Mel’s having a ball
Commentator Mel McLaughlin talks highlights – and lowlights – of this year’s KFC Big Bash League. By COLIN VICKERY
BIG Bash League cricket has gone to a whole new level of popularity and Mel McLaughlin has been right in the thick of it.
TV audiences are up 14 per cent compared with last season. Matches have averaged more than 1.1 million viewers across the country.
Attendances have also skyrocketed. A record-breaking 80,883 people were at the MCG for the recent derby between the Stars and Renegades.
McLaughlin, who works alongside cricket greats including Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, and Mark Waugh on Ten’s telecasts, knew this season was going to be a flyer.
“From the first game, we said ‘Something feels really great’,” McLaughlin, says. “Eighty thousand people at the MCG was an extremely special night. It was a moment in sport.”
Another night wasn’t special at all. It was a moment in sport for all the wrong reasons.
McLaughlin was in the spotlight after Renegades batsman Chris Gayle made a pass at her during an on-air interview in Hobart. Gayle’s sexist banter included “that’s why I’m here, just to see your eyes for the first time” and “hopefully we can win this game and we can have a drink after – don’t blush baby”.
The incident caused a media firestorm. There were calls for Gayle to be banned. Renegades CEO Stuart Coventry labelled Gayle’s comments “disrespectful”.
Gayle dismissed his words as a “simple joke” and was fined $10,000.
McLaughlin says the controversy hasn’t affected her love of commentating the Big Bash League. You get the feeling she wishes it would all just go away.
“I’ve been embarrassed by the attention because it’s not what I’m about,” McLaughlin says.
“I was doing my job. I can handle myself. I’ve done many interviews. I know that a lot of people have had an opinion on it and I’ve had a lot of positive feedback … but I don’t even want to weigh into it.
“I understand why people wanted to talk about it. It is something that strikes a chord with people (but) I just want to do my job.”
McLaughlin has been impressed by the quality or play and knows anything could happen in tonight’s final.
“You love it in any sports code when it comes down to the wire,” McLaughlin says. “That is what has been special about this season.
“The most exciting player, for me, has been Brisbane Heat captain Chris Lynn. The team has struggled but he has scored so many runs. He is such a clean hitter. He just seems to get better and better.”
It is clear that, despite the Gayle controversy, McLaughlin has been having a lot of fun. Who would have thought, but apparently working alongside Ponting is a barrel of laughs.
“Ricky is very funny – I don’t know if people know that,” McLaughlin says. “I guess people get to see and hear more of what these guys are really like. They can be so insightful but they can also muck around.”
KFC BIG BASH LEAGUE FINAL
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