Lanning Passes Channel 9 Commentary Debut with Flying Colours
The Australian domestic men’s one-day cricket competition started on 4 October, and with it commenced a new era of cricket commentary for Channel 9, with Meg Lanning, current Australia women’s cricket captain, joining the team.
The Matador BBQs Cup was played at various grounds in southern Queensland and Sydney over a three-week period. Western Australia were the victors, defeating NSW by 64 runs in the final.
Lanning’s first commentary stint came with less fanfare than the announcement several months ago that she was joining the Channel 9 commentary team. Due to her own Women’s National Cricket League (WNCL) playing commitments in early October, Lanning’s first commentary shift was over half-way through the tournament during a NSW v Victoria match on 17 October. Matches were broadcast on GEM.
Lanning sounded confident and comfortable from her very first stint on mic with Tom Moody. She contributed insightful comments on the state of play, the laws of cricket, powerplay timing, fielding positions and captaincy strategy. Her predictions on how the match would unfold proved more accurate than her co-commentators, and she played their occasional faux pas with a straight bat, as you would expect.
Channel 9, or possibly Cricket Australia, deserve commendation for her rapid induction into the etiquette and timing of the commentary box. My assessment is that Lanning passed her first commentating test with flying colours. But it slowly dawned upon me that the Matador Cup matches were not, in fact, an audition for Lanning. Of course, she needed some time and space to find her voice, but her potential as a commentator was never really in doubt. It became obvious, listening to the team around Lanning, that this trial was in fact for them.
Lanning’s gentle introduction during the Matador Cup matches allowed the regular male commentary crew time to learn how to share the commentary box with someone from a different gender and generation. It was an opportunity for the blokes to get all potential patronising and sexist comments out of their system, and for them to become comfortable with Lanning before the high-audience international matches were broadcast.
So how did the rest of the team perform? As expected, there were several early condescending references to the “improvement” in female cricketers, and many fruitless attempts to highlight the differences, rather than the overwhelming similarities, between men’s and women’s cricket. “Victoria would be looking for a quick wicket here Meg – would that strategy be the same for the women?” It was gratifying that Lanning was unperturbed by these trick questions and full credit to her for resisting the temptation to pose them in reverse.
Within the first few matches, the team had cleared the air with inevitable references to Lanning’s youth, her social life, and awkward comparisons between the shades of blonde in Brett Lee’s, Lanning’s and Shane Watson’s hair. No need to bring these up again then, chaps. Ever.
At times, the regular commentators seemed unsure about whether they were interviewing Lanning or commentating with her. Lanning kept to task on the game in progress, while fielding question after question about the “ladies” game. This pattern of questioning diminished sharply as the tournament progressed and she was treated as a more integral part of the team. The developing rapport between Lanning and her co-commentators was at least as good as the guys who had actually batted together. Moody was particularly impressive; Ian Chappell less so.