xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: 80 years of cricket on the radio

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

80 years of cricket on the radio

With the death of ace sporting commentator, Norman May, I thought I would revisit this story from December, 2012. It was written at a time when ABC cricket commentary, in particular, was at a very low ebb; a cackle of giggled conversations that often saw the game that was being broadcast as a distraction from the "wit" of the story telling commentators. 
Norman May was never guilty of such annoying practices. One of his chief claims to glory was a series of interviews he did with Sir Donald Bradman. The Don was a very private man and did not give many interviews. However in the early 1990s he realised that he was one of the last survivors of his life in cricket. He gave a wonderful series of interviews that ranged over his entire cricketing career. That Don Bradman chose Norman May to conduct these interviews is a measure of just how greatly respected Norman May was as a sports broadcaster.

While the Australian Test cricket team was being humbled by the South Africans at the WACA ground, the ABC was celebrating 80 years of broadcasting cricket on the radio. Happy birthday Aunty ABC and thank you for bringing us the cricket over all those years.

However, it would be fair to say that cricket broadcasts are not what they used to be.Infected a few seasons ago with the Kerry O'Keefe Virus, the ABC's national cricket broadcasts now largely consist of frenetic and often inane chatter about a wide variety of very inconsequential anecdotes, unrelated to the activity on the field of play. On some occasions the commentators appear peeved that they have to pause in the breathless retelling of their witty yarn to inform the listener that,  " Oh, Ponting has just been given out LBW." Thanks a lot, but who was bowling?
It seems that most of the ABC's cricket broadcasters now see themselves as "entertainers" who must chat incessantly among themselves, sledging each other on occasions and generally trying to Top Note each other in the best traditions of the Australian blokey bar joke sessions that we all enjoy...but not when we are trying to concentrate on the cricket.
For the record, former broadcaster, Glen Mitchell, entered the broadcasters Hall of Fame when he  topped the ABC's Sledging Fellow Commentators Award five years in succession in the mid 1990s. Glenn was an outstanding commentator when he stuck to his task but he just could not help himself. Whenever a new commentator fronted up to the microphone Glenn would  insult him. Take you pick...shirt colour, dietary habits, hair style, choice of music, physical fitness or physical fatness. Glen had an insult for all occasions.Of course greeting someone with an insult is a well practised Aussie Bloke phenomenon. The idea being that the strength of your "Mateship" is measured by the depth of your insult. I've even done it myself. But during a cricket commentary I'd rather be spared this bonding ritual.
I first took an interest in ABC cricket broadcasts during the summer of 1946/7 when Arthur Gilligan observed to Victor Richardson that the pigeons that had been roosting on the roof of the Sydney scoreboard had now all flown away. He wondered if this could mean there was going to be a change in the weather. Vic said he didn't think so as the sky was clear blue and then got on with the commentary. Bradman and Sidney Barnes both made 234 runs that day and I was hooked on cricket on the radio.
Since then I have enjoyed wonderful word pictures that placed me right on the boundary of games described so eloquently by Ron Halcombe, Michael Charlton, Alan McGillvray and others. They invariably told you all you wanted to know, especially the score, which they gave before, during and at the end of each over. Sometimes this summer I have listened for several overs before one of the radio raconteurs finally remembered what they were being paid for and let us in on that little secret.

I know times change and many people will disagree with me. They are the ones who listen to Tripple J while I tune in to Golden Oldies of the 1950s. About three years ago on a local ABC talk back show the late, great Wally Foreman commented after a cricket broadcast from the east that perhaps Kerry O'Keefe's efforts that day had been a little over the top. 
Kerry is a great entertainer and also able to talk knowledgeably about cricket and the game in progress. Unfortunately he does not see that as his main role which is, apparently, to promote his next book, his next guest speaking venue, divulge amusing anecdotes and snippets of his life history and give very favourable plugs to hotels or restaurants (no thought of a payback, of course) that he visits while travelling for the ABC. And giggle and wheeze a lot.
Well, of course Wally's contrary comments launched an avalanche of calls saying Kerry O'Keefe was  a breath of fresh air and compelling listening. These calls were epitomised by a lady who phoned Wally and said in effect that she loved Kerry and listened to him all the time. She clinched her argument with, "...and I don't even like cricket."
To which Wally replied, " I think you have just made my point." 
And indeed it did reinforce the point that Kerry is a great entertainer and the ABC cricket broadcasts are very entertaining...as long as you do not have a need to find out what is actually happening at the game.
Oh, well next year I might spend more time with Ritchie and the boys on TV. At least my wife will be pleased that I wont be screaming at my babbling radio…"Tell us the bleeding score!"

No comments:

Post a Comment

I would love to hear your opinion! If for some technical reason it won't let you leave a comment, please email me at bourke@iinet.net.au