I wrote this a while back, and it is my intention to similarly look at the TMS crew at some point when I purchase a new laptop. If I have missed anyone off the list, then please add your thoughts!
SKY SPORTS SUPERURN ASHES BONANZA HYPER TEAM
David Gower – This man is evolving more and more into Richie Benaud, minus the dry humour. Gower has been a mainstay of cricket coverage for almost as long as I remember and the smooth silver fox still holds his own as an anchor, and is usually refreshingly aloof from the Old Boys Banter Crew that can sometimes pervade SKY’s coverage. Gower loses marks for the crap ‘culture’ gag before the start of the series, and also is deducted as he is evidently much stronger in the post-session debates than he is in the commentary box. 5/10
Ian Botham – Anecdotes about his latest night on the wine, banter with the boiz, 10-0 predictions and another anecdote about that night with the boiz where there was so much banter flying about that he ended up predicting England would win 10-0. Too much wine, you see! HAHA! Spare me… 2/10
Shane Warne – When talking about spin bowling, Warne is actually and genuinely mesmerising. When talking about anything else he is Australia’s answer to Botham, on crack (or given his weight loss, perhaps his mother’s diuretics). His sledging of the England team as they sat 3-0 up in the series was so laughably absurd that it was almost laudable. Almost being the operative word. He gets a mark more than Botham, down to his excellent Spin Masterclass before play on the 4th Test. 3/10
Michael Atherton – Genuinely insightful, and actually quite decent at provoking others in the box into something resembling thought, too. There was also an excellent moment in the final Test where Warne was chuntering on about how Australian teams always go for the win and Clarke was a great captain, yadda yadda, Cook is negative, Australia this, yawn that. Atherton let Warne have his say before quietly returning “For a team which always goes for the win, Australia have been remarkably good at losing recently”. It was all the better from coming from one of the more reserved commentators in the team. I think it helps that he writes a broadsheet column, as it means he probably thinks about the game whilst others might be drinking wine and living off their playing records. 8/10
Andrew Strauss – Thankfully Strauss will never join the banter bus; he clearly lacks anything resembling charisma. Yet he unconsciously managed to reveal a fair amount of the thought processes going on in the England set-up; he read Cook’s strategy on *that* slow day like a book, recognising Clarke’s bravado persona would almost certainly lead to an over-generous 5th day declaration. Having said that when Strauss was England captain he was certainly not one of those players who you would naturally think would make a decent pundit. The jury is out. 5/10
Michael Holding – Can sometimes oversimplify things (“he need to aim tha’ top of off stump”), but cricket is a simple game so I can forgive that. Avoids banter like the plague, and some of his knowledge and dissection of fast bowling is really good (as you would expect from a man of his calibre). 6/10
Nasser Hussain – I quite like Hussain. He sometimes can be the victim of Warne and Botham’s hilarious jokes, and sometimes (worse) he can even join in with them. He is though a decent presenter, and adds plenty of enthusiasm without getting cheesy. Can make some decent analysis but he is no Simon Hughes; in fact SKY have gotten that format completely wrong ever since they bought the rights to the coverage, but that isn’t down to Hussain so his score remains respectable. 6/10
Ian Ward – He’s got crap hair and wasn’t a great Test cricketer. Yet Ward is actually more than competent with mic in hand. Squeezed enough from Warne to make the Spin Masterclass excellent television. 7/10
Bob Willis – Willis is a depressed man with nothing positive to say. I don’t mind criticism where warranted, but Willis just seems to love complaining for the sake of complaining. It is actually quite painful watching whenever Willis’ god-awful voice is stealing airtime. If Willis was a horse then he’d have been put down by now. 2/10
David Lloyd – He used to be funny and bring a lot of natural humour to proceedings, but SKY have either asked him to crassly overdo it to the point of nausea, or he has simply aged horrendously into the absurdly unfunny uncle who utterly loves to be the centre of attention. Either way, Lloyd has seriously lost it and offers nothing to cricket. Soccer AM is much more of a natural home for “Bumble”, which just about says it all. 2/10
Overall – The team is too laddish and banterish, but underneath that surface lies some excellent insight from the likes of Atherton and Ward. I wouldn’t be disappointed to see Warne replaced by a less partisan Australian, and Botham by perhaps another neutral. I think this would bring out more from the likes of Hussain and give Strauss a better chance at showing whatever personality he has (he must have something in there!). It doesn’t measure up to the excellent team the ABC broadcasters provided Down Under for the Ashes in 2011, but at least it seems to finally be marginalising Willis. 7/10
EDIT: As someone Twit has pointed out on Twatter, the 7/10 overall score mark I’ve given ‘the team’ is quite high given the number of low scores I have given to them as individuals. As individuals they scored 49/100, so perhaps a 5/10 would be more fitting. It says that perhaps I have underated the likes of Gower, Holding, Ward and Athers who really hold the team together. Also a fair amount of abuse for Strauss, who I gave a fair amount of leeway to given that he’s new to the gig. I’ll stand by 5/10 until he is given the chance to settle.