Cricket: Ryan Harris and Meg Lanning in the commentary box: fresh voices a welcome change

Meg Lanning at the Albert Ground (photo: Davis Harrigan)

No longer will the Channel Nine commentary box be an exclusive “boys club” this summer; at least, not for part of the season anyway.

Meg Lanning, Southern Stars and Victoria Spirit captain, might be 22, but she’s made so many inroads on the field that her recognition has skyrocketed.  It’s the perfect opportunity to get a new insight on the game, more than the special comments type roles Melanie Jones and other female guests had throughout Nine’s coverage of the Women’s Ashes last summer.

Justin Crawley, the head of Nine Sport, said in early September that the timing had to be right for a female to join the team, and it seemed appropriate to do so now.

“Everyone asks about adding a female to commentary … and I’ve always been very aware that it will eventually happen, don’t force it. It’s got to be right, so Meg came along with a wonderful attitude to her cricket, a wonderful reputation and style of play. Immediately you could tell she was special off the field and on the field.”

Perhaps one important thing to remember is – while it was a different segment, and not live commentary – The Cricket Show interview during last summer’s Boxing Day Test.

Over the course of six cringeworthy minutes, Michael Slater and Michael Vaughan hosted what can only be called appalling and possibly sexist.  With such a perfect opportunity to promote the achievements of arguably two of Australia’s recognised female sportswomen, and the upcoming the Women’s Ashes, it descended into chaos and rubbish watching.

That may be set to change, however, with Lanning expressing plenty of excitement after the announcement was made.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to do something a little bit different … I watch a lot of men’s and women’s cricket so I feel like I really know the game and I’ve got a little bit to give there.

Ryan Harris (photo: Getty Images)
Ryan Harris (photo: Getty Images)

It’s the same kind of situation with everyone’s favourite fast bowler, Ryan Harris.  He and Lanning will be part of the broadcast team for the Matador BBQ’s (formerly the Ryobi One-Day Cup) One-Day domestic competition running through October on GEM.

Brad McNamara, Nine’s Cricket Executive Producer, said the current dynamic demanded some new faces, specifically those of the current crop of Australian players.

“Ryan’s shown a bit of interest in how the broadcast works and how everything is put together, which is fantastic, so we see it as a great chance to get him on board.

“He’s also a really likeable character, and he’s one of those blokes who the Australian public would love to have a beer with.”

 The domestic competition is the perfect avenue for both players to foray into the world of commentary.  Despite backlash on social media about the decision to bring Lanning into the commentary box, such as criticising her age and gender, McNamara dismissed the notion that there was any influence from online platforms.

“I don’t think you can worry too much about what’s said on social media; if you did that you’d never turn up,” he added.

“Look, we’re excited to have Meg on board.

“The Southern Stars have been a fantastic performer for a long while now and they probably don’t quite get the profile they deserve.

Again, it highlights the point of the Channel Nine “boys club”.  The knowledge and insight that Lanning can bring to the box will be a fresh perspective, but she will be treading in some deep water.

It is Lanning’s profile as captain and stalwart of the Australian team that should be on display.  Add to that, her role is going to be more than just a special comments/guest role, which can greatly increase the respect and attitude of viewers towards women’s cricket.

Lanning may even commentate on the Australia v South Africa Twenty20 series in November if the one day domestic stint is a success.  The simple equation here is; Nine cannot bungle this opportunity, or risk alienating many female fans.  The blatant sexism of last summers interview during the Boxing Day Test still rings in the minds of the avid supporters.

That being said, Nine are on the right track to get a current point of view from two very well respected players on the Australian scene.  After Mel McLaughlin’s  very well received hosting role on Channel Ten last summer for BBL|03, there is an onus for Channel Nine to “get it right”.

The Matador BBQ’s One-Day Cup runs from October 4-26.


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