For an opening match that is supposed to be a lopsided contest – Australia $1.40, England $6.50 – the Ashes Test at the Gabba has already attracted extraordinary media coverage.
Because most days of all matches are already a sell-out, there will be live television coverage nationwide of each day’s play. And the television commentators, and even some on radio, are as well known, if not better known, than the Australian XI.
Nine’s coverage is being led – for longer than almost anyone except John Howard can remember – by Richie Benaud. The former Test captain first played at the Gabba in 1948! He has been a cricket television commentator for 43 years, the last 30 with Channel Nine. Aged 76, he is the doyen of world cricket commentators.
The Nine team also includes former Test captains, Bill Lawry and Ian Chappell, who seem to have been around almost as long as Richie. The “overseas” members of the commentary team include the former England captain, Tony Greig, and the new face of cricket broadcasting, Englishman Mark Nicholas.
Nine has signed up just about every retired Test player, so expect regular appearances from Simon O’Donnell, Mark Taylor and Ian Healy.
But if you are a cricket purist, then you will probably be turning down the volume of your television set and tuning into ABC radio coverage. The ABC has been covering Test cricket for 70 years, and its “anchor”, Jim Maxwell, will call his 200th Test in the Boxing Day match in Melbourne.
He shares commentary with Glenn Mitchell – in just his third season in the team – and the outstanding English broadcaster, Jonathan Agnew, who played three Tests for England before joining the BBC commentary team in 1991.
The ABC expert commentators for the series are just about all former Test bowlers – Geoff Lawson, Damien Fleming, Terry Alderman, and the cult figure of Australian cricket, Kerry O’Keeffe.
The overseas experts on the ABC panel include the sometimes controversial Peter Roebuck, and, hopefully – especially late in the afternoon – the inimitable Henry Blofeld.
The quality of Australian cricket coverage on both television and radio is exceptional – even if some of Nine’s “innovations” are annoying.
And if you cannot get near a radio or television, you may also be able get live coverage, and score updates, on your mobile phone. And there is always ninemsn and the ABC website for “live” score updates.