The Commentary Dream Team

Last week we ran the rule over England’s test and ODI squads for the UAE. However, there’s actually a selection dilemma far more pressing to discuss. Who will make the final cut when BT Sport assembles their spanking new commentary team for the 2017/18 Ashes? Who cares about the fate of Adam Lyth when Sir Ian Botham could be out of a job in two year’s time?

In order to give the BT bigwigs a helping hand, we’ve compiled the following list of outstanding candidates. We’ve also identified a few outstandingly awful ones too. What a shame that the masterful Richie Benaud (pictured above of course) won’t be around to anchor the team.

We hope you’ll agree it’s a winning line-up – a balanced team capable of prospering in all conditions. Whether it’s a freezing day in Hobart or a scorcher at Perth, the following dream team will charm, captivate, titillate and delight in equal measure. Who knows, you might even get through an entire series without switching over to TMS.

The English Contingent

David Lloyd: Bumble is still an old favourite. He’s emotional, entertaining and actually adds something to the pictures – something precious few commentators actually manage to do. Sure he’s a bit mad, and some of his anecdotes leave you scratching your head, but ask yourself this: how many cricket pundits can do an Elvis impression on air and get away with it? When Graeme Swann tries the same thing half the population wants to punch him.

Bumble is lovable, excitable, and more knowledgeable than he lets on. Of all the commentators, he’s the one that best expresses what supporters are feeling.

Geoff Boycott: With England likely to lose most of their scheduled matches (as tends to happen when we tour Australia) we’ll need someone to really put the boot in. There’s nothing more gratifying than Boycott lambasting batsmen who have shown ‘a compleeet lack uv fight’. He’s the angry man that speaks for all of us …

“Alastair Cook, no Ashes centuries for seven flippin’ years, he’s up his own whatzeeeet. If that were me, I’d av been out there for five whole days of every test, scored at least twenty quality runs, before getting myself run owwwwt”

There’s something about cantankerous Yorkshiremen and cricket. They go together like pie and chips. Boycott rubs people up the wrong way but he’s still a shrewd judge and says what needs to be said.

Mike Atherton: Every commentary team needs a professor. Athers is ours. Every Sky viewer knows he’s a sharp student of the game.

Whereas Bumble will make us laugh, and Boycott will make many of us cry, Atherton will make us think. He’ll raise the tone, give the team some gravitas, and keep things in perspective. He’ll also keep the more excitable members of the team calm. Reliable Athers will make sure Lloyd and Boycott keep taking their tablets.

The Neutral

Ian Smith: Picking Michael Holding would’ve been too clichéd. We wanted someone else – someone quirky but down to earth. That man is Ian Smith. He’s passionate, talks a good game and has a sharp wit. Some might say he looks a bit like an aubergine but who cares? Like a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, Smithy is the perfect accompaniment to a day’s cricket.

Smith is the antithesis of New Zealand’s other prominent cricket commentator, Danny Morrison. Whereas Morrison’s style is better suited to wrestling or rugby league – how apt that he’s a permanent fixture in IPL commentary booths – Smith is measured, intelligent and isn’t completely insane.

The Australian Connection

Ricky Ponting: Much as I’d love to put Bumble in the commentary box next to Bill Lawry – the results would be hilarious – I’m not sure I could tolerate Bill for long periods. He’s too Channel Nine. Therefore, I’m going to put my trust in the find of the English summer: Ricky Ponting.

I used to despise Punter as a player. He sulked; he pouted; he was every inch the pantomime villain. His aggressive demeanour used to get up my nose as much as Gary Pratt got up his. But he’s a different man in the commentary box. He’s balanced, relaxed and insightful. Love ya Ricky.

Shane Warne: I know, I know. Warne isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. He wasn’t mine either this summer. But this pick has nothing to do with Shane’s recent form; it’s a nod to past glories.

When Warne first burst onto the English commentary circuit he was honest, entertaining and extremely insightful. My fellow selectors and I (which includes two cats and a baby) firmly believe he can recapture his former greatness – as long as works on his game and spends less time in online casinos. If I catch him looking out of windows or sending inappropriate texts to female members of the team, he’s out on his ear.

A New Anchor

Isa Guha: While I’m an admirer of Lord Gower, and loved him as a batsman, his selection would be a little too safe. I want this dream team to push boundaries. Gower has been on cruise control for years. It’s time to ditch the old smoothie in favour of something vibrant and refreshing.

I’m sure Mark Nicholas has backers, especially amongst the female viewers, but as Austin Powers might say why go for ‘smashing baby’ when you can have a ‘smashing babe’ instead? I’m a big fan of Guha. Her dulcet tones are perfect for either radio or television. She’s smart, likeable, glamorous and I love the idea of a female anchor covering men’s cricket.

BT Sport love throwing a random pretty face into their sports coverage, but there would be nothing arbitrary about Guha’s appointment. She anchored Sky’s coverage of the women’s Ashes, helped out in the T20 Blast, and appears on the radio too. It’s high time she was promoted. Let’s just hope Warne doesn’t get hold of her mobile number.

On Standby

Nasser Hussain: I like Nasser a lot but he’s still on probation after his “put the Beer away; put the champagne on ice” outburst when we won down under in 2010/11. What’s he going to say next time? “It’s a Starc disappointment for the Aussies; England have thrown Australia to the Lyons”. His inclusion is just too much of a risk. Sorry Beaky.

James Morgan



  • Interesting article, Morgs. I’d have Simon Hughes in as the Analyst – always liked his spot on Channel 4. On a separate note, I’d imagine BT will just use the Channel 9 feed, with someone back in the UK doing links from the studio.

  • Nice call on Isa Guha, she was great on the radio during the 1-dayers; even better if we could see her… if Jacqui Oatley can make a career in sports broadcasting, it should be a doddle for Isa.

    Good list overall, too, though I’d like to see a professional broadcaster to break the stranglehold on retired Test players. I’ve enjoyed Simon Mann on TMS this summer, wondering how he’d transfer to TV (or if he’d even want to).

  • As Viv said above there’s more than a fair chance that BT will just take the C9 feed. Having said that, it’s a marquee series and their first foray into English cricket, so I’d like to think that BT will put their own team together for coverage.

    You can forget seeing any Sky faces on the coverage, though. Atherton, Bumble, Hussain, Gower etc. will all have contracts with Sky, and Sky will certainly not be wanting to ‘loan’ them to BT for the Ashes series. And given the fierce rivalry between the two broadcasters, it could well be the case that Sky let regular freelancers (I’m thinking the likes of Cork and Key) know that they will not be booked again for Sky if they take BT work. Sky did this with their football pundits when Setanta first appeared back in 2007.

    So, it will be a scratch team that BT will have to put together. I like your idea as Guha as anchor – I thought that she improved no end in fluency as a presenter over the course of the women’s ashes. I watched quite a bit of the test match, and she was a bit hesitant at times during that coverage, but come the T20 matches, she was much improved. Put her in the box, too – she’s very astute there. For an outside-the-box suggestion, how about Mark Chapman? Many other sports have presenters that are journalists, rather than ex-pros, and don’t cross over into the commentary box – why should cricket be different? Chapman is an excellent presenter, knows his cricket and would do a very good job – and would deliver a refreshing view of things, I think, not having played professionally himself. Mark Nicholas would be too busy with Channel 9 to work for BT as anchor.

    As for the commentators, if BT put their own team together, I think it will be a collection of those from the 9 box – I agree that Warne and Ponting would be likely – plus BBC freelance-types. I’m thinking the likes of Simon Hughes, Michael Vaughan, Graeme Swann, Alec Stewart. Possibly even our man KP, although BT might want to keep the ECB sweet if they are bidding in the 2019 rights package around this time.

    Worth pointing out here that BT’s main production partner currently (when it comes to football and rugby) is Sunset and Vine, who produced C4’s cricket coverage and currently produce Cricket on Five. So I’m very optimistic that, if they are selected as production partner for BT’s cricket coverage, as seems likely, the coverage should be of a high standard.

    • James here. The bookies were taking odds on who would make BT’s team, and it included a lot of the familiar faces, so we’ll just have to see what happens. Perhaps some of them are on freelance contracts only?

      I like the idea of Mark Chapman. Good shout :-)

  • If the Sky pundits are ruled out would like to see some fresh faces Paul Collingwood could be good and what about Freddie Flintoff?

  • Mark Butcher please – and not Swann or Ed Smith.

    However I’ve got so used to watching with the commentary turned down I might just continue that way.

    • Mark Butcher came very, very close to making our lineup. Big fan of Butch. Reads the game well and I like his relaxed style.

  • the subscribers will have to get both sky and BT sport to watch home and away cricket. This will be even more expensive than a single subscription. what a shame.I think BBC need to raise their game as they charge a license fee from every (almost) household in the UK


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