On Wednesday, in my old hometown of Hamilton, I donned an off-white suit and sat in a sweating, leaking, decrepit, decal-covered caravan parked up with the rear window peering out over the boundary of the second ODI between New Zealand and India. I was part of a new cricket commentary initiative and it was bloody good fun. And at times it was pants-wettingly funny.
I was surrounded by some of New Zealand’s most entertaining and excellent blokes, including cult heroes and infamists with sensible names like Lee, Jeremy, Michael, Jason, Matthew, Scott, Leigh and Benjamin. We’d all been roped into helping out with laissez-faire vocal nonsense on a new initiative called The Alternative Commentary Collective.
Together this ivory-suited platoon soaked up a rain-affected thriller in which India scored more runs than New Zealand and yet conspired with Messrs Duckworth and Lewis to lose by 15 runs.
The ACC – accidentally on purpose sounding like one of New Zealand’s most bureaucratic institutions, The Accident Compensation Corporation* – has made it to the internautical airwaves via the magic of binary code, testicular fortitude from NZ Cricket, and some grunt from the TRN radio network.
The brainchild of Beige Brigade co-founder and ideas man Mike Lane and Kiwi media cult hero Jeremy Wells, the ACC aims to provide New Zealand cricket fans with something a little bit different to the commentary fare served up by the traditional broadcast teams on radio and television.
If you were being rude you’d say that point of difference involved a shoestring budget, uninformed analysis, no former international cricketers, a plethora of obscure anecdotes and a mild scatological obsession. And you’d be right.
But not everyone wants mainstream-flavoured commentary – some cricket followers around the nation don’t take cricket as seriously as Sunil Gavaskar, and are keen to hear about parmesan cheese, Linda Hamilton’s mouth, limbless water-polo players, bhuja mix, cocktail hour, and gonad injuries – as well as keeping up with the state of the game.
That last point is a damn important one – the poor bugger doing the ball-by-ball relay of the action is the adhesive in the whole operation. I have a new admiration for anyone taking on this Herculean task of describing the bowler’s run-up, the delivery itself, the batsman’s shot, the fielding action, the return to the wicketkeeper’s mitts, and the score, all in seven seconds of treacly audio.
It’s ridiculously early days but feedback on the ACC has been promising. Media aficionado Paul Casserly wrote in the NZ Herald: “Wells and Hoyte seem to know their cricket and provide solid if unorthodox commentary while the other cricket tragics join in pushing the boundaries with absurdity… astute ball-by-ball discussions mixed with absurd diversions is beautifully deployed by the ACC.”
Of course, nobody’s pretending the ACC is a global avant-gardist on the alternative commentary front. Alt-comm is not a new thing in cricket, with Test Match Sofa the most high-profile and outstanding example of the genre in this sporting milieu. Tweets and lawsuits flew last year as the the Sofa found itself in a wrangle over piracy, access, and whether its owner was allowed to eat cucumber sandwiches in the spaceship at Lord’s.
Alt-comm is not a new thing in New Zealand either. In this land of rugby, a large Polynesian bloke by the name of Jed Thian has been riffing with off-kilter commentary on the nation’s favourite bloodsport for several years.
The informality and shenanigans of the ACC do not compete with the establishment’s traditional commentary options but complement them. It hits a different audience, one that doesn’t hitch its pants quite so high.
The way I see it, cricket is an incredibly eccentric sport played by an eclectic club of nations. It’s rife with weird rules and regulations, anachronisms and obscure equipment. The ACC is simply delivering commentary to match that smorgasbord of idiosyncrasy.
*A Crown entity that provides “comprehensive, no-fault personal injury cover for all New Zealand residents and visitors to New Zealand”
This post first appeared on Cricinfo over here: http://www.espncricinfo.com/blogs/content/story/712483.html