Mel Jones: Cricket com­men­ta­tor.

Mel Jones, 45, cricket com­men­ta­tor Chan­nel Ten BBL and WBBL cov­er­age; for­mer Aus­tralian crick­eter

The Saturday Paper - - Contents - Richard Cooke

The first time I was asked to com­men­tate, I said no. It’s kind of weird. I got dropped from the Aus­tralian team, and hap­pened to be over in Eng­land, catch­ing up with fam­ily and do­ing a bit of work. Sky Sports – that was when they first started tele­vis­ing women’s cricket – asked if I wanted to com­men­tate on the game.

It was still a bit raw. It was a team that I wanted to be play­ing in, and a se­ries match. I thought it would all be a bit too hard. Then they said they were go­ing to pay me 300 quid, and I said, “Tell me the place, the time, what you want me to wear.” We didn’t even get paid back then, play­ing for Aus­tralia.

Last year, I was com­men­tat­ing more on men’s cricket than women’s cricket. Dave Barham, who’s head of cricket at Chan­nel Ten, has been an ab­so­lute su­per­star. He asked if I’d be in­ter­ested in do­ing lead com­men­tary on the men’s game, so I did a cou­ple last year, and more this year.

I’ve now been all over the world. I went from Big Bash to the Pak­istan Su­per League, which was based in Dubai last year. Then Women’s World Cup, which was in Eng­land. The Caribbean Pre­mier League, over the West Indies, which is all the men’s T20. Then back again for this sum­mer. Ho­tels, you find, are pretty much the same all around the world. The dif­fer­ent cul­tures and coun­tries are not.

I went to the West Indies for the first time. My dad is from Trinidad, so I met fam­ily for the first time over there. My dad lived in Lon­don since the mid ’50s, and he’s hardly ever been back. I sup­pose you’re a bit ner­vous. You don’t know what these peo­ple are go­ing to be like. But these were three amaz­ing women. Very strong and in­de­pen­dent.

Com­men­tat­ing doesn’t make me miss play­ing.

I thor­oughly en­joy the job for what it is. And that’s hope­fully an abil­ity for me to re­lay to peo­ple not just what’s go­ing on, on the ground, but what’s go­ing on around the play­ers, and what they’ll be feel­ing; the at­mos­phere.

It’s great to be able to see how other com­men­ta­tors go about it. Men, women, Aus­tralians, In­dian com­men­ta­tors – they all sort of bring a slightly dif­fer­ent ap­proach. To have three dif­fer­ent com­men­ta­tors on there see­ing it three dif­fer­ent ways be­cause of their ex­pe­ri­ences and back­grounds – that’s a nice way, I think, to watch sport. Or watch any­thing. It’s a mas­sively chang­ing land­scape for women’s sport. For women in sport in gen­eral – across the board. You know you’re al­most at the coal­face be­cause of the won­der­ful world of so­cial me­dia. You could get the most ap­pre­cia­tive mes­sage in the world, and then the next one could be just the most hos­tile and dis­gust­ing mes­sage, within 30 sec­onds of each other.

Some peo­ple just don’t like change, and they’re happy to voice that. For peo­ple like my­self and Lisa Sthalekar here in Aus­tralia, and a va­ri­ety of women com­men­ta­tors in cricket around the world, we’ve got our own lit­tle What­sApp group at the mo­ment, just to chat through these kinds of in­ci­dents. Be­cause you’ve got to re­main strong and find a way of com­bat­ing the neg­a­tiv­ity, and en­sur­ing you stay fo­cused and give each other sup­port. It’s not just the women on tour. The guys do that as well.

The IPL is a cricket cir­cus. I mean that in a good way. It’s Bollywood meets sport – you’ve got fran­chise own­ers who are fol­lowed by hun­dreds of mil­lions of peo­ple on Twit­ter and the like. So you have all this glitz and glam­our. You have the best crick­eters in the world play­ing there.

It’s an ad­ven­ture ev­ery day. Some­thing new and dif­fer­ent is al­ways hap­pen­ing. Then the crowds are just ridicu­lously amaz­ing. They will pack out a 40,000-seat sta­dium in Hyderabad in 43-de­gree heat and 90 per cent hu­mid­ity in the mid­dle of the day, and the noise level will be con­sis­tent from ball one through to the end. They are just so en­grossed in the game. It’s not like other coun­tries where the crowd will just cheer a bound­ary.

Some­thing I found out the hard way? Com­men­tary boxes don’t have women’s toi­lets nearby. Par­tic­u­larly in coun­tries out­side of Aus­tralia. Some­times they’re the far­thest away. No one, when they were de­sign­ing these places, ever re­ally thought of fe­males in that me­dia space.

The world of free­lance work is scary, I guess, in a way. You’ve gone from a full-time job where your life is safe and se­cure to putting your­self out there to say, “I’m here and avail­able.” You just don’t know. As much as I’m

• lov­ing it, it’s still a ner­vous life­style to lead as well.

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