Something weird happened during India’s recent Test tour of Australia. On television sets across a nation, not just once but over and over.
Michael Clarke talked about the cricket.
In slightly shy, broadcast-unsteady tones, Australia’s then-injured captain analysed why Chris Rogers had edged a ball, how Shane Watson used the seam, why David Warner had two gullies, how Virat Kohli worked opposing fieldsmen, when Steve Smith would declare.
Between times, the regular cast of Nine’s Wide World of Sports held important discourse about the Commonwealth Bank and what a good bloke Glenn McGrath is and how every Australian cricket ground is really great. John Goldstein wrote to the Guardian’s over-by-over report, “My vision is very poor and at best I see blobs move these days so I depend on audio, and I’ve just listened to Shane Warne talk about his party and fancy dress. I’ve enjoyed Clarke and his insights when he is allowed to express them.”
Let’s be honest – Nine’s cricket coverage has never been a place where genius came to joust. Unchaperoned, though, recent seasons have subsided into a swamp of hokey backslapping. Grown men call each other Tubby and Binga and Slats, not as nicknames but a full-time mode of address. The guffaw is king. It’s all about being the matiest mates who ever mated.
Michael Slater plays the daft little brother who bounces around after the big kids until they let him have a go. James Brayshaw has the emotional depth of a sock puppet during a button shortage. Between them they offer insights like “Whey-hey!” and “Look out!” and “Turn it up!”. Mark Taylor, Ian Healy, Brett Lee and Warne descend to that level. Mike Hussey perches quietly to one side. Mark Nicholas, a fine writer on the game, stands like a school-play caricature of a nobleman stranded in the colonies, unable to hedge or redirect.
Here comes that fresh middle-aged banter: did you know Warnie used to be fat? Or that Braysh spends an hour in front of the mirror? But Tubs is thinning on top, look out! Maybe time for an Advanced Hair joke. Back to Heals for more about the lobster at lunch before Warnie runs a poll about pizza. It’s a mode that cricket writer Jarrod Kimber describes as “embarrassing dads”, with Ian Chappell “looking more and more like a professor at a keg party”.
Every boundary gets an “Oof!” or a “Phwoar!” Every ball is a cherry. Everything is fantastic. Talk illustrates nothing, nor will it stay quiet and let things run. We’re off to a fantastic new show that the boys are loving, Home Celebrity Garbage Wars, 8:30 Wednesdays, or this fantastic set of commemorative Josh Hazlewood pool cues, one for each of his five wickets on debut, strictly limited to 4,000 sets individually signed by Josh’s uselessly fused right claw.