June 30, 2010

I didn’t need to know that

Jamie Dalrymple’s favourite band is Oasis
24

Mark Cosgrove: his weight is still funny, apparently © Getty Images

I’m Andrew Hughes. My pen weighs 40 grams, my favourite aural experience is the sound of a cork popping from the neck of a bottle, and my toughest opponent is the stray cat who keeps digging up my azaleas. Next week I’m hoping to be miked up as I sit at my desk so the editor of Cricinfo can fire interesting questions at me for the benefit of readers. (“The opening paragraph went well, but there’s a long way to go and I need to keep hitting my grammatical straps” etc. etc.)

Yes, yes, yes, you’re probably thinking, that’s all very well, but what do I care? Quite so. A pot pourri of personal trivia does not add greatly to the reading experience. But for reasons that are not immediately apparent, someone in an editorial position of a certain satellite-television company feels that it is paramount that those viewers following the Friends Provident T20 are kept up to date in the crucial matters of willow poundage and the musical inclinations of county cricketers.

Like cheerleaders, blimps and the employment of Danny Morrison, it is not immediately clear what all of this adds to the cricket watcher’s experience. The dutiful reporting in pounds and ounces of the size of every batsman’s weapon merely reminds us that these things are indeed heavy - not as heavy as a small dog, perhaps, but weightier than a bag of sugar. As everyone knows, it’s not the size of your bat that matters, it’s what you do with it.

And I’m not entirely sure why we need to know that Jamie Dalrymple’s favourite band is Oasis or that Tom Maynard thinks England will win the Ashes series 3-2; any more than we might wish to learn that Marcus Trescothick thinks it could rain tomorrow or that Keiron Pollard isn’t sure whether he left the iron on. If the intention is to remind us that sportsmen lead rather mundane lives and have very little of interest to communicate, then mission accomplished, but surely anyone who has ever read a cricketer’s autobiography knew that already.

It isn’t just the on-screen gimmicks that are looking a little tired these days. Sky pack their booth with ex-professionals, but the absence of a proper broadcaster, a Harsha Bhogle or a Henry Blofeld, means that complacency, clichés and dressing-room in-jokes abound.

Commentary comes in two equally unappealing flavours. The first is a kind of anti-Arlott mode, in which the action is described with all the joie de vivre of two retired plumbers discussing copper piping. The alternative is a brand of humour that manages to evoke the singular atmosphere of a bunch of schoolboys sniggering at the back of a science class.

Monday’s culprits were Lancashire old boys Allott and Atherton. Their target was Glamorgan’s Mark Cosgrove. As we all know, Cosgrove is larger than most cricketers. You and I might have felt that this is not really worth remarking upon. But then you and I are not paid commentators. Cosgrove’s size was apparently comedy gold to the woeful duo, who had a splendid time chortling about it for several overs. Indeed, the fat jokes continued well beyond the Powerplay, until, like the archetypal school bullies, they grew bored; a state of mind with which the regular Sky viewer is becoming all too familiar.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Auchi, Sri Lanka on July 4, 2010, 7:11 GMT

    Commentators like Danny Morrison add extra interest to the game with their comments- and they don't say insulting things about anyone. However, commentators who insult cricketers (especially about their weight) should be banned.

  • Ed on July 2, 2010, 12:53 GMT

    Completely disagree with the author of this article. Commentators that are ex-players are generally better because they know what the players are thinking, what they are trying to do, the experiences etc. Holding and Atherton are fantastic at speaking about fast bowling and batting tactics respectively, especially in Test matches. The fact that this doesn't come out in T20 commentary is that there isn't as much to talk about. I have a lot more respect for these commentators than those on TMS generally and Atherton's comments would actually effect my methods of batting and captaining at the weekends or at least my thinking about it. Weight of bats is relevant as you can judge a batsman's style by it. It's actually been very interesting as I have learnt that the majority of players use 2 lb 9/10, bats and there hasn't been an increase due to T20, which people thought there might be. All in all Sky have done a pretty good job at T20 entertainment without going over the top such as the IPL

  • Tushar on July 1, 2010, 7:08 GMT

    Couldnt agree more with the article. But incompetence is fact of life. Now look at some writers who are supposed to write funny, but end up writing mere facts which are not funny at all, painful at the most, but not funny. Andrew you write really good, but I think you write in the wrong section.

  • Mitch on June 30, 2010, 22:02 GMT

    I always wanted to see the TMS team do the world cup for 5live

    Ah, what a month of football that would be

  • George Anderson on June 30, 2010, 21:46 GMT

    Forget about Mark Cosgrove's weight, his teeth are really scary.

  • N.S on June 30, 2010, 21:44 GMT

    Sorry but I have to disagree. I do enjoy the commentry of the Sky team except for maybe Bob Willis who sounds like hes narrating a nativity play and is very boring. I feel they have a good variety of personalities. Bumble is my favourite as he provides great humour and an out take on events, Michael Holding is always calm but isn't scared to voice his controversial opinions and I feel David Gower does well to host the coverage. Not everyone wants to listen to people actually indepth about the game and its technicalities, its more about entertainment. I'd have to agree about the information we have to read about what the player's favourite band is and how heavy their bat weighs is irrelevant to me!! But possibly a few changes in the questions and I'd want to read them!

  • Jordan on June 30, 2010, 21:20 GMT

    Yeah I totally disagree there, Sky's coverage is the best but agree with the Willis comment. Twenty20 is all about fun for the audience so having there favourite band or ashes prediction is all part of the package.

    With regards to the commentators me among many enjoy the banter between the commentators and players its all light hearted and is funny. And im sorry TMS coverage is totally boring and doesn't give any insight to the game, or what its like to be an international player and a captain. So accept the fact that the coverage has moved on...

  • Sam Marshall on June 30, 2010, 20:04 GMT

    Once again Andrew a poor article you have missed the point completely. The likes of Atherton and LLoyd and the rest of the sky crew are not there to describe what happens every ball as you can see it on your own TV. They are there to help make the viewing process more interesting and be funny from different angles, not to be boring, how do you expect people to become interested in cricket and enjoy watching the cricket if its the same old boring plebs commentating. Theres a difference between radio and TV commentary, with a radio you cant see the action so they are there to tell you what happens after each ball, with a TV you can see the action and dont need that. As for the comments on Danny Morrison they are wrong to, Danny is a great guy and very amusing commentator he makes the viewing interesting and the IPL was a great and exciting tournament. Stop being boring, its about entertainment and do something usefull and find a way to reinvigorate the legend that is test cricket.

  • Andy Mack on June 30, 2010, 19:35 GMT

    Danny Morrison is very entertaining as a commentator (as he was with the bat in his hand...). dont drag him into it.

    i dont mind seeing a few irrellevant facts pop up on screen for the commentators to discuss, keeps it interesting for some.

    If the cricket is boring, try to get the captains to play more aggresive cricket rather than have a crack at the commentators and broadcasters. simples.

  • Sam G on June 30, 2010, 18:37 GMT

    Normally like your stuff but this one actually made me take time out of my day, and use effort, to leave a comment... Which is unusual. Like above, T20 is all about entertainment, getting everyone involved. For a kid watching at home to know somebody who he likes has the same bat as him, or likes the same music, than it will make him feel involved. Also, the lookalikes and toughest opponents are always interesting, and sometimes funny. It all adds something different, im sure if things stayed the same they'll be complaints about how "samey" everything was. Onto commentary, it isnt all bad... Mike Atherton speaks sense, and Bumble is always entertaining.

  • Auchi, Sri Lanka on July 4, 2010, 7:11 GMT

    Commentators like Danny Morrison add extra interest to the game with their comments- and they don't say insulting things about anyone. However, commentators who insult cricketers (especially about their weight) should be banned.

  • Ed on July 2, 2010, 12:53 GMT

    Completely disagree with the author of this article. Commentators that are ex-players are generally better because they know what the players are thinking, what they are trying to do, the experiences etc. Holding and Atherton are fantastic at speaking about fast bowling and batting tactics respectively, especially in Test matches. The fact that this doesn't come out in T20 commentary is that there isn't as much to talk about. I have a lot more respect for these commentators than those on TMS generally and Atherton's comments would actually effect my methods of batting and captaining at the weekends or at least my thinking about it. Weight of bats is relevant as you can judge a batsman's style by it. It's actually been very interesting as I have learnt that the majority of players use 2 lb 9/10, bats and there hasn't been an increase due to T20, which people thought there might be. All in all Sky have done a pretty good job at T20 entertainment without going over the top such as the IPL

  • Tushar on July 1, 2010, 7:08 GMT

    Couldnt agree more with the article. But incompetence is fact of life. Now look at some writers who are supposed to write funny, but end up writing mere facts which are not funny at all, painful at the most, but not funny. Andrew you write really good, but I think you write in the wrong section.

  • Mitch on June 30, 2010, 22:02 GMT

    I always wanted to see the TMS team do the world cup for 5live

    Ah, what a month of football that would be

  • George Anderson on June 30, 2010, 21:46 GMT

    Forget about Mark Cosgrove's weight, his teeth are really scary.

  • N.S on June 30, 2010, 21:44 GMT

    Sorry but I have to disagree. I do enjoy the commentry of the Sky team except for maybe Bob Willis who sounds like hes narrating a nativity play and is very boring. I feel they have a good variety of personalities. Bumble is my favourite as he provides great humour and an out take on events, Michael Holding is always calm but isn't scared to voice his controversial opinions and I feel David Gower does well to host the coverage. Not everyone wants to listen to people actually indepth about the game and its technicalities, its more about entertainment. I'd have to agree about the information we have to read about what the player's favourite band is and how heavy their bat weighs is irrelevant to me!! But possibly a few changes in the questions and I'd want to read them!

  • Jordan on June 30, 2010, 21:20 GMT

    Yeah I totally disagree there, Sky's coverage is the best but agree with the Willis comment. Twenty20 is all about fun for the audience so having there favourite band or ashes prediction is all part of the package.

    With regards to the commentators me among many enjoy the banter between the commentators and players its all light hearted and is funny. And im sorry TMS coverage is totally boring and doesn't give any insight to the game, or what its like to be an international player and a captain. So accept the fact that the coverage has moved on...

  • Sam Marshall on June 30, 2010, 20:04 GMT

    Once again Andrew a poor article you have missed the point completely. The likes of Atherton and LLoyd and the rest of the sky crew are not there to describe what happens every ball as you can see it on your own TV. They are there to help make the viewing process more interesting and be funny from different angles, not to be boring, how do you expect people to become interested in cricket and enjoy watching the cricket if its the same old boring plebs commentating. Theres a difference between radio and TV commentary, with a radio you cant see the action so they are there to tell you what happens after each ball, with a TV you can see the action and dont need that. As for the comments on Danny Morrison they are wrong to, Danny is a great guy and very amusing commentator he makes the viewing interesting and the IPL was a great and exciting tournament. Stop being boring, its about entertainment and do something usefull and find a way to reinvigorate the legend that is test cricket.

  • Andy Mack on June 30, 2010, 19:35 GMT

    Danny Morrison is very entertaining as a commentator (as he was with the bat in his hand...). dont drag him into it.

    i dont mind seeing a few irrellevant facts pop up on screen for the commentators to discuss, keeps it interesting for some.

    If the cricket is boring, try to get the captains to play more aggresive cricket rather than have a crack at the commentators and broadcasters. simples.

  • Sam G on June 30, 2010, 18:37 GMT

    Normally like your stuff but this one actually made me take time out of my day, and use effort, to leave a comment... Which is unusual. Like above, T20 is all about entertainment, getting everyone involved. For a kid watching at home to know somebody who he likes has the same bat as him, or likes the same music, than it will make him feel involved. Also, the lookalikes and toughest opponents are always interesting, and sometimes funny. It all adds something different, im sure if things stayed the same they'll be complaints about how "samey" everything was. Onto commentary, it isnt all bad... Mike Atherton speaks sense, and Bumble is always entertaining.

  • Steve Grzesiak on June 30, 2010, 17:57 GMT

    Well, thank you for speaking on behalf of all Sky Sports viewers out there, Andrew. I don't recall myself and everyone I know that watches cricket on Sky being polled by you about whether we are bored with their commentary, but we appreciate the guesswork nevertheless.

    Sky have a large batch of commentators - they are not all going to be good, but most of them are. The on-screen trivia? Three bits of fairly brief information really bothers you that much? I'm surprised you didn't hang yourself watching the IPL then. And NEVER watch Major League Baseball or goodness knows what you might do.

  • Andy C on June 30, 2010, 16:56 GMT

    The absence of Henry Blofeld can surely only be a good thing.

  • Rajat Dua on June 30, 2010, 15:34 GMT

    I completely disagree with the author!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Graham on June 30, 2010, 14:26 GMT

    I would rather listen to the commentators on Sky than Lawry, Chapple and Greig on Channel 9. Who is Andrew Hughes anyway, is he just jealous of ex cricketers because he's not one himself?

  • Alex Browne on June 30, 2010, 13:20 GMT

    The "issue" (said with a Nick Knight-esque tone) is that Sky cover so many matches that they need a large commentary team to go all around the country. Their test team of Gower, Athers, Botham, Holding, Warne, Lloyd, Hussain is excellent but sadly that leaves the others to the more unfancied matches ("Hey Bob, fancy a trip to Bangladesh this winter?"). As annoying as the commentary can be on these games, Sky should take some credit for broadcasting them as I doubt any terrestrial broadcaster would.

  • Ben F on June 30, 2010, 13:10 GMT

    Lloyd and Allott are the worse pairing, laying on the Northern 'ooh fancy that' like a pair of Les Dawson characters. Mark Butcher's 'giggling fit' at someone missing catch yesterday was just as dire.

  • Mike on June 30, 2010, 10:32 GMT

    I enjoy the Sky coverage, they understand they are not just broadcasting to the cricket nerds (unlike TMS, who are) but the casual observers as well. They also have to broadcast a lot more matches, so they need a decent sized team of commentators and ex-players are the easiest to find.

    If you want to see how not to do live coverage, watch the IPL. You'll be wishing for Willis, Allott and Bumble after a couple of DLF maximums and Carbon Kamal Catches.

  • Daniel Batchelor on June 30, 2010, 10:15 GMT

    Like usual you miss the point. T20 is about fun and entertainment. They try and be funny and different from regular "test match" commentory. Little querks are good addtions and old stick in the mudds like yourself have the attitude that the old ways were better. Get with the new times and new commentators. Ward, Hussain and Atherton are extremely good at what they do and hopefully continue for years to come.

  • Derek Neilson on June 30, 2010, 9:48 GMT

    Sorry, but couldn't agree less. I consider it vital to my understanding of the ineptitude of some batsmen to know that they think they look like Matt Damon even if they can only bat like Matt the Doorman. The next step must be that all batsmen will come in listening to their MP3 player, so we really must know what they're listening too. What is the point of letting us know the weight of their bat when all they appear to use is a walking stick. I can't wait until some county snaps up Kemar Roach. What relevence the weight of his bat, more relevant the weight of his handbag.

  • peter de Rooy on June 30, 2010, 9:38 GMT

    David Lloyd is the worst

  • Dave on June 30, 2010, 9:25 GMT

    Agree with the article, but I have to take exception to Matt McCann's insinuation that Phil Tuffnell is not a good commentator. Since he joined TMS I have been massively surprised at how much I have enjoyed his commentary. His description of how to inject alcohol into a water melon in order to get past the guards on the gate was especially funny!

  • Victoria Biggs on June 30, 2010, 8:48 GMT

    Couldn't agree more, it's painful to watch at times. Whilst I do enjoy the replays and techy side of that particular sat-tv company's broadcasts, I usually watch it with the volume muted and have a certain licence-fee funded radio commentary on in the background. I don't want this to get personal, but... can someone please explain to me how Nick Knight has managed to keep his "commentator's" job, it's beyond me.

  • Matt McCann on June 30, 2010, 8:35 GMT

    I could not agree more Andrew. The quality of commentating has dropped off the dial in the last 10 years, and I, like you, hold Sky entirely responsible. This "jobs for the old boys" approach to their recruitment started abysmally, (with Bob Willis among others, and Bob is undoubtedly the most uncharismatic man on the planet), and has worsened since then. A string of magnificent cricketers has become a string of uninspiringly below-average commentators. There are very few cricketers that have gone on to become adequate commentators let alone great ones, yet this does not stop this insular gentlemans club continuing to encourage the soon-to-be-ex-Test cricketer to view "going into the media" as a post-career career, (Phil Tufnell and Michael Vaughan are already completing their apprenticeships on TMS before the inevitable move up to the big school). The level of insight these ex-pro's can give is, as you say, only that the average professional cricketer is an utter, tedious bore.

  • rob heinen on June 30, 2010, 7:20 GMT

    Touché Andrew. There are - many - more commentators not worth listening to. In my view that has not so much to do with the fact that there is nothing to say, as with the fact that they can't see anything useful to talk about. Most examplary for this is the terms that get 'in vogue'. These days everybody seems to bowl cutters in one form or another, to mention one. Ok, the other side. Ritchie Benaud had the most dull voice of them all to present the most clinical and always accurate comment. It was dull, but it was extremely good, coming from a commentator.

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  • rob heinen on June 30, 2010, 7:20 GMT

    Touché Andrew. There are - many - more commentators not worth listening to. In my view that has not so much to do with the fact that there is nothing to say, as with the fact that they can't see anything useful to talk about. Most examplary for this is the terms that get 'in vogue'. These days everybody seems to bowl cutters in one form or another, to mention one. Ok, the other side. Ritchie Benaud had the most dull voice of them all to present the most clinical and always accurate comment. It was dull, but it was extremely good, coming from a commentator.

  • Matt McCann on June 30, 2010, 8:35 GMT

    I could not agree more Andrew. The quality of commentating has dropped off the dial in the last 10 years, and I, like you, hold Sky entirely responsible. This "jobs for the old boys" approach to their recruitment started abysmally, (with Bob Willis among others, and Bob is undoubtedly the most uncharismatic man on the planet), and has worsened since then. A string of magnificent cricketers has become a string of uninspiringly below-average commentators. There are very few cricketers that have gone on to become adequate commentators let alone great ones, yet this does not stop this insular gentlemans club continuing to encourage the soon-to-be-ex-Test cricketer to view "going into the media" as a post-career career, (Phil Tufnell and Michael Vaughan are already completing their apprenticeships on TMS before the inevitable move up to the big school). The level of insight these ex-pro's can give is, as you say, only that the average professional cricketer is an utter, tedious bore.

  • Victoria Biggs on June 30, 2010, 8:48 GMT

    Couldn't agree more, it's painful to watch at times. Whilst I do enjoy the replays and techy side of that particular sat-tv company's broadcasts, I usually watch it with the volume muted and have a certain licence-fee funded radio commentary on in the background. I don't want this to get personal, but... can someone please explain to me how Nick Knight has managed to keep his "commentator's" job, it's beyond me.

  • Dave on June 30, 2010, 9:25 GMT

    Agree with the article, but I have to take exception to Matt McCann's insinuation that Phil Tuffnell is not a good commentator. Since he joined TMS I have been massively surprised at how much I have enjoyed his commentary. His description of how to inject alcohol into a water melon in order to get past the guards on the gate was especially funny!

  • peter de Rooy on June 30, 2010, 9:38 GMT

    David Lloyd is the worst

  • Derek Neilson on June 30, 2010, 9:48 GMT

    Sorry, but couldn't agree less. I consider it vital to my understanding of the ineptitude of some batsmen to know that they think they look like Matt Damon even if they can only bat like Matt the Doorman. The next step must be that all batsmen will come in listening to their MP3 player, so we really must know what they're listening too. What is the point of letting us know the weight of their bat when all they appear to use is a walking stick. I can't wait until some county snaps up Kemar Roach. What relevence the weight of his bat, more relevant the weight of his handbag.

  • Daniel Batchelor on June 30, 2010, 10:15 GMT

    Like usual you miss the point. T20 is about fun and entertainment. They try and be funny and different from regular "test match" commentory. Little querks are good addtions and old stick in the mudds like yourself have the attitude that the old ways were better. Get with the new times and new commentators. Ward, Hussain and Atherton are extremely good at what they do and hopefully continue for years to come.

  • Mike on June 30, 2010, 10:32 GMT

    I enjoy the Sky coverage, they understand they are not just broadcasting to the cricket nerds (unlike TMS, who are) but the casual observers as well. They also have to broadcast a lot more matches, so they need a decent sized team of commentators and ex-players are the easiest to find.

    If you want to see how not to do live coverage, watch the IPL. You'll be wishing for Willis, Allott and Bumble after a couple of DLF maximums and Carbon Kamal Catches.

  • Ben F on June 30, 2010, 13:10 GMT

    Lloyd and Allott are the worse pairing, laying on the Northern 'ooh fancy that' like a pair of Les Dawson characters. Mark Butcher's 'giggling fit' at someone missing catch yesterday was just as dire.

  • Alex Browne on June 30, 2010, 13:20 GMT

    The "issue" (said with a Nick Knight-esque tone) is that Sky cover so many matches that they need a large commentary team to go all around the country. Their test team of Gower, Athers, Botham, Holding, Warne, Lloyd, Hussain is excellent but sadly that leaves the others to the more unfancied matches ("Hey Bob, fancy a trip to Bangladesh this winter?"). As annoying as the commentary can be on these games, Sky should take some credit for broadcasting them as I doubt any terrestrial broadcaster would.