Channel Nine’s coverage of the cricket this summer can best be summed up by an incident on the final day of the series, which might well be a ‘you had to be there’ moment, but I’m gonna recount it anyway. As the camera panned to a row of people all with the little radio headsets in, Shane Warne said, ‘Give us a wave guys!’, only to be met with a distinct lack of waving. See, you can choose whether to tune in to ABC radio or Channel 9 on those nifty things, and anyone of sound mind will always choose the former. One guy at the end of the row evidently didn’t know how to use his yet, as he heard Warne and gave a pathetic wave, which was met by a desperate ‘Thanks mate’.
You used to be able to watch the cricket on mute while listening to the ABC commentary, but when Nine realised that no-one around the country was listening to the clowns on their payroll, they fiddled with the settings (I’m not a scientist) a few years ago to ensure that the picture and sound no longer synced. So now if you want to watch the cricket at home, you have to listen to Ian Healy. You win, Channel Nine. So, having sat through a summer’s worth of KFC ads, trivia questions and Spider-cam, here is our review of their coverage.
Perhaps the highlight of the summer was a pitch report one morning, when Ian Healy, not allowed to go on the pitch itself, started bouncing a ball on the bit BEHIND the stumps to give us an idea what the pitch might play like, as Mark Nicholas looked on in bemusement. That’s as tenuous a connection as showing us a picture of Katy Perry instead of the lovely Ellyse Perry. Keeping the folk from Nine away from the pitch is generally a good idea anyway – as well as shoddy camerawork, poor graphics and overblown commentary, we reckon they probably are to blame for the cracks down the middle of the WACA, the dangerously sandy outfield at the Gabba and breaking Michael Carberry’s bat. In fact we reckon they probably steal dingos and deliberately hand Bob Hawke watered-down pints as well.
Michael Hussey made a few forays into the box this summer, and while we have the utmost respect for his cricketing abilities, he speaks at a pitch offensive to mankind. That coupled with the fact that he is, to put it nicely, really fucking boring, makes his commentary stint the perfect time to go grab a KFC bucket. Huss is one of those people who is so bland that you can’t ever imagine him chatting up a girl or saying anything remotely filthy, and that’s coming from someone whose attempts to win favour with the opposite sex are usually more painful than watching Carberry bat. The man is devoid of a personality.
Speaking of which, Brett Lee co-hosted the Cricket Show, which no-one ever really wants to watch, but sometimes one has melted into one’s couch and the alternative (moving) is even more painful. I could go on all day about how dull Lee is, but I don’t want to waste column inches on someone who is a self-professed supporter of Tony Abbott. Lee’s main contribution this summer was to bowl some bouncers at Piers Morgan, but before he had time to win back some respect for doing something we all want to, he went and said that he really admired Piers because he ‘speaks his mind’. The lesson we’ve learned is that if Brett Lee likes you, you’re probably an utter fuckwit.
The one man to come out of the whole Piers Morgan shambles with any dignity intact was the one man on the commentary team who it’s actually worth listening to: Ian Chappell. Chappelli’s ‘not a single fuck was given’ attitude to life, the universe and everything makes him such a refreshing change from the gawping morons surrounding him. This was best evidenced when it emerged that, having been invited to shake Morgan’s hand, Chappell responded with ‘no mate, you’re a dickhead’. Chappell makes little effort to conceal his disgust at poor captaincy, poor umpiring, poor administration and even poor commentary from his fellow commentators, most often Ian Healy. While everyone enjoyed England’s pathetic performances and generally just ended up laughing at them, Chappell put the boot in with a cold, heartless tone that suggested that as a former captain, cricketer and lover of the game, the performances on display offended him to his very core. I would gladly listen to him commentate by himself all day, but that would be dangerous as one suspects that he only gets through his stints by drinking all of the whiskey.
Perhaps the worst aspect of the commentary all summer was that it made me actually understand what the point of Mark Nicholas was. I’ve always hated Nicholas’ sycophantic ways, but I realised that, along with Chaps, he’s one of only two people in the commentary box capable of stringing a full sentence together on a regular basis. Plus, I heard him show some passion for the first time, when Glenn McGrath asked him which team he was supporting, and he responded with an outburst on how embarrassing England, whom it turns out he was supporting, had been.
The nadir of the summer: Watching Michael Vaughan eat KFC on some thing way up in the air. For ages.
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One of the great joys in a cricket watching life is watching the fall of wickets, especially if you missed some earlier in the day. Needless to say, Nine decided to take that most simple of pleasures and defile it in front of our very eyes with some ridiculous contraption whose name I can’t remember. Instead of just showing the wickets in the traditional manner, with a real time replay followed by a slow-mo, we got some sort of film school student arthouse wankery. ‘The bowler bowls…FREEZE FRAME…ROTATE 270 DEGREES…PLAY AGAIN…HE’S NICKED IT!…FREEZE…HIGHLIGHT THE GUY WHO TOOK THE CATCH, JUST IN CASE YOU CAN’T FIGURE IT OUT!’…Just fuck off.
As if that wasn’t enough, once a day we would get to see all the wickets ON A TINY PORTION OF THE SCREEN MADE UP TO LOOK LIKE A VB SCOREBOARD, because apparently you get a little virtual VB scoreboard if you bought some VB this summer. Listen up VB: no-one buys your shitty beer, and showing us the wickets as if the players were all midgets is not going to change anyone’s mind.
And then there was the ‘Weather Wall’, a pitch side screen that showed us all sorts of weather-related numbers before play, things like ‘wind speed’ and ‘humidity levels’ which, let’s be honest, no-one gives a fuck about. Except Ian Healy, who consistent refuted the figures, basically calling the Bureau of Meteorology a bunch of FUCKING LIARS.
Cross-promotion is an unfortunately ingrained part of sports coverage in this country, but nothing prepared us for the relentless barrage of absolute shit Nine tried to convince us to watch in 2014. All of the commentators (except the one with dignity, Ian Chappell), had a go, assuring us that the programmes Nine had lined up were the bestest thing ever, because they’d seen a sneak preview, you see. They were talking about shows like SCHAPPELLE, a re-enactment of a real life case about….it really doesn’t matter, the show basically appears to be a whole bunch of crying with a dub step background. Then there was THE BLOCK, back for the 17 billionth season…do you like watching fuckheads paint? Then boy have we got a show for you! Then there was LOVE CHILD, which, if I’ve understood it correctly, is basically an hour of sex every week. Thanks Channel Nine, you’ve hit upon a major interest of mine there, but have you heard of the Internet? And finally some show which looked a lot like Underbelly and had all the people from Underbelly and even the font in the ads was the same as Underbelly but was definitely NOT Underbelly.
I won’t be watching Channel Nine until next summer’s Tests. And only then if they feature more Ellyse Perry.