And so begins another summer of cricket and the nation can indulge in one of our favourite pastimes – bagging the TV commentary. Who you can’t stand, who you can, and whose voice grates like dry parmesan is a staple of back bar catch-ups, Twitter feeds and encrypted WhatsApp chat. This year, though, it’s a bit confusing. Because after 40-odd years of Channel Nine as Petri dish for Billy Birmingham’s best-selling spoofs, Test cricket is now covered by two new players: pay-TV channel Fox Sports and Nine’s great commercial rival Seven. And it’s all so fresh we don’t know who to hate. Yet.
Before the first Test at Adelaide Oval began on Thursday, it was duelling montages. Seven gave us the voice of AFL, Olympics and horse racing, Bruce McAvaney, to explain how special cricket is to Australians because “our” national team brings us together. Fox had Spidercam zoom into Adam Gilchrist. And both were pretty good in that modern, finely-edited, slow-mo way.
Both camps’ pre-match panels seemed to trot out all of their people to say hello. And there were lots. If you had played for Australia or even England from 1990-2010, you had a chance of a stool.
Outside Fox’s Kerry O’Keefe and Seven’s Tim Lane – a short man bookended by tall ones Glenn McGrath and James Brayshaw – both camps sported relatively “young”, under-50s talent. Mark Taylor and Ian Healy – much less Ian Chappell and Bill Lawry – weren’t enticed across from Nine. Nor was Michael Clarke, though he was selling fish oil on the ads.
O’Keefe, 69, is an anomaly; he crosses demographics. His cricket nous is best practice while there’s few who can get away with in-gags and goofy laughs. O’Keefe is a true cricket eccentric. The game has a singular ability to throw up these people and Fox has a hot one in O’Keefe, a reason to watch, a point of difference. McGrath was a little wooden and doesn’t pronounce the “l”s in “brilliant”. There are people who don’t like Brayshaw but he’s a Seven man and there it is.
Because for all their knowledge and experience and Test caps, the men on Nine had begun to grate. Familiarity had bred contempt. As