As the cricket season eases into being, it’s time to reflect on the upcoming fixtures for the Aussies. Test series against world cricket’s also-rans, the West Indies and Pakistan, do not really engender too much in the way of enthusiasm. Why bother to reflect really.

And what’s going to make it worse, hard to believe though that may be, is the Channel Nine commentary (read pensioners) team, most of whom are well beyond their use-by dates.

Richie, who may well have commentated on the birth of agriculture, has already signalled his intention to put us out of his misery by pulling stumps at the end of 2010.

“I’ll be doing Australian cricket next year, 2010, but I don’t do any television at all anywhere else now and when I finish next year, then I’ll be doing other things,” Benaud said in a radio interview. “That’ll be no more television commentary.”

Sure, Rich has some wonderful moments during his almost 50 years of dining out on the “two for two two two” (none of the moments fashionable, in a beige clothing sort of sense … and let’s not start on the haircut, which rivalled Ray Martin’s in the derision stakes) but the writing was well and truly on the wall. Enough already.

A lot of the others in Nine’s team have been riding on Kerry Packer’s coat-tails since he revolutionised the game in the ’70s, but the big fella has gone to the great World Series in the sky, so why the need to keep ’em on?

Certainly not for entertainment value.

There were reasons aplenty to love the excitable Bill Lawry over the years … “Gone, got him”, “he’s a Victorian”, “it’s all happening”, etc … but the time is right for him to become a full-time former-plumber-turned-pigeon-racer.

Bill’s on-screen adversary, Tony Greig, has seen better days. Rethinking that last statement, no, Tony has not seen better days. He has never had better days … not even a particularly good one, come to that … certainly not since he played for the Poms. My old man (who is no doubt having a jar and arguing cricket with big Kezza somewhere up there) used to say “Greig would make a great Aussie”. The old man hasn’t been around to be tortured by the big key-poking bald bloke who sells the memorabilia that those who should know say isn’t memorabilia.

With Greig, whose Tony Greig impersonation isn’t half as good as Billy Birmingham’s, Nine should do the Lou Richards thing, when it consigned him to the handball segment on the Sunday morning footy show as a way of easing him out. Greig could be trotted out every time there is a handball segment on the cricket coverage.

Ian Chappell, great cricketer that he was, is a grate cricket commentator. Boring. Time to walk, Chappelli.

And don’t get me started on Mark Taylor, perhaps best remembered for not passing Bradman’s 334 during a Test in Peshawar in October, 1998. Imagine talking Bradman and Taylor in the same breath. Jesus wept. Taylor was not even as good a player as Justin Langer. The fact that Tubby talks faster than Alvin the chipmunk is reason enough to send him back to selling air-conditioners on TV, where the more words you can get into an ad, the better, apparently.

Ian Healy, sorry, but you have to go, too, and again make way for Adam Gilchrist. Sure, you deserved to get a final home Test before the selectors trotted out Gilly in a baggy green, but they made the tough call. Sentiment has no place in the commentary box either, in much the same way that Mark Nicholas has no place in it. Ditto Simon O’Donnell.

Michael Slater rocks. Nine can keep him for as long as he keeps doing the business.

The game has changed so much since Nine’s oldies played. What now can they offer that they haven’t said a million times before. Bugger all is a safe bet.

And who should replace the senior’s card brigade?

If Mark Waugh and Damien Fleming (currently commentating on FoxSports) are not, along with S. K. Warne, the best in the business, then James Packer’s a jockey. And although he bowled a shit line and length, Brendon Julian (FoxSports) is more than good enough to play the Nicholas role, whatever that may be.

Waugh is a joy to listen to … he’s incisive, analytical, humourous and almost as entertaining as Flemmo, the bowlologist.

Throw in wine buff S.C.G McGill (he’s a natural after his excellent Ashes stint on SBS) and for colour, Greg Matthews (SBS: he and Warnie could talk hair crap during rain delays) and Skull, aka Kerry O’Keeffe, who has a great head for radio. Gilly, a champion bloke in anyone’s estimation, would be skipper. Damien Martyn (SBS) and Greg Blewett (FoxSports) would come off the bench.

None of these blokes, Skull aside, are that long out of the game (Warne and Gilly are still going around in the funpark that is India’s 20-20 thing and Matthews is still rolling the arm in some form of grade cricket in Sydney) and would offer the freshness that’s sadly absent at the moment.

Remember, Nine, it’s about entertainment, too.

*Michael Vaughan had the name long before the former England captain, and once scored an unbeaten hundred in a grand final for the mighty King Harold CC.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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