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Sky Sports Cricket Commentary: A One-Sided Affair

Perhaps this article has no concern in a feature about television, but then again, for how many of us does commentary affect our sports viewing experience?

Commentary is another layer of the sport viewing experience involving some disputes, jokes, and general amusement.

The India VS Australia Boxing Day test match has kicked off, and whilst being one of the most thrilling matches of test cricket we have seen in a long time, the coverage has been dismal and definitely worthy of a duck. The blame rests on the shoulders of Sky Sports, the self-proclaimed pinnacle of sports broadcasting.

However, their coverage of the India VS Australia test is unreservedly one sided in favour of the Australians.

The match is broadcast on Sky Sports through the Australian Channel 9. The commentary panel is full of Australian greats including Richie Benaud, Bill Lawry and Ian Chappell. There is nothing wrong with their commentary ability, in fact, it is highly amusing and the banter is certainly a plus. But it biased without even an attempt to hide that fact.

There is nothing wrong with the panel itself. Benaud is a fountain of knowledge and Mark Nichols’s analysis is enlightening. They have every right to be biased, and that is what makes cricket commentary so entertaining. But it is only entertaining when there are commentators from the opposition country, who are equally in favour of their own nation, to debate with. This makes for some good fun. We all remember the playful chit chat between Shane Warne and David Lloyd during The Ashes.

Of course, the commentators cannot be blamed for the hand they have been dealt. It is Sky who have created the issues that sees the wise Ravi Shastri and Harsha Bhogle sit out of the commentary for the series. The poor coverage not only creates a lack of commentator debate, but also a new perspective that ultimately leads to poor analysis, a key aspect for an avid cricket viewer.

Sky have already had numerous problems with cricket coverage, particularly on Sky Go, their online player, that allows one to watch Sky TV from one’s computer, providing one has the subscription. Yet Sky was unable to broadcast the recently finished India VS England matches from India on Sky Go due to a dispute with The Board of Control For Cricket In India (BCCI). Bearing in mind that Sky Go is a key selling point for Sky, this is a highly embarrassing and disappointing for the digital TV provider.

We cannot throw all the blame on Sky since some must go to the BCCI for this faux pas. However, the one aspect that Sky Sports has full control over is their studio pundits. So far, Shaun Udal, Vikram Solanki and Ian Harvey have been in the seats for this current India and Australia series. They are English, English, and Australian respectively. Though it is punditry of a relatively high standard, there is still no balance to the proceedings.

But alas, there is solace in the form of spectators and here Sky Sports get one thing right in showing the playful exchanges between the Australian fans and the blue clad “Swarmy Army”. If only this exchange could happen in the commentary box.

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