Mel’s hav­ing a ball

Com­men­ta­tor Mel McLaugh­lin talks high­lights – and low­lights – of this year’s KFC Big Bash League.

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - NEWS - 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

TEN, SUN­DAY, 6PM

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