A Ruthlessly Honest Rating Of Channel 7's Cricket Coverage
"Hold on, I'm coming," they told us. But what happened when they came?
Channel 7 did a good job. Let's put that on the record straight away.
Forty years of free-to-air cricket coverage on Nine had gone undeniably stale and needed a freshen-up. Seven accomplished this. Their coverage was informative, fun and mostly excellent.
Among the highlights were female voices and faces, great stats, and some terrific storytelling moments available on both Seven's social feeds and the small screen.
The lowlights? Look no further than two crucial missed moments. The first was the toss. Oops. The second was the potential hat-trick ball on day four, which viewers missed because the ad break went too long.
Lets break this down a little further.
A big tick to Seven for leaving behind the stodgiest of the old Nine crew, and bringing in female hosts and commentators. Alison Mitchell is terrific, as was Mel McLaughlin.
Ricky Ponting was our pick of the new bunch. Not everyone saw it that way, but Punter is a human and you know what humans have? They have moods. Sometimes they're feeling chirpy, other times they're downright p*ssed off.
Ponting was clearly like that on the cricket field too. Even as a distant observer in the stands, you could see his moods swing. And when he got riled about the constant no-balls which the umpire missed in the Adelaide Test this week, oh, you knew about it.
Seven did some cool stuff with their camera work too. Just occasionally, they employed an angle which was a bit above the action and a bit to the side -- as if a seagull with a camera was hovering over mid-on. Loved that.
The banter in the box? Annoying at times, high quality at others, but crucially, it never had the blokey chortling of Nine's box. It felt like Seven were trying to make us all part of a new club, rather than witnesses to a club we'd never be invited to join.
We particularly enjoyed the banter from Glenn McGrath, who on the fifth day memorably pointed out that his Test high score of 61 was about 10 percent of his total career runs -- and that Ponting, with his total career haul of 14,000-odd, should therefore have made an individual score of 1,400 if he wanted to consider himself McGrath's equal with willow in hand. Ha!
In summary, the vibe in the box was good. And it was real. However...
As much as it was great to see new faces and hear new voices, there seemed to be too many. This was an ensemble cast of the approximate size of a smash hit musical.
Every time you tuned in, there'd be a different person on the mic, behind the camera, hosting a thing, showing some stats, doing something else.
It felt like every single person who ever dialled the number 7 on their phone was involved in some way. If you didn't know better, you'd say that Seven deliberately tried to show its sporting bigness by leaving no staff member, former player or professional cricket-commentator-for-hire in the cold.
There was also very little white space, as a graphic designer might put it. Test cricket -- alongside perhaps only golf in the sporting universe -- is a sport that needs to breathe.
You need moments to enjoy the silence, to feel the ebb and flow of the game, to dwell in the nothingness which is just as important as the stuff that actually happens. Seven didn't allow that. They filled every spare second with stuff.
A lot of that stuff was good stuff. Bowling analysis guy (and former Test paceman) Trent Copeland got better as the match went on and added genuine insight with his little graphs and diagrams.
But in its entirety, the coverage was sensory overload. There was just so much going on all the time. It felt as though Seven was frightened we'd all run away if -- god forbid -- we could hear the sounds of seagulls and silence for a moment. Anyone who likes Test cricket is mature enough to enjoy a little silence. Seven denied us that.
Classic catches are now called "Greatest Catch". Meh and double meh. The idea to have random Australians send in footage of their best backyard catches was also an idea which appeared to be borrowed from this network's old Big Bash coverage.
But these things are blips. As mentioned above, missing the toss and the potential hat-trick ball were both major divorceable offenses.
At the end of the day, a TV network could employ 100 shouting robots and call them all James Brayshaw and it really wouldn't matter. There is, after all, a thing in the world called the volume control. What matters is the vision.
Show us the bloody important moments, Seven!
At two moments when it really mattered, Seven went walkies. The toss is a hugely influential factor in the match and Seven sort of showed it... oh, except for the part where we actually found out which way the coin fell.
Ditto the hat-trick ball. As memory serves, Nine would occasionally skip an ad in the break between overs for whatever reason. This, surely, was a time to let the coverage breathe. Fill the 30 seconds with some banter about the last Aussie Test hat-trick -- which for the record, was Peter Siddle's back in 2010.
But no. We had air-conditioners and then we had the decidedly uncool situation where the ball was missed. To miss Nathan "Garry" Lyon's ball was was a shocker --- let's call it a "Garry Barry".
Oh yeah, and the quiz show "Stumped" in the lunch break? Call stumps on it.
So overall, great stuff, as we've already said. Tone down the busy feel and get the big moments right and we'll be good to go for the rest of the summer.
Seven out of 10, with room for improvement.
Any relationship between the ratings numbers above and the name of TV networks is just your imagination.