Cricket commentary mystery: When will Ian Botham come to life?

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·Contributor
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Ian Botham, pictured here alongside James Brayshaw and Ricky Ponting during the second Ashes Test in Adelaide.
Ian Botham (R) alongside James Brayshaw (L) and Ricky Ponting (centre) during the second Ashes Test in Adelaide. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

OPINION

Lord Ian Botham was appointed the UK's trade envoy to Australia last month.

Perhaps in his new role he could export his personality Down Under and start to show it on Channel 7's coverage of the Ashes.

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Because at the moment, Beefy is displaying about as much panache and punch as the insipid England cricketers he's forced to critique.

Botham was one of the game's most exciting players, a thrill-a-minute maverick who took spectators for a wild ride with bat and ball.

Off the field he was tabloid gold, his tales of partying well into the night almost as famous as his deeds between 11 and 6.

It was a given Botham would join the gallery of ex-players behind the microphone and he was a natural, entertaining Sky Sports audiences for 25 years before his stint was abruptly ended at the end of the last Ashes series in England.

His ex-teammate and good pal David Gower went at the same time, while much-loved colleagues Michael Holding and David 'Bumble' Lloyd also parted company with Sky recently.

It's though their passing – in a professional sense - changed something in Botham, at the least on the strength of this tour.

Ian Botham's enthusiasm levels at an all-time low

Ever since he arrived in Australia, he doesn’t seem to have his usual level of enthusiasm - and it’s not just on the back of England's horrid form.

Australian viewers get the impression he's coming off his short run, or maybe we're just accustomed to our own witless types screaming incessantly into the mics.

Lloyd spoke of the commentary box feeling "a little emptier" without Botham, Holding and Gower. Perhaps Beefy is feeling the same way.

He looks like a 66-year-old forced to go out with blokes 20-30 years his junior, drinking craft beer infused with strawberries, after suddenly finding himself on the singles circuit.

David Gower, Michael Atherton and Ian Botham, pictured here in commentary for Sky Cricket in 2017.
David Gower, Michael Atherton and Ian Botham in commentary for Sky Cricket in 2017. (Photo by Visionhaus/Corbis via Getty Images)

During the Boxing Day Test the cameras panned into the commentary box as Ricky Ponting and James Brayshaw enthralled us with a riveting story about how they'd choose bats at the Kookaburra factory back in the day.

Botham didn’t even pretend to be interested (it would have been a stretch, admittedly), looking straight ahead at the action and no doubt thinking he'd rather be tucking into one of his Ian Botham cab sauvignons over a long lunch or teeing off at nearby Royal Melbourne.

Even a carpark catch-up with Ian Chappell had more appeal at that stage.

A mate texted me soon after: "I hope Beefy isn’t being paid by the word. He's said about seven."

Small talk's not really his thing. As he told audiences at the start of the Ashes: "I have a very, very low boredom threshold."

That much is obvious.

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