JUST picture it… Ashes, first Test. Day one. Mitchell Starc steams in from the long run to make a mess of the English opener‚Äôs stumps. Bruce McAvaney follows with an equally-precise delivery of his signature line: ‚ÄúSpecial!‚ÄĚ
It‚Äôs not the sound of summer most cricket-loving Aussies are used to and, frankly, nor should it be.
But punters reckon McAvaney is just as likely as anyone else to man the microphones left deserted by Channel Nine‚Äôs commentary team following a landmark change to the Australian sporting media landscape to be announced this afternoon.
Channel Seven will take hold of the Test and international limited overs cricket from Channel Nine as well as the Big Bash, which Channel 10 will relinquish rights to. Foxtel will share the rights with the Kerry Stokes-controlled Seven network.
Cricket Australia revealed details of the new six-year deal worth $1.2 billion today, which makes this the perfect time to speculate about who could ‚ÄĒ or should ‚ÄĒ take over in the commentary box.
The prerequisites are simple:
A) Be a white male.
B) Know how to insert a key into a cracked pitch.
C) Seemlessly weave in sponsor messages for popcorn chicken.
However, during today‚Äôs press conference Foxtel CEO Patrick Delaney appeared to point to a change in the line-up.
It was confirmed female commentators would be included and the team would ‚Äúlook young and inclusive‚ÄĚ. However, Mr Delaney added: ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs nothing wrong with a bit of grey hair‚ÄĚ.
Ahead of the announcement on Friday morning there was wild speculation. James Brayshaw‚Äôs name was tossed around. ‚ÄúOne prediction: James Brayshaw will be central to Channel 7‚Äôs cricket coverage,‚ÄĚ wrote Matt Thompson from the AFL Exchange podcast.
Footy heavyweights Brian Taylor and Bruce McAvaney both got a mention … but not necessarily in glowing terms.
But a consistent theme emerged early and was best captured in a tweet by former Australian Test opener Ed Cowan.
Cowan wrote: ‚ÄúMassive opportunity to hear some new voices. Preferably under the age of 60, hopefully more diverse, and shock horror, may not have captained Australia.‚ÄĚ
He finished with a shout out to Mel Jones and Alison Mitchell, a pair of women who know the game back to front and who others believe are primed for an opportunity to become the voices of Australian cricket.
‚ÄúWarm your vocal chords @meljones_33 and @AlisonMitchell!‚ÄĚ Cowan wrote.
Diversity is something those close to the game realise has been missing for too long.
A publicity stunt from Channel Nine following the announcement of it‚Äôs ‚Äúnew‚ÄĚ commentary team backfired in November when eight white men stood side-by-side and smiled for photographs. It included seven former Australian Test greats and Mark Nicholas and was roundly slammed.
Cricket fanatic and founder of the Ladies Who Legspin podcast on the ABC, Mary Konstantopoulos, said at the time that the pictures ‚Äúdo not assist a network which is already seen as living in the past.
‚ÄúThis is not just about gender in cricket,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúThis is about diversity ‚ÄĒ in every sense of the word. I‚Äôm not questioning the appointed commentators‚Äô talents or wanting anyone sacked. I want to know why don‚Äôt we add diverse talent to the line up instead of going backwards like this? Channel Nine has no idea.‚ÄĚ
On Friday, ahead of Cricket Australia‚Äôs announcement, she offered this piece of advice.
‚ÄúDon‚Äôt take people away ‚ÄĒ add more.‚ÄĚ
Speaking to news.com.au, Ms Konstantopolous said Seven need not get rid of the voices Australia is used to ‚ÄĒ voices Australia loves ‚ÄĒ but they should add to them.
‚ÄúThe thing we‚Äôve seen before is a lot of successful men. It‚Äôs got no diversity. People say, ‚Äėwho would you get rid of?‚Äô but I think that‚Äôs negative. Instead of getting rid of people, make it bigger, make it more inclusive.‚ÄĚ
Like Cowan, she too thinks Mel Jones would be a great fit, if she wanted the gig.
‚ÄúShe‚Äôs played for Australia and is excellent. She did the women‚Äôs Big Bash League last year and came into the men‚Äôs competition too. She‚Äôs got the skills and is ready for it.‚ÄĚ
Alison Mitchell, who covers the Ashes for the ABC, is another name doing the rounds. Ms Konstantopolous said she would be a welcome addition to the commentary box.
A ‚Äúdisappointed‚ÄĚ Ten chief executive Paul Anderson confirmed the network‚Äôs offer had been rejected on Friday morning.
‚ÄúWe are disappointed that our bid for the cricket television rights was rejected,‚ÄĚ Anderson said in a statement.
‚ÄúNetwork Ten turned the Big Bash League into the television phenomenon it is today and one of the most popular sports in Australia, a sport that all Australians were able enjoy for free.
‚ÄúWe had planned to extend that innovation to other forms of the game.
‚ÄúNetwork Ten and our BBL team led by David Barham revolutionised the way cricket is broadcast in Australia and attracted new, younger viewers to the game.
The Nine network offered its best wishes to Cricket Australia and its new broadcast partners.
‚ÄúNine is immensely proud of our decades long association between Wide World of Sports,‚ÄĚ a spokesman said.
‚ÄúWe wish (them) well for the future success of the game‚ÄĚ.
A game that hopefully includes a few new voices.