The Ashes series finally draws to a close and now we have the one-day series to look forward to, but there is sadly one thing that spoils my viewing of not only cricket but also dare I say Australian Rugby, and that is the commentary.
I know that I may not be in a position to comment, but I question the modern trend to assume that ex players make great commentators and presenters.
Some of them forget that the reason we have them there is to impart knowledge from first hand experience. They are not there simply because it is a free ticket and they can sit back and watch the game as if they are in the pub.
The recent Rugby test match in Cape Town, one of the ex players exploded at a Springbok players screaming over the top of a fellow commentator – a real no-no – “ he can’t do that!” But we were never told what it was the player concerned was not allowed to do, and I was left to explain the infringement to my wife!
Some of the commentators are first class; Shane Warne has made the transition seamlessly, Michael Holding excellent, David Gower insightful.
Yet some you wonder why they have ever been give the job in the first place, Nasser Hussein and Michael Atherton, both very poor captains tactically when they played, and neither the most flamboyant or exciting personalities, and their commentary is equally as dull.
In Australia you had a choice of SBS or Fox Sports for the Ashes series and the same was true again. Stuart MacGill insightful and would have been a great comments man but too wooden to be a front man, maybe he should have had a few wines first. Greg Matthews very good, speaks as he played, taking no prisoners.
Fox Sports, Brendan Julian tries hard in the anchor role but tries to be too nice and even when he is trying to be controversial it misses the mark. Damian Fleming outstanding and interesting, yet Merv Hughes… Well can we honestly believe he was a selector? In fact maybe we can and that is why Australia lost the Ashes.
On radio Jonathan Agnew is again superb, but aren’t Jim Maxwell and Henry Blofeld masters of radio coverage matching the greats who went before them, Arlott, Johnston and McGilvray.
Now that we are having to pay to watch so much sport on our televisions should we the viewer not demand higher standards?
There are some superb commentators in Australia, Richie Benaud the doyen, Denis Cometti, Bruce McAvaney, and Simon Hill. Three out of the four are not ex-players of note, but who have the passion, the knowledge and the gift.
The plethora of ex-players in the press box was a real bugbear of the late George Grujlusich, who in Australia again was a voice on the radio that was up there with the best.
I look back on the sports I love, Rugby, Cricket and Football and I think of which commentators immediately spring to mind when I say the names of these sports. Rugby, – Bill MacLaren, Nigel Starmer-Smith, Gordon Bray and my current favourite Hugh Bladon. Cricket – John Arlott, Jim Laker, Richie Benaud, Jim Maxwell, Brian Johnston, Henry Blofeld and Jonathan Agnew. Football – David Coleman, John Motson, Peter Brackley, Simon Hill and Martin Tyler. – Yes I did grow up in the UK!
How many of these played their sports at the highest level? The cricketers apart not many. So does this prove my point?