Reverse Swinging Mark has his say on Sky’s broadcast roster.
The classic sports arrangement consists of a commentator who actually describes what’s going on out in the middle, alongside a ‘colour’ man who, well, adds the colour to the picture the commentator has described – effectively providing deeper analysis of what’s going on.
Every other sport seems to recognise this – football commentary is left to the professional commentators (Motson, Davies, Tyler) with ex-pros like the exemplary Andy Gray, just providing the ‘colour’ – the same with Rugby Union where Miles Harrison and Stuart Barnes have developed a level of understanding that rugby hasn’t witnessed since Gareth Edwards and Phil Bennett were strutting their stuff.
Sky Cricket’s problem is that they have too many ‘colour’ guys and not enough commentators – in fact, they haven’t actually got any at all. You need balance to ensure that the commentary flows with the game – but instead, with Sky, we get a series of ex players who feel that they have to continually justify their presence with elaborate analysis of every thought, word and deed of the players in the middle – plus a whole lot more beyond that, without realising that all we actually need is some sort of insight into what is actually happening, and why. No one is doing orthodox commentary, because no one has been asked/told to – so the Sky product is fundamentally flawed.
As it happens, I tuned in my television to watch the New Zealand vs Sri Lanka Test match, and to my surprise the first voice I heard was that of the veteran West Indies commentator, Tony Cozier. Whether or not he’s emigrated to New Zealand, or doing some freelancing, I have no idea, but it was a delight to hear him.
Cricket in New Zealand is broadcast by Sky NZ, and it suffers from almost the opposite problem to that described by Mark- too much commentary, and not enough colour. I’m not sure where Jeremy Coney has got to, but the rest of the local commentators are too descriptive and.. boring.
Unfortunately, there’s not a great market for Test cricket in New Zealand. Shane Bond is giving the Sri Lankans a royal grilling before a nearly empty stadium, and so when broadcasting in this sort of environment, it is important to ‘pep it up’ a bit. You do not need the ‘Barmy Army’ to create atmosphere but you do need to have more then 15% of the seats sold.
This isn’t meant to be an attack on Sky NZ, who are doing a great job- the camera work is as good as anything Nine in Australia can come up with. The graphics are smart and professional. They just need to think ‘outside the square’ somewhat to liven things up. If they hired Tony Cosier to this end, then they have made a good start.