Of all our great ideas, sitting through an entire summer of Channel Nine coverage was probably the worst. Worse than when we investigated what a year’s supply of KFC could do to the body (also known as the Samit Patel diet), worse than the time we read an entire book of Kevin Pietersen’s crap and even worse than that time we tried cooking stuff, with hilarious results. Compared to listening to Ian Healy, Michael Slater and the gang for hour after hour, those things were a walk in the park.
Thankfully, the start of the ODI tri-series led to something new being introduced into the mix, in the form of one David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd, he of ‘being hit in the bollocks by Jeff Thomson’ fame. Presumably because commentators need practice matches before the World Cup too, with Bumble being one of those lucky official ICC commentators who get the main gig, in return for never saying anything bad about the ICC or their ridiculously bloated farce of a tournament.
As has often been pointed out across a number of areas, a little competition is generally a good thing. And this certainly applies to the Channel Nine commentary box, where the introduction of an outsider actually led to some proper discussion for once. It was as if James Brayshaw et al didn’t want to be upstaged by the stranger and his new-fangled ‘proper sentences’ and hence upped their act a bit, even getting involved in what we can generously call a conversation at one point, instead of a competition to see who can shout loudest.
Of course, this calmness couldn’t possibly last. Indeed, the end of the game saw Brayshaw turn up the volume to 11 to holler
“Faulkner the finisher does it again! How many times has he done it for Australia!?”
This, of course, was the James Faulkner who came to the crease with eight runs required from 68 balls, with four wickets in hand. Bumble’s surprised response (“Steady on!”) was the voice of reason making a – at this point – terribly unwelcome entry into proceedings. If there’s one thing the bods at Channel Nine don’t like, it’s someone who tries to calm every one down.
We should probably point out that we certainly don’t love Bumble unequivocally. In fact, when we did our Commentators series a while back he was in the process of driving us mental by saying ‘whallop’ every time anyone hit the ball off the square. But that soon stopped and compared to the rest of the Channel Nine commentary box he’s streets ahead. You can clearly see the influence of Sky’s much more serene cricket coverage coming through – where adding to the viewers’ understanding is the main goal. (And every commentator will take it in turns to do the ‘Third Man’ role, where they’ll generally be finding something interesting or analytical about the technical side of the game. The equivalent role for Channel Nine is being the one in charge of whipping everyone up into a frenzy about their latest bit of massively overpriced tat).
So what have we learned from the latest stage of this hideous experiment? Not much. The Channel Nine commentary box remains brash, boorish and, frankly, fucking annoying. The concept of a pause in conversation appears to be long gone. Richie Benaud would be turning in his grave, were it not for the small matter of him still being alive.
Adding in David Lloyd (or Nasser Hussain/David Gower/whoever) doesn’t fundamentally change that dynamic. But it does give the viewer the occasional moment of respite, the chance to actually enjoy the cricket, rather than being constantly verbally punched in the face. And for that Bumble, we are eternally grateful.