The Flack

Rating the Channel Nine Cricket Commentary Team

Posted November 15, 2012 by Montgomery in Sport
Cricket Ball

Cricket is back.

And that means the Channel Nine Cricket commentary team is also, once again, back in our lives.

Richie Benaud and his compadres are features of the Australian sporting psyche. They have been guiding us through our summers for as long as most of us can remember. Their insights, opinions and occasional hiccups have encapsulated both a season and a sport.

It speaks volumes that every sports fan in the country can perform their imitation of not just Richie, but Tony Greig and Bill Lawry, at the drop of a hat.

However, this familiarity should not be mistaken for unquestioning affection.

The esteem with which the Nine commentary team is held is on the wane.

While this coincides with interest in cricket itself perhaps slowly falling away (due to a number of factors for which there is not time to go into here) the Nine team itself is underperforming.

A large part of the reason for this is that the team is in a period of transition.

Richie Benaud, the great man and doyen of cricketing commentary, not just in Australia but across the globe, is on the way out – albeit slowly. When he finally is no longer able to guide us through our summers, we will all be the poorer for it.

But it is not just Ritchie were change is present.

Tony Greig, sadly, is battling cancer and his old sparring mate, Bill Lawry, plays less of a role every summer.

There is a new brigade in town and so far they are not filling the shoes of those who went before them.

So in the spirit of wanting this institution of Australian culture to reverse the slide, we at the Flack have decided to rate the team, assign them a grade and provide some tips on how they can once again reinforce their position in the cricketing zeitgeist.

Ian Healy – F

Judgement: Ian, God bless him, is awful. The more we get to see of him, the more he simply reinforces the perception that he is the Ringo Starr of Australian Cricket. It is not just in ability that poor Ian is shown up by Adam Gilchrist. It’s personality as well. If Ian is Ringo, Adam is Dave Grohl.

First and foremost, he is bad at calling the game. Frequently he simply describes events incorrectly and has to go back and correct himself.

Secondly, he seems congenitally incapable of operating the graphics that Nine prides itself on using.

Lastly, his insights and opinions are, well, strange. The sense in suggesting the Australians should have declared when 100 runs behind the South Africans in the first innings is hard to fathom.

How he can improve: Either he, and the rest of the team, play up his role as some sort of court jester or he goes the way of Max Walker.

Brett Lee – D

Judgement: Brett is a work in progress. Nine seems to be easing him into on-air commentary, testing the water to see how he goes. So the D grade is maybe a bit harsh.

Brett’s opinions are interesting. It’s good to have the hegemony of batsmen in the broader team countered, but he is not as interesting as Glenn McGrath. Nor is his calling any smoother.

He might end up being a lunch time Cricket Show feature only.

How he can improve: His calling needs to get smoother and less stuttering.

Glenn McGrath – C+

Judgement: This is Glenn’s first proper summer with the team and he has started strongly. As mentioned, it is nice to have a fast bowler in the mix, and Glenn is one of the greatest the modern game has seen. His insights are genuinely interesting and his anecdotes equally so.

The problem is his delivery. He is not as easy to listen to as the more experienced callers and clearly is not a natural. So far his insights and unique opinions outweigh this failing.

How he can improve: Hopefully, with time, calling the game will come more naturally to him. There is only so long gags about how bad a batsmen he was will get him through.

Michael Slater – C+

Judgement: Now an established feature of the team, “Slats” is a known entity. He is a natural caller and an entertainer, but his insights are not as interesting as the Ian Chappell’s or Bill Lawry’s. Instead, he trades on being enthusiastic. To some degree this is also how he forged a career as an opening batsmen.

While he is a solid performer in the current line up, he is not as good as those whom he is replacing and it is on that measure by which he should be judged.

How he can improve: Needs to be less puppy and more dog.

Mark Taylor – B

Judgement: There seems to be a correlation between having captained your country and being a good commentator. Although when it comes to Mike Atherton, Andrew Flintoff would disagree. Mark is like a better version of Michael Slater. To some degree this is also a mirror of their respective batting careers.

How he can improve: Stop trying to talk about popular culture. Mark, like any big John Howard supporter, sounds silly when talking about anything even slightly contemporary. For example, it does not cost anything to send out a “tweet” Mark. It’s not like an SMS at all.

Mark Nicholas – A-

Judgement: Mark is an excellent commentator. But don’t take our word for it, Nine would have spent a bucket load of money focus grouping him before even thinking about an Englishman as the replacement for Benaud. So clearly, a lot of Australians agree.

To the extent you can criticise Mark, it is only because he is not as good as Ritchie. Mark is a smooth and polished performer who does actually make the game more interesting to watch. He conveys an air of truly loving the sport and is on the spot with an interesting statistic at the right time.

Oh, and he wears the hell out of a suit.

How he can improve: Needs to develop a more easily mimicked voice to truly thrive.

Ian Chappell – A

Judgement: Ian is, leaving aside Ritchie, one of the last adults left in the building. Not only is he an experienced caller, bringing interesting opinions and insights to the commentary, he is also an intelligent human being. Never short of an opinion, Chappell the elder always has something of note to say on most topics surrounding the game. And sometimes surrounding things outside it.

Age shows no sign of slowing him down and his performance so far this summer has been as good as it has ever been.

How he can improve: Without Tony Greig currently in the team he might need to be a bit more controversial. This is not to improve his performance, rather to help round out the team.

Richie Benaud – A+

Judgement: He is still Ritchie Benaud. That is all you need to know.

How he can improve: He can’t. Well, besides finding a way to reverse the ageing process, which is probably beyond even him, he can’t.

Montgomery Chevalier is on Twitter. For real. You should also subscribe to The Flack’s weekly email. Please?



About the Author


As a teenager Montgomery was rescued from a refugee camp on the outskirts of the town of Owerri in the aftermath of the Biafran War (his father had been aide-de-camp to the leader of the Biafran forces, the inspiration for the Frederick Fortsyth novel The Dogs of War, General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu). His deliverance was facilitated by the maid to a reasonably unintelligent KGB sponsored Belarusian investment banker named Kirill who was looking to start, ultimately unsuccessfully, a high tech synthetic industry in Nigeria. He made his way to Melbourne after studying only six months of a Business Ethics Degree at the Kyungpook National University in South Korea. The circumstances of his departure, whilst well publicized at the time, are not something Montgomery has ever discussed publicly and much mystery still surrounds the current location of the Golden Tiger. Upon arrival it did not take long for Montgomery to find his way. Shunning job offers in more traditional industries, he made his fortune writing books for children featuring a likeable, though somewhat dour, bandicoot and speculating on the Brazilian Real. Whilst his appreciation of Rugby Union has grown over the years, the rules that govern the game remain a mystery to him.


  1. Jazzy Jase

    Happy that Healy got an F. I met him once and found him to be a smugmaster of the highest order.

    I like it when Tubby has an off air laugh, usually at McGrath’s expense. It sounds thunderous. I can imagine Tubby scoffing down heaps of KFC nuggets in between deliveries.

    Chappelli is an angry old bloke, which is kind of cool.

    Glad i wasn’t in the think tank for Mark Nicholas….get’s my goat every year seeing him prance around. This is Australian cricket, played by moustachioed hariy chested fire breathing Australian men. Nicholas is better suited for some stage version of Billy Elliot

    All in all, a balanced assessment though. Enjoyed the read

  2. Jazzy Jase

    I was trying to get a photo with him but my camera on phone was playing up.

    He was getting the shits “C’mon mate, i got things to do you know”.

    I thought all Qld’ers were supposed to be laid back and casual. He was just an angry ant. Different persona to that upbeat and fresh faced super hyped Healy we see on our tv screens

    Still, he has made more test stumpings than i have so i will give the bloke his dues. Maybe he was reflecting on those stats when we met and thought he could just smug it up.

    Oh yeah, he is short. Not a candid “nuggety short” just real short.


    Long neck

    Is there any chance Ian “cyclops” Healy is biased when commentators should be neutral. Give me Lowry, Chappell, benaud day. New boys are shocking

    Tim Hutchison

    A very accurate article.

    How sad it is to hear Healy commentate. He has absolute tickets on himself and has always subtly criticised Gilchrist and Haddin, both of whom were better batsman and keepers than him. He is now waging war on Matthew Wade who is also a better batsmen and keeper.

    Look back through the Healy archives and view the many fumbles, dropped catches and constant poor shot selection.

    Unfortunately we now have to hear equally poor performances coming from his mouth.

    old boy brad

    Gyday guys, would theDRS be any more effecient if both team captains had to decide if any umpires decision was to be reviewed. Surely this would prevent players from just reviewing a decision just on the off chance the umoire gets it slightly wrong.In days gone by if a batsmen took a good step forward in playing a shot it was considered far enough away not to be given out. nowadays this decision can be made by a computer almost eliminating the need for an umpire, all the player has to do is review it and let the cards fall where they may.
    If both team captains had to agree that a particular batsmen was given out unfairly in order to review a decision wouldnt this bring the players together in the spirit of the game, as well as limiting lost game time. I can remember years back when a good umpire could call a runout accuratly within an inch either side of the crease, what happened to that skill, oldboybrad.

    New user

    I believe the standard in commentary in Australia in general has been lowered.if you watch the coverage of the Australian open in the last few years it has deteriated. They should all be required to do public speaking courses and put in front of a panel of people before being allowed on television. Their voices are awful sounding, unrefined and undignied, it makes you want to switch of the television. Mark Nicolas is okay, John Alexander in the tennis was good, so is Jim Couriet and Todd Woodbridge. The older cricket commentators you mentioned are good. All the other comentators should be removed from television.


    Mark Nicholas – is a flog. He brings nothing to the team. Knows very little about cricket and just seems like a stuck up punce. D rating at best. Get Mark Waugh in to replace him.

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