New deal prompts questions over callers

Commentary duties could well be up for grabs as cricket moves into an exciting new era via Seven and Foxtel

Martin Smith

13 April 2018, 06:42 PM AEST

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Seven Network CEO Tim Worner says his phone has been "going off" as Australia's leading commentators jostle for the major roles in cricket's new-look broadcast landscape.

With the game's new broadcast deal locked in, speculation is already rife regarding who will lead the coverage on Channel Seven and Fox Sports for the next six years.

Cricket's shift away from the Nine and Ten networks – announced today in a landmark $1.182bn deal – will lead to a dramatic shake-up of the way cricket is broadcast in Australia.

The departure from Nine after a 40-year partnership is a major change and leaves Nine veterans like Ian Chappell, Bill Lawry, Mark Nicholas, Mark Taylor, Michael Slater, Shane Warne and Ian Healy facing uncertain futures.

Speaking to Fairfax media on Friday, Healy conceded he "won't have a clue what it's going to be like" now that Nine – for whom he has worked for since his retirement from playing in 1999 – no longer holds the rights.

Ten was a relative newcomer to cricket broadcasting compared to Nine, having shown the KFC Big Bash League for the past five years. Their exit means the likes of former players Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Mark Waugh and Damien Fleming are now no certainties to commentate on the BBL next summer.

Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany said it was too early to speculate about who would front Fox's coverage, but that the network would look to be "young and inclusive" as well as hiring some more experienced heads.

And with the men's Tests, all women's internationals as well as 43 KFC BBL matches and 23 Rebel WBBL games to be shown on both networks, Delany said having two broadcasters offered fans a point of difference.

"You'll hear different commentary teams (on Fox and Seven), consumers will have choice under this deal," Delany said. "And that's one of the great things for fans and growing Australia's favourite sport.

"As for who they are, all I know is our team will look young and inclusive. But there's nothing wrong with a bit of grey hair in that. Never underestimate the power of wisdom.

"But it's a little early to be talking about who the commentators are."

When asked if Fox would have any women in the commentary box, Delany replied "of course".

Worner said he had already been contacted from people who want to be part of Seven's coverage.

"I've had a lot of people from within our organisation already contacting me with ideas and certainly the phone's being going off today with people who see themselves as the next face of Seven's cricket," he said.

Fox already has a small stable of commentators to lead their coverage of international tours, namely former Australia captain Allan Border and former Aussie allrounder Brendon Julian, who most recently commentated on Australia's Test series in South Africa.

Former Australia players Mark Waugh and Brett Lee have also done work with Fox Sports in the past.

Seven is a new face to cricket's contemporary media landscape, but has a handful of commentators on its books who have some experience calling the game. Former Sheffield Shield player James Brayshaw, who used to be part of Nine's cricket coverage, is part of Seven's Australian Football League (AFL) coverage this year. Former AFL player Brian Taylor, who commentated on the BBL with Fox Sports before it moved to Ten, is also part of Seven's AFL coverage.

Broadcaster Andy Maher, part of Ten's BBL and WBBL coverage in recent years, hosts a light entertainment sports show on Seven, The Front Bar. Presenter Mel McLaughlin, who used to headline Ten's Big Bash coverage, now also works for Seven.

Former Australia players Slater, Michael Clarke (both with Nine last summer), Mel Jones, Lisa Sthalekar (with Ten last summer), Matthew Hayden and Lee are all currently in India commentating on the Indian Premier League.