Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Superb or terrible - the strange case of TV cricket commentary

I noticed two things watching the latest ICC Champions Trophy match between England and New Zealand today that reveal a bit of how cricket commentary has changed over the years.

The first was the dismissal of Paul Collingwood by Grant Elliot, the latter a very average international cricket in my book.

Having just been pulled for an imperious four on a track immensely helpful to bowling, Elliot immediately bowled another 70mph half-tracker which Colly duly swatted, unluckily to an amazing midwicket catch by Ross Taylor.

It was a jammy wicket for Elliott, who looked like he'd just cleaned up Brigadier Block with a 95mph inswinging yorker rather than a rank long-hop that deserved to be lashed out of the park.

I'm not sure who the commentator was now, but he lauded Elliott for his persistence. I was a bit baffled by this, as I'm dubious that Elliot's 'persistence' would have met with such praise if Colly had repeated the dose.

Later on the game Kiwi batsman Martin Guptill his the flukiest 50 I've ever seen, repeatedly hitting balls just over the heads of fielders, surviving very good shouts throughout his innings and being tied in knots by not just Jimmy Anderson but also Private Pie (the aforementioned Shotley Bridge terrier).

Upon Gutpill's inevitable and long-overdue dismissal, Sergeant Suicide, Bob Willis, declared it to be a 'superb innings'. In the context of the game a contribution of 53 was a valuable one, but in no way could his innings be declared superb. It was scratchy, flukey and probably should have been curtailed much earlier by the umpires.

This highlights something I've been noticing for a while about cricket commentary, where the skill of critiquing seems to have been overtaken by one of two extremes: superb and terrible.

Any wicket that takes a delivery is now labelled brilliant, likewise any shot that goes for a boundary - regardless of how ugly or lucky the shot it is.

It's hard to say whether this is because critical faculties are in short supply among the commentators in question (hello Sky!) or whether it's simply a case of the way the sport and cricket have gone. Too much overhyped cricket, jaded commentators.

As ever, TMS tends to be rather more guarded in its garlanding of players. Over on Sky David Lloyd is perhaps the ultimate purveyor of hyperbolic praise, and that seems to be Sky's thing - brilliant or rubbish.

It should come as no surprise that my opinion of Sky's commentary lies squarely within one of those two extremes.

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