June 30, 2010

I didn’t need to know that

Andrew Hughes

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.

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Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Keywords: Commentary

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Auchi, Sri Lanka on (July 4, 2010, 8:11 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.

Posted by Ed on (July 2, 2010, 13:53 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

Posted by Tushar on (July 1, 2010, 8:08 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.

Posted by Mitch on (June 30, 2010, 23:02 GMT)

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

Ah, what a month of football that would be

Posted by George Anderson on (June 30, 2010, 22:46 GMT)

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

Posted by N.S on (June 30, 2010, 22:44 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!

Posted by Jordan on (June 30, 2010, 22:20 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...

Posted by Sam Marshall on (June 30, 2010, 21:04 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.

Posted by Andy Mack on (June 30, 2010, 20:35 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.

Posted by Sam G on (June 30, 2010, 19:37 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.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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