How do these wonderful men and women compare to the commentary box legends of yore? This is our all-time Ashes dream lineup of hosts, commentators, and analysts.
Richie Benaud. The great man was not only a shrewd leader, an outstanding leg-spinner, and a more-than-useful batsman (first-class batting average of 36), but also an incredible all-rounder as a broadcaster. He could host (“morning, everyone”), commentate in his signature evocative, sparse style (“Jones!… Bowden!… Kasprowicz the man to go”), and offer trenchant, insightful opinions, such as on the Trevor Chappell underarm bowling incident (“a disgraceful performance from a captain who got his sums wrong… one of the worst things I have ever seen on a cricket field”). Might be in any of these categories, but who would be more suited to kick off our ideal broadcast?
In the minds of the selectors, Mark Nicholas, Tony Lewis, and Ian Ward.
Difficult category with numerous candidates, but the ultimate selection came down to two BBC veterans, possibly better recognized for their radio work, but both excellent cricket broadcasters. Christopher Martin-Jenkins, a former cricket journalist for this publication, narrowly defeats Jonathan Agnew. CMJ, like Agnew, believed he had a duty, if not a moral imperative, to safeguard the name and interests of the greatest of all sports.
In the minds of the selectors are Bill Lawry, Jim Maxwell, and Tony Cozier.
A particular Yorkshireman from this parish was an early pioneer of the tactical, technical, and analytical sports broadcasting that Sky Sports does so excellently today: providing you the ex-perspective professional’s on what it’s like to face the finest bowling, or bowl at the greatest players alive. Simon Hughes, a former Telegraph employee, was the first person to do this very effectively on television in his ‘The Analyst’ post on Channel 4. Ricky Ponting will join Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain in enhancing Sky’s coverage this summer. Nasser Hussain receives a little nod from his former England teammate for his astute and perceptive insights.
In the minds of the selectors are Sir Geoffrey Boycott, Atherton, and Hughes.
Fans of English cricket like it when the team performs well, but they enjoy it much more when the team performs poorly. We are a nation of masochists, and nothing excites us more than a forlorn England batting order being savaged on-air by an enraged former great.
Fred Trueman established the standard for the irritated “I don’t know what’s going on out there” harrumphing, which Ian, now Lord, Botham popularized with his “beats me, Bob.” An England batting lineup is decimated by the late, great Big, Bad Bob Willis’s searing, seething rage as he charges in from the long run. Much missed.
Wordsmiths, poets, outliers…
Given the length of the days, even the most fascinating match has its lulls, and eight hours of uninterrupted analysis is impossible. After the retirement of David Lloyd, with his oddity and humor, Sky’s coverage has become, if not worse, then certainly more monochromatic. Historically more of a radio function, comedians like Shane Warne introduced humor and lightheartedness to the television booths.
The TMS holy trio of Henry Blofeld, Brian Johnston, and John Arlott will be remembered as long as England exists, but Johnners’ contagious mischief is most appreciated.