Sky’s World Twenty20 studio pundits

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There is a very different feel to Sky’s coverage of the World Twenty20. It’s not the usual Test match team of presenters and pundits and we’re quite thankful for that.

It’s not that Sky’s coverage is normally bad. It’s just very familiar. That David Gower and Ian Botham world can get a bit wearing.

“Just saw Gatt. He’s fat, isn’t he?”

“You like to stay up late drinking, don’t you Sir Ian?”

When these guys talk cricket, that’s fine, but the bonhomie can seem rather tired. Gower and Botham in particular have been doing virtually the same things together for the last 30 years. Sometimes they even seem aware of that themselves.

In contrast, the guys in the studio for the World Twenty20 appear to be genuinely enjoying themselves. It was Ian Ward, Paul Collingwood, Marcus Trescothick and Jimmy Adams yesterday. They seemed to spend about half the time laughing, which was quite endearing.

That isn’t to say they’re just dossing about though. They joke, but they make serious points. It’s striking how they have very specific things to say about Twenty20 cricket and you realise that the sometimes faintly sneering or dismissive tone that accompanies the summer coverage of the format is perhaps borne of the ignorance of the older presenters.

We wonder how much of this is down to Ian Ward. He is very good nowadays. Genial and easygoing, but unmistakeably in charge. He’s like a cool teacher who jokes with the kids and somehow cajoles them into doing work at the same time.

We would never marry Bob Willis, so we don’t see why we have to spend quite so many hours looking into his cold, dead eyes, wondering whether he’s plotting to kill us. We haven’t seen Nick Knight doing that thing where he asks himself questions before refusing to commit to an answer either, so maybe he’s not involved. It’s good to have a change.


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  1. I heard that the Velocoraptors in the Jurassic Park films were an idea Speilberg came up with after a Brit friend had sent him a clip of Willis bowling. When Speilberg met Bob in order to create an authentic body suit for the actors who plaued the raptors, the diminiutive director looked into the gangly former fast bowler’s eyes….and saw nothing there. Hence the shot just before Bob Peck gets eaten where we see one of the raptor’s heads with the dead eyes looking at us, after whch Peck says, ‘Clever girl’. You know the rest. Ray Bright still shudders whenever he’s reminded of the 1981 series.

  2. That’s right KC and they are talking out of current experience and involvement and so actually understand the game. Such a relief not to have ‘Knight I love the sound of my own voice’ blathering on.

  3. This is a propos of absolutely nothing, but has anyone else noticed how much Suresh Raina looks like Rob Key? Barring coloration they could be brothers. Twins even.

  4. Interesting. What sort of T20 specific points do they make that the old ones don’t seem to care enough to make/understand?

    1. Nothing earth-shattering. They just seem to have a better idea what bowlers are attempting to do with particular deliveries and field settings; they know how batsmen feel about climbing run-rates and talk about how targets are broken down; why certain shots are played and what the batsman expects to get out of it.

      Paul Collingwood is uncommonly good at predicting what a bowler’s going to do. Mike Atherton said he got six out of six on a Lasith Malinga over early in the tournament (or possibly one of the warm-ups).

    2. I see what you mean. It saddens me when I see someone like Sunil Gavaskar spouting inane stuff. When Gavaskar started commentating, he was very perceptive, quick to point out intricacies that might otherwise go unnoticed. I still remember him dissecting a Tendulkar cover-drive, how pointing your toes in the direction of the shot is helpful etc. Watch him now, and he is more likely to comment on the cheerleaders.

      I realize this is not the point you made – seemingly familiarity has affected you. But in the case of some old pros, it is just plain old decline in standards. Owing in no small part to corporate pressure to say “DLF maximums” etc. Sad.

  5. I for one would miss the old duffers if they were put out to pasture completely, but applaud the use of some younger, more recently experienced players, especially for T20.

    In the glory days of radio commentary, of course, there was a breed of commentator manifestly not from the community of former players with relevant experience at all. These were journalists and or happenstance commentators with great insight akin to a knowledgeable and genial fan. John Arlott and Brian Johnson are two good examples.

    Sky never managed to bring through a happenstance commentator successfully. It’s one serious attempt, Charles Colville, was enough to put Sky off that idea for a generation at least – perhaps for ever.

    BBC Radio has also given up on the happenstance commentator. The “professional radio journalist” type such as Simon Mann or Kevin Howells is not the same thing at all.

    The thought of KC marrying Bob Willis is enough to put me off my breakfast. Please choose your words carefully, sire.

    1. I quite agree, Ged. If you think of the great commentators in a range of sports, they are only occasionally ex-players. Murray Walker, Sid Waddell, Ted Lowe, Arlott and Johnson, David Coleman … (*) all those people we used to know as “The Voice of…” Peter Alliss and Richie Benaud are of the few genuine greats from the players’ camp, but they’ve managed to transcend that to the point that my wife didn’t know either was a player at all.

      The modern thing isn’t just to have ex-players as commentators, it is to use their ex-player-ness as their entire raison d’être. Nothing else seems to matter. Can he be a commentator? Well he did captain England, so of course he can – stands to reason. There seems to be an assumption that only ex-players can possibly have the depth of knowledge to explain what is going on. This misses the point entirely, which is that in any sport 99% of what is going on is watching from the stands. Commentators are talking to us, the viewing public, and should reflect our experience of sport rather than the players’ experience. Sky’s team of superstars can feel very excluding sometimes – like they’re lecturing us little people on something we cannot possibly understand fully. We are not them. Contrast that with Brian Johnson, who spoke to us as equals.

      (*) I hesitated to put in two other “great” commentators in here – Bill McLaren and Eddie Waring – because while they were definitely “The Voice of…”, I’m not sure they were that great. They are a step too far in the other direction; so much “character” that they become farcical parodies, despite having some of the great lines in all commentary (“That’s one ton of rugby right there – beef, brains, brawn, muscle”). You have to have a balance. I’m not sure that Blofeld doesn’t fit into this category as well.

  6. Really enjoying espnstar’s studio pundits for this competition. Dravid & KP have been great to watch, more than the actual matches during the group stage.

  7. Being a Sky refusenik I haven’t much to say on this one. Everyone is better than test match sofa is all I’ll say, even Willis (I’ve caught him in the pub a few times, though not literally. Unrelatedly, a friend of mine tried to get Willis’ autograph way back in the eighties. When he tapped him on the leg – he was too short to tap him on the shoulder as he was only a nipper back then – to get his attention, Willis turned around and said: “Piss off.” He’s dined out on that anecdote a few times, I can tell you. My friend that is. Not Bob).

  8. I’d say the ex players who make the best commentators are the ones who fall into the journeyman bracket – Jonathan Agnew and Vic Marks being two obvious examples.

    With football, I’d imagine Garry Nelson, another week in, week out slogger, would be good – his books ‘Left Foot Forward’ and ‘Left Foot in the Grave’ are probably the best I’ve read on the sport.

    My favourite ex football player for commentary would be Mark Lawrenson – he’s a touch above the journeyman bracket, but regularly does a superb job on the radio – a far greater test of ability than television.

    To finish on a couple of dud notes – has anyone else noticed similarities between Botham and Shearer, Boycott and Hansen? The former pair simply state the bleeding obvious as their analysis and are an insult the intelligence of the consumer. The latter, as Bert noted, are so opinionated as to be parodies.

  9. There’s a barely disguised “jobs for the boys” culture in cricket broadcast media – particularly TV, and particularly in this country. Botham, Gower and Willis are tired old hacks who need to be put out to pasture but will always have a job at Sky because of what they did in their playing career. The newer generation of FECs aren’t so bad – Hussain and Atherton talk sense, while Vaughan is surprisingly witty and sharp on the radio. TMS seems to be a bit more discerning in its choices. Oh and then there’s Alison Mitchell, who I just think is great.

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