Partisanship in commentary

Italians are wonderfully, unashamedly biased when commentating…but not often, to my knowledge, are they on the side of England. Ben Hammersley has an interesting tale of watching yesterday’s Rugby World Cup Final in Italy.

I watched it on Sky Sport Italia, here in Italy, with the Italian commentary on and, bloody hell, were they biased. It was quite possibly the most partisan commentary I’ve heard on TV: the two commentators so blatantly, outrageously, violently pro-England that even I, a Natural Born Englishman of the first order, was getting a bit Steady-On-Chaps about it. Commentators just aren’t supposed to use the “We” form of any verb, and at times you got the feeling they were a hair away from screaming “take him down! take him doooooowwwwn!” like it was the arrival of the Oliphants in the Return of the King.

As far as I know there’s no particular dislike of South Africa here, so I’m guessing it was a hemisphere thing, with the Italian’s defaulting to supporting the North. Still, as the clock ticked down and it became obvious that England weren’t go to pull one out of the bag, it was greatly comforting to share the disappointment with the two very gutted sounding commentators. That, and seeing Prince William swear very loudly when the try was disallowed, almost made up for the whole thing.

Vaughan all mouth and no trousers

What a winner. Michael Vaughan loses his trousers, and could there anyone better than David Lloyd to commentate on it?

Technology of covering and following cricket

Technology has moved on massively even in the short time I’ve followed the game. Back then, in the familiar gloom of the 1990s, few people bothered with Sky. It required a “dish” which implied a small and unobtrusive space-age work of genius. In fact, they were the size of a small car and were concreted onto the sides of flats which almost collapsed under the weight. They were also bright white, or they were until the pigeons took aim.

All change. The dishes are now properly unobtrusive – digital, even – and are sucked onto the walls of every estate in Britain. And here is the BBC’s Test Match Special producer, Caroline, with their own version.

Caroline from the BBC with a satellite dish

I miss the old days sometimes. Ceefax, waiting for the colours to change (not out batsmen were in white, I think, and those dismissed turned green. Appropriately.) Can’t remember what blue meant. But there was a thrill in watching the screen, if the radio was knackered, waiting for it to change. And there was usually (but not always) a delay in updates if a wicket had fallen…so you’d sit there, sweaty palmed, and wait for the batsman to turn green.

This was all before Cricinfo came along. Now that we’re doing ball-by-ball commentary editorially – with more of a voice, colour, interesting facts etc – the response has been incredible. We even get emails from fishermen at sea…in the middle of the bloody sea, reading our website and following commentary. It’s ridiculous.

So I don’t miss the old days that much. There is too much cricket being played; the game is played at a new, frenetic pace (except when Collingwood’s batting); Zimbabwe are, well, whatever. But the coverage, and access of cricket news for the fans, is unprecedentedly broad. It’s pretty damn good.

What do you miss from the dark old black-and-white (or white and green) days and what modern marvels do you like the most?

Online radio commentary for the Ashes

Adrian emailed with a good suggestion that we draw up a list of online radio stations who will be covering the Ashes. In his words…

How about a thread detailing where we can listen to cricket on-line. I believe
that ABC in Australia broadcast on the internet occasionally.

Naturally, we’ll be following the ball by ball on cricinfo, but it’s always
interesting to listen to other equivalents to TMS, I spent a couple of months
in India and All India radio’s commentary was addictive.

Over to you lot.

Rediscovering Test Match Special

At work we obviously have to watch every ball, not simply listen to it. And down here in Devon, without Sky for some reason, I’ve just turned on the radio for the past hour which has brought memories back of listening to TMS in my youth. It really is a brilliant way of following a Test. You miss the pictures of course, but somehow feel even closer to the action.

One thing I can’t work out is who the heavy-breather is. It’s not Boycott or Agnew…anyone else hear it?

Here’s Salcombe this afternoon where I’ve been supping pints overlooking the sea


Cricinfo’s ball-by-ball commentary

Until now, with the odd exception, ball-by-ball commentary has been performed by mystical faraway people with no names. As if by magic, bang on time, the scorecards at Cricinfo appear and within a few minutes a stream of fascinating (and for many people, vital) commentary is revealed.

The veil of intrigue as to the identity of these people is, on Thursday at least, to be removed as me and my colleage, the utterly venerable Jenny Thompson, will be providing live ball-by-ball commentary. My editor and boss started the ball rolling the other week, during the one-dayers against Sri Lanka, which was (near enough) the first time an editorial team had access to it. Actually that’s rubbish: our colleages in India, Jamie and Sriram, have been doing it for the India v West Indies series – and a splendid job they’ve done too.

Anyway it’s all pretty new and exciting and, hopefully, me and Jenny (and others of course) might provide something a bit different. We’ll see how it goes. I’m keen on pointing people from the scorecard to various things on the site – be it a funny/interesting new photo that’s just landed; a “breaking news” story – and generally bringing our own personal style (within house rules, and The Cricinfo House Style) to proceedings.

On that note…what do you like/dislike about Cricinfo’s scorecards and live commentary? What do you want to hear about when you’re stuck at work, clock-watching? I promise not to do a Henry Blofeld re his fascination of butterflies and London buses…but a stray pigeon simply has to be mentioned.

The clapping seal

Jenny, my colleage at Cricinfo, has had two rather good days in the past week. Firstly, during the final Test at Trent Bridge, she spent a day with David Gower, Nasser Hussain, Ian Botham and the other Sky commentators. Naturally she’s in love with every single one of them (our ears are bleeding) but they all sound like great fun (and they have a lot of fun, too). David Lloyd (“Bumble”) is as you would expect him to be: sharp, constantly witty and an allround top bloke. Anyway I can’t spoil her piece; she’s writing it up and it’ll be published at Cricinfo quite soon.

As if that couldn’t be topped, today she faced an over (I think) at Shane Warne! And interviewed him and other stuff. So that’s two fairly cool (and unique) things you should keep an eye out on Cricinfo.

It’s gone for a maximum

Bloody one-day cricket. It’s ruining commentators. No sooner has Mike Atherton shamed his colleagues with an effortless and elegant description of a boundary (“Languidly stroked for four”) than another screams “Oooh oh, it’s gone for a maximum”. I hate that expression. What’s wrong with “It’s gone for six”? Pah.c

Worst attributes for a cricket radio commentator

As per the subject, what would be the worst attributes for a cricket radio commentator? I’ll just throw this one out to the public, after the hilarious response to my last off-beat topic (“Most inappropriate celebrity cricket commentators“).

I guess those with limited hearing, or limited eyesight (deaf and blind, to be blunt). And any politican would be hopeless and inappropriate.

The French.

Americans, en generale.

Yes, basically this is a “cricket is superior, now bog off and let’s laugh at your ignorance at its great glory” post.

For that matter, anyone with Tourette’s would struggle to persuade even the most liberal producer that he deserves a stint in the TMS hot seat (“Here comes McGrath, on a lovely sunny morning…he’s up to the wicket, forward comes Joyce* TOSS BAGS he’s bowled him BUGGER IT, oh, do excuse me.” So, Tourette’s sufferers would struggle I think. Mind you, so would I; I’d brick it if I had to speak to several million on the radio.

Over to you.

* Ed Joyce. [yes he'll be playing then, you see]

P.S. don’t, anyone, suggest “Being female” as an attribute. You saw what happened last time

Most inappropriate celebrity cricket commentators

Disclaimer: I have flu. I’m not thinking very straight. I don’t swear too much on this blog, so you’ll forgive the humourous outburst in this post as I amuse myself with a little story.

This is an old pub favourite of mine, usually only attempted after at least five or six pints, or at least when inhibitions don’t prevent you from acting out (as loud as possible) your best Samuel L Jackson impersonation. So. Who would be the most inappropriate celebrities to commentate on a cricket match and why?

Samuel L Jackson has to be one of my best, purely for that magically eloquent phrase, “You Motherfucker.” Picture the scene: Henry Blofeld is waffling uncontrollably at the mic, like the ageing cravate-wearing god of waffle he is; his producer, Peter Baxter, is tearing out what little hair he has left after a lifetime listening to Blowers’ fascination about red buses and curiously brown pigeons. And many other things. On comes Samuel, and the change immediately brings a a wicket:

“Yo, here comes Harmison and FUCK if aint got himself a wicket. That mother******’s bowled Afridi all over the mother******* shop. Yo bitch, you outta there!”

Baffled, Blofeld returns with a surprising and contrasting grace and ease of word. Jackson is sacked.

For entirely different reasons, The Rt. Hon. Tony Blair would also be utterly inappropriate as a cricket commentator. Even wedged between the uber-smooth Benaud / Nicholas combination, he’d out-shmooze Shiny Mark with such ease that Nicho would be reduced to his party-piece: taking off his wig and waving it around like a bafoon. Worse, though, would be our Tony’s handling of arguments that would arise in the comm box.

“Ambrosia. I think you meant Ambrose, there, Chony,” quips Benaud with unruffled glee. Nicho’s professional, but even he can’t hide a chuckle. Atherton’s on the floor, crying with laughter. Greig and Botham not sure what’s so funny; Botham assumes everyone’s laughing at him and smacks them with bats.

“Huh. Right, yeah – ok, hang on guys,” says Tony. “Look, I mean, you know, Gordon and I have been…oh no, wrong situation. [hands closed, palms facing inward in priest-like display of honesty to the thousands of listeners who can't see him.] Cherie and I are committed to…oh that’s not it either is it. Er, right, Euan apologies profusely to McEwans, he won’t do it again.”

Blair is sacked.

You see, we take our commentators for granted. They’re not a bad bunch, though; Nicho, as much as I’ve cringed and squirmed, is peerless these days as a presenter. He’s bloody brilliant, and his shiny shmoozing adds to the overal Nicho package. Celebrity commentators? Who’d have em?

Who would be your most inappropriate celebrities to commentate on a cricket match and why?