
selective leak and then the spin from Nine head of publicity, Jamie
Campbell that Chappell had requested to be omitted from the Adelaide
test coverage sounds like a complete crock, up there with the spin from
the ABC’s Lesna Thomas that George Negus was happy with his show being
axed and Peter Cundall was ‘delighted’; with Gardening Australia being shifted from Hobart to Melbourne.

In short, an offensive spin.

Campbell was reported in the Australian as saying, “Ian Chappell requested not to be sent to Adelaide”.

Ian Chappell’s response in this morning’s The Australian
said it all, “You’d better check with the producer,” before ending the
call. And the paper also reported that “a furious Chappell has told
friends he is angered at being left off the eight-man roster,” for
Adelaide.

The producer of the cricket coverage is Graham Koos and the head of Nine Sport is Gary Fenton.

This
is a decision whose importance should NOT be underestimated. Chappell
was a prime force in World Series Cricket being formed and a success.
Without his strong support, Kerry Packer’s seizing of the game in the
late 70s would not have worked.

The recent excellent two part ABC series, Cricket in the 80s
makes that clear, and the central nature of Chappell to the success of
World Series Cricket, despite all the spin about Packer, Austin
Robertson and John Cornell. If Chappell had have said no, it would not
have flown, the Australian team would have stayed with the Australian
Cricket Board.

For Kerry Packer to stand by and allow
someone who has helped him become richer and more powerful in this
country, be sidelined in a public and humiliating way, shows how Packer
has lost sight of the importance of loyalty.

He has been
prepared to do this for the past four years. David Leckie, Peter Meakin
are among those who have helped Packer become richer, but they were
forced out of Nine with him standing by while others, such as CEO, John
Alexander and Nine boss David Gyngell, did the dirty work.

Making
it more offensive this time was the attempted spin from Jamie Campbell,
the head of publicity at Nine who has compounded the situation by being
wrong.

If Nine was replacing Chappell, even for one test,
it should have been upfront and pitched it as a renewal process with
Mark Nicholas being part of it.

Even though Chappelli (to
give him his long held nick name) can be an old buffer type of
commentator at times, no one who has listened to him can say that he
doesn’t inform and doesn’t contribute.

Chappell himself has
undergone significant changes in the past few years, and his very
public stand against the Federal Government’s policy on refugees saw
him emerge as more than just a sportsman, a man interested in the wider
society, with a good view of the place of sport and other things in a
person’s life.

Perhaps he’s also being punished for speaking his mind on refugees and for showing some backbone.

It
would be nice for the other Nine commentators to inform Nine management
that without Chappelli, there’s no commentary team this weekend, but
ego is such a powerful motivator and the corporate view will prevail.

Meanwhile
if Nine permanently sidelines Chappell, or if he leaves with any
ill-feeling, it will make Nine’s plans for Mark Nicholas that much
harder to implement.

Nicholas was trotted out last year on a test run during the series against India.

And
last week it became known that Nine had signed him for two years, which
would take him up to when Richie Benaud’s current contract is up. See The AgeRichie not ready to declare

Richie and Nicholas know each other from Britain (here’s an interesting review of a cricket DVD featuring both men). And Richie doesn’t tolerate fools, and is quick to recognise and appreciate talent, and to help them.

Given
the fact that he appeared on this DVD with Nicholas (and even though it
is a commercial deal), I reckon there’s a very good chance that Richie
has pushed Nicholas towards Nine as a talent spotter.

But
the four days of commentary from the first test revealed some changes
in the pecking order. Richie still has a profile, but it has been
subtly changed to being number two or three in the order. Simon
O’Donnell, the talented all rounder and horse man has assumed a greater
profile, introducing sessions, such as post tea on the third day that
became the pivot session of the whole game.

But Simon
committed a very bad sin in broadcasting terms at the end of the test.
Sitting at the end of Day four after the Australian demolition of New
Zealand, with Richie by his side to send the signal of continuity,
Simon twice fluffed the goodbye from the Gabba. No second chances in
live broadcasting, Simon!

It’s a cardinal sin to muff the
second most important throw of a cricket broadcast( the first and most
important words in the broadcast, is the good morning/good day etc. it
sets the tone for the test and viewers remember the fluffs at the start
and end of the broadcast).

But Simon is still hosting the Cricket Show. However Mark Nicholas was intimately involved with that, explaining the new technology being used in the Nine broadcast.

Bill
Lawry and Tony Grieg are still there and down the batting order. Ian
Chappell played the slightly gruff buffer, but with a tremendous amount
of foresight. His rationale for playing the hook shot on Day Three was
the best answer to Steve Waugh’s decision to drop it!

The
Queenslander keeper, Ian Healy is still a good, insightful commentator,
while former capital Mark Taylor is good, but is still a touch stolid
for my liking (reminds me of his debut when run out against the West
Indies, a stutter, and then he was gone, out!)

But his commentary has come on tremendously over the years, but he’s no broadcast leader.

And not the Voice of Summer.

But it’s Richie who’s still the Voice of Summer for me, even if cricket starts in late spring.

He’s
been doing it 25 years and his summation at the start of play on Day
one after New Zealand had won the toss was masterful. He said on the
first day of a Brisbane test, you’d reckon on losing a couple of
wickets and be around 70 to 80 runs on the board by lunch.

That was close enough to what happened for Richie to retain the Beige Jacket for as long as he wants.

But the phrase Voice of Summer does recall from my dark past a bloke called Alan McGilvray. A good cricketer in his own right (NSW), and even better commentator.

Growing
up in the bush (now regional Australia in the present nomenclature)
before Television became popular (didn’t come to where I was living
until 1962), radio was important, and the ABC was vital for sport.
Rugby League in winter includes various voices, but a bloke called
Johnny Moyes is remembered, there was also the Davis Cup Tennis from
Boxing Day when Australia was defending the trophy here, plus something
called the Sydney-Hobart yacht race that was more remote.

But
McGilvray was the voice, calm, masterful, a confident communicator able
to tell small boys, teenager and older people just what the picture was
from the Gabba, Melbourne or Lords.

Television is now the
modern equivalent of radio and nobody on the ABC radio broadcast has
the class of McGilvray for me, but they are on the whole better than
Nine, except for the Bloke in the Beige Jacket.

But a Pom, no matter how good he sounds and what level of cricket he played at, as the Voice of Summer?

Come on Aussie Come on!