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12 Dec 2017 4:20
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  •   Home > News > Sports > Cricket

    Channel Nine promotes commentary team of eight white men, cops it

    Cricket is changing and a former ABC Grandstand manager says it's time Channel Nine "stepped up" and changed too after the network's commentary team gets slammed for its lack of diversity.

    Channel Nine recently promoted its men's Ashes commentary team.

    It looks like this:

    The announcement came on the day the Southern Stars won the Ashes, beating England by six wickets.

    Channel Nine's Gem was broadcasting the women's win while the network was copping hate online for the lack of diversity in its men's Ashes commentary team and its decision to promote it.

    The Twitter thread lambasting the announcement as a "deplorable effort" also called the photo "the best advert for radio you're likely to see".

    It also sparked a serious discussion about who the game of cricket was for and what Channel Nine was doing about it.

    Very few sports journalists have waded into the discussion.

    One who has is Craig Norenbergs.

    The former ABC Grandstand manager and now New Zealand-based senior broadcaster said the photo "did not reflect Australian society".

    "Cricket is pushing across boundaries generally, maybe the Channel Nine commentary team should reflect the game of cricket as a whole," he said.

    "And I'm not just talking about a tokenistic woman ... there are options for excellent female commentators but they have to be brave."

    He said after the same-sex marriage survey earlier in the week, there was proof Australia was ready for change.

    "A few days later Channel Nine post that photo ... it's not a knock on their broadcast, it's a knock on their mindset."

    Norenbergs was responsible for major change at ABC Grandstand. He said it was hard, but he did it anyway.

    "Whoever the EP of cricket is would be feeling the weight of expectation of tradition — and people are resistant to change because there is so much riding on it," he said.

    "But it's time ... It's time somebody stepped up and did it.

    "They should have been doing it maybe three years ago."

    As Norenbergs made ABC Grandstand more diverse, he also came up against trolls — they just didn't have a Twitter account.

    Instead, he received "letters, emails and abusive calls" about the decisions he made.

    "I never took it personally. I just had to be the manager that had to do things," he said.

    It doesn't take long for Twitter to turn

    As some users took issue with the commentary team announcement, other "keyboard warriors" had their say defending it.

    The ABC's Jen Browning tweeted this:

    Then she anchored this morning's sports bulletin on the ABC News Channel. The top story was news of the women's Ashes win.

    To the people who claim it's all political correctness, Norenbergs says, "there's no such thing as old school".

    "You might be old school in thought, but are you still driving a 1970 Corolla? What tech are you using? Every other part of your life has moved on ... it's just an excuse," he said.

    He said it was too late for this summer, but Channel Nine would have to sit down, be brave and consider "the many other brilliant avenues they could have taken to inject diversity into that team".

    That's not just women. Norenbergs makes the point that cricket is a diverse game and Channel Nine's commentary team could include "an Indian commentator, or someone from the West Indies".

    FWIW, Channel Nine's press office put out a media release promoting the commentary team too, saying the men were "Australia's favourite voices of summer".

    We have contacted the same press office for comment on the reaction and asked them if Channel Nine is OK with the turn the discussion has taken.

    We will update this story if we get a response.

    For now, we'll let punters have the floor with some commentary of their own.

    © 2017 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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