Female cricket commentators making their mark, at last

Date: November 11, 2014 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell
Natalie Germanos heading up SABC's TV commentary team

Natalie Germanos heading up SABC’s TV commentary

OMG, female cricketers have infiltrated the commentary box this summer.

Yet remarkably the sky has not fallen in. Who would have thought?

There have been several attempts in the past to include women in the commentary of cricket.

The first, in this country, was the decision by Channel Nine to utilise actress Kate Fitzpatrick as part of its commentary team in 1983.

It was an ill-fated experiment and she did not last the season.

It was said that Fitzpatrick was not exactly welcomed into the commentary team by her fellow commentators.

Why the Nine Network chose to include an actress with a liking for cricket in its commentary team ahead of a female player of the day remains one of TV’s great unanswered questions.

Following the dalliance with Fitzpatrick females were given a wide berth.

There was the odd ‘experiment’ – mainly by the ABC – which included former Australian players Belinda Clarke and Lisa Keightley.

At the time I was part of the ABC Grandstand commentary team and had no issues at all sharing the microphone with a woman, especially one of Clarke’s standing as she is regarded as one of the best players and captains this country has produced.

Due to coaching commitments both Clarke and Keightley only commentated for one season.

This summer past and present female Australian players are forming part of the Channel Nine and ABC commentary teams – and dare I say they are making their presence felt in a very positive fashion.

Channel Nine has been using the current Australian skipper Meg Lanning alongside a host of former male stars including the likes of Shane Warne, Mark Taylor and Mike Hussey.

She has not seemed out of place at all and neither should she as she captains the world’s number one women’s team.

Lannings’ comments have been measured, insightful and delivered with confidence.

Despite being just 22 years of age she has not appeared overawed at all.

Several times she has donned her captaincy cap and suggested – ahead of the play – what the captains in the middle should do with respect to bowling changes.

On most occasions her musings have been followed by the change she suggested out in the middle.

Next door in the ABC box at the Olympic Stadium last night veteran broadcasters Jim Maxwell and David Morrow were calling the action alongside recently retired all-rounder Lisa Sthalekar and Melanie Jones, whose eight-year career with the Southern Stars ended in 2005.

Both ladies provided the similar high quality analysis that Lanning was giving the TV audience.

Sthalekar, in particular, has been a terrific addition to the ABC team this summer.

The analysis she provided during the women’s Australia-West Indies T20 curtain raisers ahead of the men’s Australia-South Africa matches was extremely insightful and entertaining given she only quit the international arena early last year.

Globally there are currently two very fine female ball-by-ball radio callers – the BBC’s Alison Mitchell and Natalie Germanos from SABC.

Neither played the game at the highest level but each possesses an extremely keen cricket brain and their match descriptions are informative, engaging and entertaining.

While Mitchell does limited commentary on the BBC’s famed Test Match Special, Germanos is the lead commentator and host of SABC’s radio coverage of Proteas matches.

She has also hosted SABC’s television coverage of Tests and limited over internationals.

Having spent time in South Africa as a broadcaster I can confidently say that she is the best radio ball-by-ball caller in the country.

She lives and breathes the sport – although she does commentate on other codes – and her passion and encyclopaedic knowledge of the game has made her a favourite with the listeners.

Her introduction to the cricketing media was not a smooth one but through persistence and a belief in her own abilities she has carved out an outstanding career and she continues to go from strength to strength.

I have always found it strange that so many people question how a woman can call a sport she hasn’t played yet someone like myself, or other male callers, never seemed to attract the same question when we broadcast sports like netball or softball.

In the past female commentators have found it hard to crack the male dominated commentary box.

Winning acceptance proved to be quite a task – and at times, try as they might it proved to be a bridge too far.

But this summer you get the feeling that things have changed and I, for one, could not be happier.

So impressed was I with Sthalekar’s commentary I sent her an SMS to congratulate her.

Her reply was gladdening as she spoke of how everyone at the ABC had made her feel so welcome and had given her guidance.

The presence of women in the electronic media coverage of cricket has been long overdue given that female writers have been plying their trade for quite some time – an example being the highly respected Chloe Saltau who has been the chief cricket writer for The Age for many years.

Hopefully, in the near future the fact that they are females will be largely forgotten.

They are women with a passion and knowledge for the sport.

And we, as listeners, viewers and readers, are lucky to be the beneficiaries of their insights.

Long may it continue.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 10 November 2014

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