A lot of this job is about keeping an eye on all things at all times. Before a series starts the basics are pretty straightforward; put the right dates in the diary, then find out about the squads and get to know any new faces.
With any new information like that absorbed, from then on it is about using one’s accumulated knowledge and expertise to judge and comment on everything that unfolds in front of your eyes.
I will normally arrive about an hour and a half before the show goes on air, around 8:30 for our Ashes build-up, which starts every day at 10am.
The first thing will be a briefing from my producer, Bryan Henderson, who will have done the hard work in deciding what the content will be for that hour. It’s a mix of chat about the game, interviews with players and features. My task is to assimilate all that, host the chat and link to everything else. And to listen out while live for any changes to that original plan.
On a daily basis one would look at the newspapers, the cricket websites and pick up whatever information is going. If something breaks when we are on air, we have just have to adapt and respond at the time.
We also have a great team behind us. We have our very own statistician, the infamous Benedict Bermange. He is our man with the computer. It used to be a suitcase full of books; now it is almost no books and more computers. He has all the stats we need and is primed to produce them at the relevant moments throughout the day.
So many things have improved in terms of the coverage in the course of my broadcasting career. Some innovations come and go, others like Hawk-Eye and Real Time Snicko work so well that they will be with us forever, always being refined and improved year by year.
We have a vast array of cameras at the Ashes, covering all angles, and the skill of those camera operators matched with the power of the slow and super slow mo technology gives us the most stunning pictures. This in turn allows us to analyse every moment in the finest detail.
We try to use our intellect and knowledge to explain the game, from an expert and non-expert perspective, but we have to be aware there are all sorts of different people watching. We should neither talk down to people nor assume they know everything.
We sometimes get reminded that things we might take for granted do need explaining for the good of the broader audience, so we must do our best to be all things to all our viewers.
It’s a fabulous job, which takes us to the great cricket grounds all around the world, and we get to see some wonderful things both on and off the field. Those that come and visit us for instance in the Media Centre at Lord’s are mostly in awe of the view we have from on high.
The number of people that come up to me and say, “I wish I had your job”, or, “You have got the best job in the world” is extraordinary and a great reminder to us all how lucky we are to be doing what we are doing.
For most of us, it is continuing the same ethos as when we were playing; we just talk about it instead of doing it. And long may it last.
In terms of England’s chances in the Ashes, winning the first Test was the perfect start but the Aussie response at Lord’s was an emphatic reminder that they are the toughest competitors. At 1-1 it is still anybody’s series, but I fear that England might well be up against it.
If there’s one team that England always wants to beat, it’s Australia. An Ashes summer is so special because as a player and as a viewer one is always aware of the history and you always remember the great players who have been part of the Ashes history.
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