Bowl­ing ’em over

The new faces at Fox and Seven are promis­ing a fresh and fun ap­proach to call­ing cricket this sum­mer, writes James Wigney

Herald Sun - Hit - - COVER STORY -

AF­TER a year like no other in re­cent mem­ory, Aus­tralian cricket is at a cross­roads between the old and the new, a point that was il­lus­trated in a re­cent ex­change between Adam Gilchrist and Us­man Khawaja.

Dur­ing Fox Cricket’s cov­er­age of the home team’s re­cent Twenty20 win against In­dia in Bris­bane — one of the few bright spots in a grim run of outs — a ros­ter of ex-play­ers from Shane Warne to Mark Waugh to An­drew Sy­monds took the Aussies to task for what they saw as un­nec­es­sar­ily high­risk shots or tech­niques.

But when cur­rent bat­ting star Khawaja, then out with a knee in­jury, joined wick­et­keeper­bats­man great Gilchrist in the com­men­tary box, he was hav­ing none of it, telling his col­leagues the game had changed, and they needed to change with it.

And that, says Gilchrist, who is spear­head­ing Fox Cricket’s new cov­er­age, is just the way it should be. When Khawaja was later wor­ried he might have over­stepped the mark with some of the gi­ants of the game, Gilchrist put his mind at ease and wel­comed the ro­bust dif­fer­ence of opin­ions.

“That’s the beauty of that type of broad­cast­ing, it al­lows ev­ery­one’s point of view to be put across and it al­lows the viewer to make their own mind up,” Gilchrist says. “That ac­tual de­bate about tra­di­tional cricket ver­sus the modern in­no­va­tions in the game has ev­ery­one talk­ing and ev­ery­one has an opin­ion on it.

“If we are talk­ing like that in a com­men­tary box, you can rest as­sured that in a pub or a lounge room there will be peo­ple ques­tion­ing and ar­gu­ing about the same thing. That’s healthy for the game.”

It’s hard to re­mem­ber a pe­riod of greater change for Aus­tralian cricket than the one un­fold­ing now. Not only has the team been in tur­moil fol­low­ing the ban­ning of cap­tain Steve Smith, vice-cap­tain David Warner and bats­man Cameron Ban­croft, but the knock-on ef­fect from that ball-tam­per­ing in­ci­dent in March was a com­pre­hen­sive re­view of the game that has claimed the scalps of sev­eral top ad­min­is­tra­tors. Add to that the fact that af­ter decades with Chan­nel 9’s Test cov­er­age as the sound of sum­mer, the broad­cast­ing rights have been di­vided between Fox­tel and Chan­nel 7 and it’s a whole new ball game this sum­mer.

That change, says Gilchrist, also of­fers an op­por­tu­nity to re­set and re­cal­i­brate and tai­lor the cov­er­age to meet the ex­pec­ta­tions of modern au­di­ences. Un­til this year’s new deal, crick­et­ing cov­er­age had for the most part con­sisted of Chan­nel 9’s more old-school Test and 50-over team, led for decades by the peer­less Richie Be­naud, at one end of the spec­trum and the more brash up­starts of Chan­nel 10 call­ing the fast-paced, high-en­ergy Big Bash T20 com­pe­ti­tion at the other.

The Fox Cricket ap­proach, which prom­ises ad-free cov­er­age of ev­ery de­liv­ery bowled, will sit some­where between the two, with Gilchrist ac­knowl­edg­ing the pi­o­neer­ing work done by Chan­nel 9, but keen to im­ple­ment the les­sons learnt dur­ing his stint with the Big Bash.

“As the game evolved, I think the broad­cast­ers tried to evolve and cer­tainly at Fox we have all for­mats of the game cov­ered, so there are op­por­tu­ni­ties there to make some ad­just­ments here and there,” he says.

“But cer­tainly, as a gen­eral state­ment, it will be a slightly more re­laxed and en­gag­ing ap­proach that peo­ple are look­ing for and al­most conversational as op­posed to be­ing more tu­to­rial.”

Gilchrist’s com­rades in the com­men­tat­ing box will in­clude for­mer team­mates Waugh, Sy­monds, Brett Lee and Dar­ren Lehman, as well as English im­ports, for­mer cap­tain Michael Vaughn and ris­ing star Isa Guha. And then there’s Warnie. Gilchrist spent years play­ing with the revered leg-spin­ner in the cru­cial wick­et­keeper-bowler re­la­tion­ship, and while the pair didn’t al­ways see eye-to-eye, there was never a dull mo­ment.

“Warnie has al­ways pro­vided us with a lot of en­ter­tain­ment, hasn’t he?” Gilchrist says with a laugh. “You only have to pick up any news­pa­per around the world at var­i­ous points in time and you know there is plenty go­ing on in Shane Warne’s life. He’s just a larger than life per­son­al­ity.

“He says it as he sees it and he brings a huge amount of grav­i­tas with his cricket knowl­edge and ex­per­tise and cer­tainly en­ter­tain­ment value.”

For­mer Test skip­per Ricky Ponting says his Chan­nel 7 team, which will cover the Tests and some BBL and WBBL matches and in­cludes Glenn McGrath, Si­mon Katich, Ja­son Gille­spie, Lisa Sthalekar and Bruce McA­vaney, among oth­ers, will take a sim­i­lar ap­proach.

“I think the whole broad­cast will be a lit­tle bit more fun and prob­a­bly ap­peal slightly more to the younger gen­er­a­tion,” Ponting says. “Yes, there will be some fun and laugh­ing, but there will be some great cri­tiquing of the Test match game as well. A big part of my role with Seven is be­ing the com­men­ta­tor who



can talk tech­nique and tac­tics and what’s hap­pen­ing in the game to try to let the av­er­age per­son un­der­stand a lit­tle bit more of the game than they per­haps have in the past.”

With the na­tional team still deal­ing with the shock­waves of the past nine months, it’s also fac­ing one of its most for­mi­da­ble foes, squar­ing off with crick­et­ing pow­er­house In­dia in the fourTest se­ries that kicks off in Ade­laide on De­cem­ber 6.

And Gilchrist’s tip: “I am go­ing to say that In­dia start slight favourites on the back of them be­ing more set­tled with their line-up, how­ever, I think Aus­tralia 2-1.”

WATCH THE FIRST TEST: AUS­TRALIA V IN­DIA, De­cem­ber 6, Fox Cricket and Chan­nel 7



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