The commentators

For the last six weeks we’ve been scrutinising the form of the English and Australian players. In newspapers and blogs, no stone has been left unturned as we endlessly analyse how the two sides have shaped up. But what about the performance of an equally important squad of participants – the ex -players and pundits who keep us company through those lonely small hours of the night. We thought it high time we considered how the commentators are shaping up in this, the most crucial series of all.

SKY SPORTS

David Gower 7/10 Solid and dependable as always, and his hair colour seems to be finally settling down after last summer’s flirtation with mauve. Characteristically, tends to use a number of words, or you could say units of language, which is not unadjacent to several, and perhaps takes a route around the houses which is circular in shape, rather than just getting to the bloody point. Can also appear a little less than awe-inspired when the big moments occur. While commentating on Peter Siddle’s Gabba hat-trick, he sounded, as Wisden’s Ed Craig put it, as if he was picking up his dry-cleaning. Admittedly, he staged a recovery of kinds when calling the final wicket at Melbourne: “Australia are beaten…well beaten…beaten into the earth!!”

Mike Atherton 10/10 How flabby would Sky be without him? With every series, Athers reinforces his credentials as the definitive cricket commentator of our times. Authoritative, elegant, concise, and illuminating. And bear in mind he wasn’t a bad player in his day either – how unfair of Atherton to be very talented at two completely different things.

Sir Ian Botham 2/10 As Alan Tyers observed in the Telegraph, if Andrew Strauss placed a fielder everywhere Sir Ian wanted one, England would require 47 players. When expostulating his wisdom, it’s interesting how rarely he refers to his own captaincy record (played 12, won 0). Gingoistic, and forever grumbling at his incomprehension at what’s going on out there, Botham has become the new Fred Trueman.

Mikey Holding 5/10 While still offering the occasional nugget of genuine insight, ‘Whispering Death’ still retains his fatal flaw of stating the bleeding obvious. “That one will go all the way. No chance of stopping that one. That will be four. Another boundary.” And so on…

Shane Warne 9/10 Uniquely perceptive, concise, magnanimous to England, and downright funny. A memorable bon mot concerned the notion of Justin Langer driving the Australian team coach. Warney chipped in to say JL would need a telephone book to sit on, so he could see out of the windscreen. Our only complaint is that, due to his Channel 9 commitments, Warne is not on air with Sky nearly enough.

David Lloyd 7/7 Usually seen as the joker in Sky’s pack, it’s easy to overlook Bumble’s genuine insight into the mechanics of the game, and the dynamics of a match situation. Is the only front-line commentator with experience of international coaching – and, uniquely, umpiring.

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TEST MATCH SPECIAL

Jonathan Agnew 10/10 Enough said. Brilliant as always. One of the most naturally gifted communicators on radio anywhere, Aggers combines warmth and wit with a mellow authority, plus proper journalistic sensibilities.

Simon Hughes 6/10 Interesting one this, especially as he’s been given the mantle of commentator, not summariser – responsible for ‘calling’ the action. So far Hughes has not sounded quite at home in the job, and still operates in TV mode – clipped, dry and staccato, rather than using words to paint pictures. Neither is he yet fully attuned to the nuances and ambience of TMS. He is a very intelligent and astute broadcaster, however, and will probably acclimatise to the role – if given time. At any rate, he’s better than Henry Blofeld.

Michael Vaughan 9/10 Watch out Athers – there’s another ex-England captain coming up on the rails behind you! Vaughan is a born commentator – wry, elegant, articulate, and able to speak from significant personal experience. How long can TMS keep hold of him before Sky Sports get out their chequebook?

Jim Maxwell 5/10 One Ashes series too many for the Ocker stalwart? His gravitas is undeniable, but Maxwell seems to have lost his joie de vivre. In fact, to be frank, he’s been as dull as billabong water. Still, after his condescension towards us over the last five series down under, it’s gratifying to hear him reiterate his new catchphrase: “Australia are under the pump”.

Thoughts?

Maxie Allen

  7 comments for “The commentators

  1. June 2, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    Very amusing. Reminds me of a piece in the telegraph I read prior to the Champions League final, which analysed all the commentators in a similar way to this piece. Very good!

  2. Mike Beck
    August 29, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Yes – spot on. Athers, Vaughn, Warne and Aggers are all on the money when assessing any particular situation. Shame that Nasser was ignored from the line up (intolerant, critical and caustic – but we love him don’t we?).

    On the downside…Botham should leave speaking to his test record. Bumble must be preserved for his enthusiasm and general all about bonhomie.

    And the best is… CMJ! – For fluency, diction and love of the game. Posh accent but nevertheless always projects a balanced view of the controversies of the day. And I just love to hear him giggle when fellow commentators pass judgement on affairs of the day.

    PS The full Toss is the best cricket blog by far… keep going! I love it.

  3. Anonymous
    August 30, 2011 at 5:12 am

    Basically, like the best commentators, Ian Botham saw things no-one else did. Last year he witnessed an abuse of the law. “The bowlers are getting away with murder out there. Literally.” They wouldn’t show the pictures of this senseless act, but that’s Rupert Murdoch for you. Thank god Beefy was there to alert the authorities. It’s a disgrace. We pay our taxes and where were the police? Without a free press we’d be none the wiser. We don’t have enough crusading journalists in the world as it is. If Beefy was still alive I don’t think Gaddafi would have got away it. Mind you, his lack of first syllables got on my wick (Vid Gower, Katherton, Ser Hussain. King irritating if you ask me). Still, we’ll miss him.

  4. The Full Toss
    August 30, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Thanks for your very kind comments, Mike – much appreciated! And absolutely agree about CMJ – he is still such a pleasure to listen to, and a reminder of how professional broadcasters, as opposed to ex-players, bring so many important attributes to the commentary box. It’s a shame they are a dying breed.

    • Mike Beck
      August 31, 2011 at 6:37 pm

      Hello Full Toss

      When I first started to listen to TMS in the 70′s I seem to remember that the commentators were mostly ‘professional’ i.e knowledgeable broadcasters such as Brian Johnston, Alan McGilvray and the wonderful Tony Cozier. I think it was their accents together with their (relatively) unbiased dissection of the game which I really enjoyed.

      One sadness – a Barbadian lawyer called Donna Symmonds lit up the commentating world around 2000 but then finished all too soon. I would sign a petition to bring her back anytime!

      And I agree that it seems that the professional broadcasters are a dying breed. Sad but as long as the standards of Athers, Aggers and other are maintained I don’t think we have much to complain about.

      Best wishes

      Mike

  5. Anonymous
    September 1, 2011 at 8:50 am

    MHA here…also worth a mention in the professional broadcasters category is the peerless Harsha Bogle, of India. A mellifluous voice, a CMJ-esque elegance and succintness…a real joy to hear.

  6. Mike Beck
    September 1, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    I stand corrected! Quite a serious omission on my part – grovel grovel…lol. Harsha has been off my radar for some time now – is he with ESPN or something? Anyway a gentle Indian expert on the Great Game must not be ignored from our commentator’s Hall of Fame.

    And speaking of which I don’t want to continually dredge up the old days but John Arlott was pretty special and deserves an honourable mention.

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