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Channel 7 has opted not to renew cricket commentator Michael Slater's contract, with speculation emerging the former Test's star's Twitter tirade against the Prime Minister could have hurt him.
Slater has long been a fixture of commentary teams on 7 and Channel Nine, with his absence from free-to-air cricket commentary to be his first in over a decade.
The 51-year-old reportedly got some Australian cricketers offside back in May, when he publicly attacked Prime Minister Scott Morrison over the government's decision to ban Australian citizens from returning home from India, where the Delta variant of Covid-19 had accelerated out of control.
Slater, as well as several Australian players and other commentators, were in India for the Indian Premier League - which was ultimately cancelled due to the spread of the virus.
Some of the players felt Slater's attack left them vulnerable to criticism for leaving the country in the first place, particularly as they ended up staying in the Maldives until they were permitted to travel back to Australia.
Executives at Channel 7 were also uncomfortable with Slater's stance, but said on Wednesday that budget constraints were the primary reason behind the decision not to renew his deal.
The network's head of sport, Liam Martin, said it ultimately came down to a 'business decision'.
“He’s a very talented broadcaster and he’s been a ripping member of our team. It’s more about financial management than anything else and we wish Michael the very best in the future, we really do,” he said.
“Unfortunately business decisions have to be made from time to time and unfortunately we’re not in a position to renew it.
“He was a very popular member of our team and a very talented broadcaster. I can only expect this will only be a pause (in his career).”
Michael Slater's cricket contract with Channel 7 ends
The federal government decision to ban Australian citizens from returning home from India generated a great deal of controversy at the time.
The ban was announced via a statement released late at night, with the government arguing the importance of protecting the community from Covid-19.
However there was fierce scrutiny over the decision, with the government invoking the Biosecurity Act to prevent citizens from returning to Australia via a third country.
The ban was eventually relaxed later in May, but not before Slater teed off on the Prime Minister on social media.
In a remarkable series of tweets, Slater accused PM Scott Morrison of having 'blood on his hands' over the refusal to allow citizens to come home, fearing they could catch the virus in areas where India's hospital system was completely overwhelmed.
“If our Government cared for the safety of Aussies they would allow us to get home. It’s a disgrace,” Slater wrote.
“Blood on your hands PM. How dare you treat us like this. How about you sort out quarantine system.
“I had government permission to work on the IPL but I now have government neglect.”
Morrison, when asked about Slater's statements, wrote them off as 'absurd' - but was met with a challenge to a debate from Slater in reply.
Slater was a prolific batsman for Australia before his retirement in 2001, scoring 6299 runs and 14 centuries across 74 Test matches.
In 2006, he was signed by Channel 9 for commentary alongside the likes of Richie Benaud and Bill Lawry.
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