Should Mel Mclaughlin replace Mark Nicholas at Channel Nine?

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Cricket

January 23, 2014

The other day through work, I met an Indian born obstetrician. An obstetrician who according to him, found an opportunity due to a skills shortage of obstetricians in Australia.

I don’t know how, I don’t know why (maybe it’s due to late night alcohol or the obstetrician’s love for cricket) but for some reason Mark Nicholas came into my head.

A decade ago or thereabouts, iconic host and commentator of Nine’s cricket coverage, Richie Benaud was well into his seventies and was slowing down.

Channel Nine’s solution was to bring in someone that could slowly come in and take over from Benaud. The answer to that solution was to bring in Nicholas, the former Hampshire batsman.

At the time I checked his playing record only to discover that he never played Test cricket for England.

Nicholas played 377 first class matches where he scored 18,262 runs at 34.39. When you look at Nine’s stable of commentators, it was filled with ex-Test captains and a wicketkeeper who when he retired held the world record for most Test dismissals.

So Nicholas was up against individuals in the commentary box that had great pedigrees, while his pedigree was modest when comparing with the other commentators.

In the initial stages, Nicholas was co-hosting with Benaud. But eventually Nicholas made the position his own.

From a personal point of view, I don’t mind listening to Nicholas. He may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I actually think Nicholas has done a great job right throughout his time at Nine.

He is a polished smooth performer as host, and his commentary style is pretty balanced. It is definitely more balanced than some of the Australian commentators at Nine.

Former opener Michael Slater is the one commentator in my opinion who is very biased and least balanced. His conduct in a recent James Brayshaw segment was unprofessional.

With the passing of Tony Greig, the commentary box does need another perspective from a non-Australian angle and Nicholas provides it.

Even though it’s worked out well for Nine and Nicholas, the question that always remained with this author all this time is, why did Nine go overseas looking for someone to host their cricket coverage?

Is it that difficult to find someone here in Australia to anchor Nine’s cricket broadcast?

Does Australia have a skills shortage in finding an ex-cricketer or someone in the media that is capable to anchor?

You can see where I’m coming from when I mentioned earlier about the Indian-born obstetrician and why Nicholas came into my head.

With Nine getting Nicholas, what it did show was that it wasn’t a requirement to play Test cricket to host the coverage.

If that’s the case, in the future, why not go local, and give Channel Ten’s Mel McLaughlin a chance?

She has done a good job coming from Fox Sports where she hosted the A-League coverage in the last few years.

It is certainly not an easy transition to go from pay TV where the audience at times can be quite low, to free-to-air where the viewing audiences have been close to or over the million mark.

And to go from one sport to another wouldn’t be easy either.

What holds McLaughlin in good stead is that she is adaptable and knowledgeable not just with one sport, but with many sports.

She is more than just a pretty face and she is not a “token woman”.

She may not be as polished performer in front of the camera like Nicholas and she does stumble a bit from time to time, similar to Ten newsreader Sandra Sully.

But then again, McLaughlin wouldn’t be used to anchoring a sports coverage in front of big TV audiences.

If McLaughlin was given the opportunity to replace Nicholas at Nine, I reckon she would do a good job. Although she does need more experience. I would have her as host of the pre game and cricket shows, but not as commentator.

But in general, overall I like to see more and more women involved in sports broadcasting whether it’s hosting or commentating.

There’s always a perception out there that females don’t like sports, but as demonstrated on this site, we do see women commenting and posting articles.

Channel Nine’s cricket coverage sooner or later will need to embrace the fairer sex. We are well into the 21st century.

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Who should replace George Bailey?

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Cricket

January 7, 2014

Australia’s glorious 5-0 Ashes triumph has been absolutely fantastic. Australia picked the same eleven in every Test match and delivered a crushing result in every Test match.

However there still is room for improvement.

Just about every player in the eleven came through. The bowling took centre stage with Mitchell Johnson claiming man of the series and was supported by Peter Siddle, Ryan Harris and Nathan Lyon.

In the batting David Warner, Chris Rogers, Michael Clarke and Steve Smith made two centuries each while Shane Watson and Brad Haddin had one ton a piece.

Haddin in the series went past Adam Gilchrist’s record for most runs made by a number seven – a mark which now stands at 493.

But the one player that found it tough going was George Bailey. Bailey made his Test debut at the ‘Gabba in the first Test match of the series. Bailey was selected on the back of his wonderful ODI performances where in 35 matches he averages 54.96.

But in this Ashes series, in five Tests he made 183 runs at an average of 26.14.

While those stats are not disastrous, at the same time it doesn’t reflect the true story.

Bailey’s high Test score was 53 in the second Test match in Adelaide. As we all know, the Adelaide pitch is always a batting paradise so it’s no surprise that a batsman like Bailey did take advantage of the opportunity.

Bailey’s other two significant innings in the series was the 39* not out in Perth where he was in a position to score runs quickly.

Bailey obliged with scoring 28 runs off one over from England’s fast bowler James Anderson. The other was when he made 46 in the final Test match at S.C.G. In that innings he was less then convincing and at times did struggle to score runs on the offside.

Put simply, Bailey didn’t score any hard tough runs when it was needed, something which Haddin turned it into an art form where he rescued Australia in every first innings of every Test match in the series.

If Bailey was picked to tour South Africa, he may have a hard time dealing with the likes of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel.

So who replaces Bailey on the tour of South Africa?

Here are the candidates :

Alex Doolan Made an impressive 161 against South Africa in a tour match in late 2012. But a first class average of just 37.92 with just six centuries in 53 matches is hardly convincing of Test selection.

He does have a solid technique which may help him survive in the rigours of Test cricket.

If he was picked, he should bat at 6, not 3.

If Doolan does succeed, then he should make the jump up to number 3.

Plus he was considered for the final Ashes Test before the selectors went with the same eleven. In the current Sheffield Shield season, in five matches, Doolan has scored 391 runs at 39.10.

Phillip Hughes Hughes has had another good season in Shield cricket where he has accumulated 549 runs at 61.

But the problem with Hughes is he hasn’t been able to make the step up to Test level.

Hughes has been dropped numerous times from the Test side and he is only 25.

At Test level, in 26 Tests he has made 1535 runs at 32.65 with just three centuries and seven fifties in 49 innings.

His first class record is impressive. In 106 matches, he has scored 8381 runs at an average of 45 with 24 hundreds.

But it’s Hughes’ unorthodox awkward technique that has been the major problem for him.

In my opinion, Hughes has the technique of a tailender and it is very hard for him to survive in Test cricket.

He did score twin centuries in only his second Test on the South African tour in 2009. But Hughes has many weaknesses, especially around off stump.

One example is the infamous “Caught Guptill, Bowled Martin” dismissal which occurred four times in four innings in the New Zealand series back in 2011.

Hughes needs a few years in Shield cricket to consolidate. He is not ready to re-enter into the Test cricket arena just yet.

Cameron White I always like picking batsman either in good form or who have a good first class record. In White’s case, in season 2013/ 14 he has been in good form in all three forms of the game. In the Ryobi Cup, White scored 387 runs at 77.4.

In the Big Bash, after four matches, he has 167 runs at 55.66.

While in the Sheffield Shield, more importantly, after six matches, White has accumulated 556 runs at 50.54.

White is still only 30, a year younger then Bailey.

The selection of White may well be a left field selection. Roughly twelve months ago, on this site this author wrote an article for Chris Rogers and Steve O’Keefe to be included for the tour of India due to their good first class records.

Sadly that didn’t occur and it ended up been 4-0 to India. Alas, Rogers a few months later, was selected in the Ashes series in England.

The result, Rogers ended up been the leading runs scorer from both sides over the two Test series.

Sometimes cricket fans like yours truly can get it right. Maybe, White’s inclusion to the tour of South Africa could be another tick in the right direction.

White averages over 40 in first class cricket, a higher average compared to Doolan and Bailey. If White was selected, I’d bat him at number 6.

James Faulkner Selecting Faulkner the alrounder would mean he would be batting at number 7, and move the in form Haddin to number 6 and therefore taking some of the bowling responsibilities away from Watson.

Faulkner’s first class bowling average is 23, which is pretty decent.

But with the bat, he only averages just over 30. In 40 matches, Faulkner is yet to make a century.

Faulkner has been around the Australian squad all summer and there were times where he was going to be selected.

But I do sense that for Faulkner to develop, he needs more Shield cricket.

He has only played two Shield games this season.

He has made 147 runs and taken four wickets. But I just feel as though that he needs to do more, especially with the bat.

If he starts averaging around 38 to 40 with the bat, by all means he should be selected. Faulkner’s only 23, so he does have time on his side.

With Australia more then likely selecting a 15 man squad, it may include as many as seven specialist batsman. Australia’s top five of Warner, Rogers, Watson, Clarke and Smith should have plane tickets to South Africa.

The two batsman to join them would be Doolan and White.

Then it all comes down to the lead up match to the first Test to see who scores the most runs out of Doolan and White in an unofficial “bat off’ to see who gets the gig for the first Test.

Those two batsman may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it does highlight the lack of batsman coming through.

So far this season we have seen batsman scoring runs. Maybe in 12 months’ time, we might start to see some clear options.

Let’s hope so for the sake of Australian cricket. Otherwise we may struggle winning Test series let alone winning them 5-0!

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