As a general rule, great players don’t make good commentators. A wise friend of 51allout told us this week, in a rare moment of clarity, that:
“I’ve always said that the majority of naturally gifted sportsmen know next to nothing about the sport they play because it comes too naturally for them to have any clever insights.”
Once we’d recovered from the shock of such a profound statement coming out of such an unheralded mouth, it became clear he probably had a point. The path from the top of the game to the commentary box is a well-trodden one but often the best only sully their reputations as they move upstairs. There’s an opportunity to reel off a long list of names at this point, but we’ll leave that particular chore to the imagination of our reader.
Shane Warne is an odd case because he manages to straddle both what we’ll call ‘The Botham Group’ and the much more excellent ‘Holding Clan’. He has never been one to shy away from media work; he spent his enforced year off commentating as far back as 2003 and even had his own chat show at home in Australia in 2010, a venture that went about as well as Phil Hughes’ international career. And we’re not even going to mention Advanced Hair Studios. Well, not much, anyway.
There are times when he is truly insightful, where it becomes obvious why he was the power behind the throne in the Australian side; not least on the subject of spin bowling. Rarely did anyone discuss the amount of ‘revs’ a bowler put on the ball as important before him and he offers a fascinating viewpoint on what a spinner should be looking to do in various situations. The problem is that all this is interspersed with far too many desperate attempts to be a lad.
Everyone enjoys the light-hearted nature of Sky’s coverage, where everyone can take the piss out of each other and have a joke to while away the dull periods cricket inevitably experiences from time to time. No-one enjoys the over the top lunatic asylum that masquerades as Channel Nine’s commentary box, where everything is banter and shouting and wildly biased towards their own side. Warne manages to swerve between the two, quite often on numerous occasions during a half-hour stint, which makes him both a pleasure to listen to and a plague on our ears simultaneously.
Having said that, Warne’s bias can prove entertaining at times. He often invents new rules during the game if Australia are struggling – most memorably during the 2010/11 Ashes, where he all but re-wrote the LBW law during a decision referral. He hasn’t yet scaled the heights of one IT Botham, who declares various opponents ‘cheats’ on a regular basis, but it’s surely only a matter of time.
Despite his many flaws – we didn’t even have time to mention his bizarre drunken ramblings on Twitter, which have become worryingly frequent of late – it’s probably a fair assessment to say that 51allout enjoys his time in the Sky box. He can be immensely irritating but that new hair must be a right bastard to maintain, so we’ll let him off. He’s also done some excellent pieces for English TV in his time; in particular a luncheon interval piece with Will Beer and Scott Borthwick a couple of years ago which was compelling viewing. If he could just stop with the bloody Sherminator stuff it’d be dandy. That joke wasn’t funny five years ago, Shane.