Thursday, 24 May 2012

Calling out Nick Knight

Kevin Pietersen was fined for saying the following on Twitter: "Can somebody PLEASE tell me how Nick Knight has worked his way into the commentary box for home Tests?? RIDICULOUS!!". This is, apparently, prejudicial to the interests of the ECB.

Yeah, whatever, but nobody can deny that Pietersen has a point. Knight has never expressed an actual opinion since his broadcast career began. He does a funny thing with his top lip before espousing his latest nugget of vapid, cliched nonsense which, once you've noticed it, is really annoying and impossible to avoid. So far, so bad, but the bigger problem lies beneath.

Sky's commentary team is a cosy coterie of former England captains, coaches and Nick Knight. Professional broadcasters are conspicuous by their absence. The same is true of Test Match Special where Henry Blofeld is the last of the classically-trained journalists to appear regularly. The same is true around the world where Tony Cozier and Harsha Bhogle are about the only professionals in a world where Laxman Sivaramakrishnan can find work in commentary. There's a fetishisation among broadcasters to go for the ex-pro regardless of any other concerns. This is almost unique in cricket, unlike other sports where a professional commentator will describe while an ex-pro adds colour and tactical insight. With the box full of ex-pros, you end up with neither.

The other element is something the ECB response to Pietersen's outburst hints at: the commercial concerns of the broadcaster. Heaven forbid someone with strident opinions be allowed to spout forth. There's a reason that it was only Michael Holding's entertaining rant directed at the WICB was the only real area of dissent on Sky's coverage allowed. The sponsors must be appeased. The same is true on the BBC; despite their lack of sponsors themselves, the ECB's must not be upset or in any way associated with negative coverage. Each of these two areas leads to anodyne, boring coverage, but the two together leads to anodyne, boring coverage brought to you by an anodyne, boring old boys club.

Knight is rubbish, but the bigger issues lie in the policy of recruitment and the lack of risk-taking engendered throughout the game. Pietersen will not be allowed near a commentary box until he has that element of outspokeness surgically removed.

And if any players want to sound off about commentators under the cloak of anonymity, do drop me a line on twitter

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