Commentary offers alternative take on cricket

SIMON DAY
Last updated 05:00 26/01/2014
Alternative Commentary Collective
BRUCE MERCER/Fairfax NZ

FUNNY THAT: (From left) Mike Lane, Matt Heath, Jeremy Wells and Leigh Hart of the Alternative Commentary Collective.

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Anyone who complains cricket is tedious and boring is listening to the wrong commentary.

Led by cricket fanatic and media personality Jeremy Wells, a group of seven self-diagnosed cricket tragics are providing live internet-streamed coverage of the New Zealand v India one-day series from a caravan perched on the boundary line.

The Alternative Commentary Collective (ACC) consists of Wells, comedian Leigh "That Guy" Hart, Radio Hauraki Breakfast host Matt Heath, actor Jason Hoyte, director Lee Baker, and Beige Brigade co-founders Mike Lane and Paul Ford.

The idea, with the blessing of New Zealand Cricket, was to attract new people to cricket.

"Thirty-six years of dreams is what prompted this situation, 36 years of watching and listening to cricket and dreaming of one day potentially being able to call a game," said Wells.

The coverage is streamed live via iHeart Radio on Radio Sport Extra, the broadcasting equipment provided by the Radio Network, and the obligatory off-white suits from Hallensteins.

The ACC offers an unorthodox and sometimes absurd view of the game, mixing genuine cricket knowledge, with quick wit and farce.

Using a traditional broadcast format the ACC works in shifts of three commentators, Wells and Hoyte alternate stretches calling ball-by-ball commentary, while the collective provides background banter.

‘'It is a funny game, played by funny people. Rugby is a bit more serious, and you can't really take the piss out of rugby too much. Whereas cricket has that vibe about it and you can take the mickey out of it," Lane said.

Take this description of Corey Anderson as a bat-wielding Mills & Boon hero: "He has that stern muscular build and I imagine a farm girl taking shelter in his arms on a stormy night, knowing that a solid lad like Corey is there to protect her," Hoyte said.

In the first match of the series McLean Park's Rodney Green Stand end was renamed the Rodney Wayne end, a shout-out to the luscious locks of Indian bowler Ishant Sharma. At the Hamilton match, one bowling end was labelled the Firecats end, a tribute to the city's notorious strip club.

Hart compared the ACC team to the original seven members selected for the Nasa space programme and the humid caravan to a space capsule.

‘'The caravan is a bit of a tricky environment, a bit like Apollo 11. When you have seven or eight guys who all went to an Indian restaurant last night you start to make your own environment in there for sure. It is sort of like global warming," said Hart.

And the group's commentary has been popular. The Hamilton game got 18,221 streams. Many listeners are pausing and muting their MySky, before syncing it to the ACC's slightly delayed online coverage.

The eccentric approach of the collective is not a slight at the existing traditional commentary, but a homage, the group says.

"It is almost in honour of that kind commentary, by sticking to the traditional ball by ball. We can coexist. We are two different audiences," said Lane.

And attracting that different audience is what New Zealand Cricket hopes the ACC will do.

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‘'The ACC has actually got people talking about the game, and the more people are talking about it the more likely they are to go along and take their kids," said Matt Dickinson, managing director at creative agency True, which works with NZ Cricket.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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