Slats v Sunil – Commentary’s race to the bottom

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February 24, 2013 by dixwah

I read a great article recently (author forgotten) saying that the beauty of cricket is based on its passivity. The game is the perfect vehicle for other activities, essentially as background noise – throw the cricket on while you’re cooking the barbecue, doing the dishes or entertaining the kids, you won’t miss a beat watching with one eye.

The article went on to say, correctly in my view, that commentary previously supported this activity. Subtle remarks in line with the pace of the game kept our interest. Reason seasons suggest Channel 9’s brief has recently changed.

The amount of ‘action’ that requires inflection, exclamation and exaltation has rapidly increased. Oh oh oh, wow, and you beauty are all over the place, particularly as the formats become shorter (or perhaps, the crowds and interest smaller).

The subconscious aim of this has been to transform watching cricket on Channel 9 from a part-time to full-time activity. If we are looking through the reflection of the back door while cooking dinner, we’re now drawn away from the schnitzels on the pan three times an over, rather than the good old days, where the only way that would happen was if Curtley Ambrose was asked to change his sweatbands.

Has cricket changed to support this shift? Nope. Fox’s coverage of the Big Bash shows that letting the cricket do the talking actually works – the BBL was 26 of the top 26 rating shows on pay TV over the Christmas period. Sure there’s the occasional Mark Waugh rant about Moises or Sean Abbott but mixed with Flem’s knowledge and banter, BJ’s chairmanship and AB/Blewy’s local bias, it works.

This wasn’t actually a critique of Australian commentary, my contemporary did that well enough for me, but as the headline suggests rather a slant on the game’s worst commentators.

Step forward Michael Slater. Slats shows the same brilliant over-exuberance whether Adam Voges belts one into the second tier or he’s telling us Cold Case is on tomorrow. Put him in the same box as Mark Nicholas as Ian Healy and it’s a see-saw of hyperbole and, for me, annoyance.

Day two of last night’s Test in India saw India’s challenger, the great Sunil Gavaskar, stake his claim. Completely different reasons. Don’t get me wrong, Australia’s commentary is nothing without its home team bias, and I’d expect more of the same from an Indian feed. You may as well talk about what interests your core audience, that makes sense.

But what grates me about Sunny is his absolute bitchiness in dismissing Australia, particularly tactically, under the local guise of authority and bi-partisanship.

This is a really good Test match we’re currently watching. India’s fought back well after letting it slip in the field, and losing a couple of early poles. Sachin looks like scoring his first century since he was 30-something, pace vs spin etc. etc.

While I side with Gavaskar on the Pattinson 3-over-a-spell debate, I understand Australia’s logic. And the proof was in the pudding. Three rissoles from six overs. I would have liked three spells, but hey. Even AB thought three over spells was a bit new-school, that’s fine. But Sunny’s exaggeration, not in tone but in dissecting the information, essentially saying it’s stupid and lacks cricketing insight (when compared with him) was dinosaur stuff. Shastri’s lucky he doesn’t get a paragraph too.

What was his logic? Longer spells because he’s taken wickets. Because he’s taken three wickets from six overs, if he bowled 18 overs he would have nine?

Sunil Gavaskar has an issue. Whether it’s Melbourne 1981 or not I don’t know. Just please don’t put him in the same box as Michael Slater. Save me.

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