Cricket: A Male Bastion in the Commentators' Box

Goutham ChakravarthiCorrespondent ISeptember 21, 2009

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 26:  TV sports reporter Stephanie Brantz poses as she arrives for the NW Oscars Viewing Party at the Four Seasons hotel February 26, 2007 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Paul McConnell/Getty Images)

In tennis, Andrea Leand is as revered in the commentary box as a Vijay Amritraj. Pam Shriver's call on the action is given as much attention as John McEnroe's.

It is not the case with cricket, though, as you generally find the women commentators sidelined. 

Claire Taylor and Mithali Raj understand the art of batting and have mastered it like the greats playing the men's game. Many women players and commentators scrutinize and analyze the game as well as anyone. So why aren't their bright minds given the opportunity to call the action?

In this article I try to put forward a case where television channels, over the years, have used female commentators and/or anchors for various reasons.

Stephanie Brantz.

Heard of this name before?

If you are an Aussie and have followed cricket on the free-to-air Nine network, you probably might. About two years ago, Brantz was the sports presenter and the only female representative in the Nine’s commentary box. Controversially, she was kicked out of her job of interviewing the Aussie players.

It's not the first time a woman was shown the door in Australian cricket. Kate Fitzpatrick, an actress and a cricket fan, was used as a commentator by Nine’s Kerry Packer in the '80s, only to be kicked out after one Test match.

Knowing the Aussie cricket’s male-ish culture, she might have foreseen what was coming. But then, every sports presenter will believe he/she is good enough to take the dig.

Now then, what happened? The Aussie cricket players flatly refused to be interviewed by a female. They preferred their great mates and Nine’s commentators, Mark Taylor and Ian Healy, to Brantz.

All this when Cricket Australia wanted more female participation in television sports coverage. More so cricket, which had only 35 percent women viewers in Australia at that time. And what does Nine do? Send her home, of course.

A similar tactic was used by Sony Max, which used Mandira Bedi as a presenter in the hope to attract women to follow the sport. While they somewhat succeeded to raise their TV ratings, it caught the ire of the general public that demanded to know of her cricketing pedigree.

But to their credit, they did quite successfully use the most well-known woman commentator, Donna Symmonds, to good use in the tournaments they covered.

In India, the likes of former greats like Diana Edulji and Anjum Chopra, more recently, are well used.

Ex-crickets of great repute are often well utilized in cricket games, though it is still predominantly male-dominated in the "expert" panel. Perhaps a day will come when Mithali Raj and Rahul Dravid will form a part of the "expert" panel that discusses and talks cricket. Women of stature and repute ought to be used.

It is not a question of gender but of knowledge. That’s why we hang on to every word a Boycott or a Benaud says during a commentary stint. Knowledge that comes from years of playing, watching, and covering the sport is priceless. Maybe that is the reason why we respect Symmonds as an "expert."

Although cricket is not tennis, where men’s and women’s sport are equally popular and this gender problem is nonexistent, cricket would do well to embrace ex-players with a pedigree from the women’s sport, like an Andrea Leand or a Martina Navratilova of tennis.