Who should ‘man’ cricket mics?
JUST picture it... Ashes, first Test. Day one. Mitchell Starc steams in from the long run to make a mess of the English opener's stumps. Bruce McAvaney follows with an equally-precise delivery of his signature line: "Special!"
It's not the sound of summer most cricket-loving Aussies are used to and, frankly, nor should it be.
But McAvaney is just as likely as anyone else to man the microphones left deserted by Channel Nine's commentary team following a landmark change to the Australian sporting media landscape to be announced this afternoon.
Channel Seven will take hold of the Test and international limited overs cricket from Channel Nine as well as the Big Bash, which Channel 10 will relinquish rights to. Foxtel will share the rights with the Kerry Stokes-controlled Seven network.
Cricket Australia is expected to reveal details of the new six-year deal worth a rumoured $1 billion at 2pm today, The Australian reports. Which makes this the perfect time to speculate about who could - or should - take over in the commentary box.
The prerequisites are simple:
A) Be a white male.
B) Know how to insert a key into a cracked pitch.
C) Seemlessly weave in sponsor messages for popcorn chicken.
News of the pending announcement led to wild speculation on Friday morning. James Brayshaw's name was tossed around. "One prediction: James Brayshaw will be central to Channel 7's cricket coverage," wrote Matt Thompson from the AFL Exchange podcast.
Footy heavyweights Brian Taylor and Bruce McAvaney both got a mention ... but not necessarily in glowing terms.
But a consistent theme emerged early and was best captured in a tweet by former Australian Test opener Ed Cowan.
Cowan wrote: "Massive opportunity to hear some new voices. Preferably under the age of 60, hopefully more diverse, and shock horror, may not have captained Australia."
He finished with a shout out to Mel Jones and Alison Mitchell, a pair of women who know the game back to front and who others believe are primed for an opportunity to become the voices of Australian cricket.
"Warm your vocal chords @meljones_33 and @AlisonMitchell!" Cowan wrote.
Diversity is something those close to the game realise has been missing for too long.
A publicity stunt from Channel Nine following the announcement of it's "new" commentary team backfired in November when eight white men stood side-by-side and smiled for photographs. It included seven former Australian Test greats and Mark Nicholas and was roundly slammed.
Cricket fanatic and founder of the Ladies Who Legspin podcast on the ABC, Mary Konstantopoulos, said at the time that the pictures "do not assist a network which is already seen as living in the past.
"This is not just about gender in cricket," she said. "This is about diversity - in every sense of the word. I'm not questioning the appointed commentators' talents or wanting anyone sacked. I want to know why don't we add diverse talent to the line up instead of going backwards like this? Channel Nine has no idea."
On Friday, ahead of Cricket Australia's announcement, she offered this piece of advice.
"Don't take people away - add more."
Speaking to news.com.au, Ms Konstantopolous said Seven need not get rid of the voices Australia is used to - voices Australia loves - but they should add to it.
"The thing we've seen before is a lot of successful men. It's got no diversity. People say, 'who would you get rid of?' but I think that's negative. Instead of getting rid of people, make it bigger, make it more inclusive."
Like Cowan, she too reckons Mel Jones would be a great fit, if she wanted the gig.
"She's played for Australia and is excellent. She did the women's Big Bash League last year and came into the men's competition too. She's got the skills and is ready for it."
Alison Mitchell, who cover's the Ashes for the ABC, is another name doing the rounds. Ms Konstantopolous said she would be a welcome addition to the commentary box.
A "disappointed" Ten chief executive Paul Anderson confirmed the network's offer had been rejected on Friday morning.
"We are disappointed that our bid for the cricket television rights was rejected," Anderson said in a statement.
"Network Ten turned the Big Bash League into the television phenomenon it is today and one of the most popular sports in Australia, a sport that all Australians were able enjoy for free.
"We had planned to extend that innovation to other forms of the game.
"Network Ten and our BBL team led by David Barham revolutionised the way cricket is broadcast in Australia and attracted new, younger viewers to the game.
The Nine network offered its best wishes to Cricket Australia and its new broadcast partners.
"Nine is immensely proud of our decades long association between Wide World of Sports," a spokesman said.
"We wish (them) well for the future success of the game".
A game that hopefully includes a few new voices.