Thursday 27 August 2009

Matty Hayden walks the earth: the Ashes media, mano et mano

'Ah Paris... marvellous. The Louvre... walking up the hill to Montmartre. Fabulous city...'

Matthew Hayden paused. 'One of the great pleasures of coming over here is getting the chance to go to historic places like that.'

And one of the great, and unexpected pleasures of the summer was Matthew Hayden, who split his time between Test Match Special and the Channel Five highlights show, and who, like Kwai Chang Kane, has apparently put aside worldly things to walk the earth instead.

'I went walking around London last night,' he said. 'Summer's night, strolling around the streets, stopping at a couple of pubs for a beer... wonderful'.

For some reason, when I pictured Haydos doing this, he was in his cricket gear, too. And barefoot. As England tipped the balance of the Oval Test by running out Punter and Clarke in consecutive overs, he welcomed Jim Maxwell to the mic by saying, 'Good on ya Jim, I feel like I need another Aussie here at this point. I'm quite emotional...'

The new caring, sharing Hayden still had his sharp side, most notably in his now famous spat with Geoffrey. 

'Your batting emptied grounds, mate,' he said, no doubt out of the side of his mouth while still mentally at first slip. 

Exit Geoffrey, muttering. But thankfully not for long. Boycott got every prediction he made wrong this summer, but that's because they were almost always based on the kind of sound logic that the series refused to obey.

TMS has copped some flak, but the mix of Haydos, Geoffrey and Phil Tufnell made it a joy to listen to. Tufnell is as self-effacing as the two great batsmen are proud. Asked about his greatest fear, while others waffled about planes and spiders, Tuffers deadpanned: 'Mark Waugh'.

Sky opted for Warne as their resident legend, and once you got past the teeth - surely some kind of spin-off from NASA research - he was worth what must have been a reassuringly expensive fee. The real difference in his commentary came in his willingness to stick his neck on the line and call the play. Sky's collective of ex-England captains in the 'comm box' could do nothing but genuflect. Add Ravi Bopara to his list of Test victims. 

Beefy at least had someone to share his jokes about not training and coming in at 5am with. The heirarchy - Sky-erarchy? - revealed itself via the banter. Botham admitted Warnie to the club that contains himself, Michael Holding and sometimes David Gower. Nasser and Athers remain the butt of Beefy humour ['you'd have had about 18 by now wouldn't you Nass?' he'd enquire, just before tea]. Bumble is the mad uncle at the party, capable, like most jokers, of concealing the truth in humour.

Sky's technology is the real star of their show. Hawkeye versus Aleem Dar, super slo-mo versus Asad Rauf were heavyweight contests with only one winner.


Brian Carpenter said...

I couldn't agree more about Hayden. I found him surprisingly philosophical and he gave some really good insights into the mind of a top batsman in exchanges with Maxwell and CMJ.

I misjudged him all those years.

Brit said...

Yes Hayden seemed just about the least likely cricketer to move into commentary, which just goes to show.

Sky have got a really very good mix at the moment. Atherton is particularly good, but they all 'bring something' to what we are obliged to call 'the party'. Even their lunchtime features were good.

I appreciate the downsides of not having Test cricket on free TV (not least, it denies cricket to pensioners - I'm not so worried about the kids), but for those of us who have Sky Sports, this is the best cricket coverage we've ever had. (No nipping off to the frigging 2.40 at Haydock just as England look like taking a wicket etc.)

Rob said...

I started to like Hayden towatds the end. At the start I found him a bit too 'pro Aussie' and unable to comppliment the English. Towards the end I quite liked his comments.

I really liked Tuffers. He has that wonderful mix of sharp observations and self deference. A perfect Englishman?

Brit said...

Not quite perfect, Rob, not quite perfect.

Ashesinsomniac said...

TMS had a cracking summer. Tuffer's offers real insight as well as humour.

The Sky coverage still leaves plenty to be desired. Hussain Atherton and Warne were excellent; Hussain's insight's set him apart from even Warne. I can only wonder how good an attacking captain Hussain would have been if he had better tools.

Botham was useless all summer. Gower and Holding were unmemorable. But the biggest problem with Sky is the continual 2005 references/highlights/lunchtime specials.