Claiming that the Channel Nine commentary team are insufferable is like claiming that those ISIS lads are occasionally somewhat naughty. The problem is that since Australia win so often at home, Channel Nine are permanently in back slapping mode, whooping it up whilst the home side crush yet another visitor to Australian shores. But imagine how different it would be if Australia suddenly stopped winning. Not for the odd game, or even series, but for 15 years or so. Imagine how depressed Shane Warne would become after realising, following his 128th Warnifesto, that his grand plan to solve everything by sacking everyone in charge and replacing them with his mates is not the cure-all he thought it was.
This is the scenario Fazeer Mohammed faces and he does so with a positivity that we doubt any of the Channel Nine crew could manage in the face of such consistently horrific performances. On the ABC radio coverage so far this series, Fazeer has been a man on a mission, that mission being to educate everyone to the real reason behind the state of West Indian cricket. To drop all the excuses and half-truths, to stop blaming T20 cricket, County Cricket, the ICC, basketball, global warming, wardrobe malfunctions, Coldplay playing at the Super Bowl or Joe the cameraman and fix their attention on the real issue: the criminally inefficient, self-serving ‘guidance’ provided by the West Indian Cricket Board.
Fazeer himself noted during the First Test that people are probably pretty sick of hearing him talking about the woes of West Indian Cricket, tour after tour. But as he also points out, there really is nothing else to talk about. Everything else is always exactly the same: an under-performing team where a few bright lights might offer a hope for the future but are ultimately crushed through bewilderingly poor mismanagement. For instance, with most of their batsmen desperately needing more time in the middle in the two weeks between the First and Second Tests, the West Indies will play just one two-day tour game. The hope offered thus far by Darren Bravo and Kraigg Brathwaite will therefore be predictably once again lost in a sea of overwhelming mediocrity once the Boxing Day Test rolls around.
Listening to Fazeer during the First Test it was hard to believe he doesn’t have a bigger say in West Indian cricket. Maybe he doesn’t offer any actual solutions, but if someone was needed to write an audit of all the faults of the West Indian Cricket Board he is surely the man to do it. Which is probably why he gives the appearance of being decidedly on the outer: he treads on too many toes. People don’t like being told they are being incompetent, even whilst they are in the process of being massively incompetent.
But the surprising part of all this is that Fazeer never once whines. Never complains, grates that his mates would do a better job, wrings his hands and wonders why he has to watch this shower of shit play around the world, when if fate had been kinder he might have covering one of the great Windies teams, watching them smash everything in front of them and then getting invited round to the after-parties. If this was Channel Nine, all you would hear would be sobbing, but Fazeer seemingly doesn’t go in for self-pity, and often during the First Test he was the most positive commentator, whilst also remaining the most realistic about the West Indies’ chances. For him, this was nothing unexpected. It may have even surpassed expectations.
We suspect Fazeer puts himself through a routine most would have been burnt out by years ago, purely to ensure that people are never tempted into pointing fingers at the wrong culprits. Yeah, Marlon Samuels was horrifically shit during that first Test, but you can’t blame him alone for clearly not wanting to be there. You have to blame the people that put a plainly disinterested player in the team in the first place, probably through one of the back room deals that Phil Simmons was disciplined for talking about. Similarly you can’t blame players for looking to T20 cricket to sustain themselves when the Board refuses to provide attractive alternate pathways for them to follow. Or simply dicked them about for so long that they just gave up the idea of playing Test cricket anymore.
We’ve never been less enthused by a Test series than this one, and so far it hasn’t disappointed in that regard. The Channel Nine team, in between mispronouncing most of the West Indians’ names, have been falling over themselves to remind us just how satisfying it is to watch an Australian outfit perform so professionally. As if that is somehow more exciting than watching an actual contest. But Fazeer’s commentary has somehow made all the one-sided cricket actually bearable, as hearing him come in off the long run is never not compelling listening. If the actual cricket didn’t sometimes intervene, you could imagine him talking for hours once he got started. And unlike with Channel Nine, none of it is bullshit, it all hits the mark.