Umpire Chris Gaffaney was forced to intervene after he judged that discussions became heated. (AP: Trevor Collens)
The decision by the ICC in July to allow broadcasters the option of leaving stump microphones on throughout the duration of the day’s play has already provided us with some memorable exchanges this summer.
During the first Test in Adelaide, it was the enthusiastic commentary of the effervescent Indian wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant that amused watchers.
In the second Test in Perth however, it has been the developing feud between the two captains that has help provide the subplot to another enthralling match, particularly Tim Paine’s instant classic to Murali Vijay: “I know he’s your captain, but you can’t seriously like him as a bloke.”
How it unfolded in Perth
On day three, after Paine survived a big caught-behind shout, the Australian skipper was quickly reminded of the importance of his innings by his opposite number.
“If he messes it up, it’s 2-0,” Kohli said to his Indian teammates as he walked past.
Paine responded with the playground-worthy barb: “You’ve got to bat first, big head.”
Those verbal barbs continued on the morning of day four, with umpire Chris Gaffaney eventually coming between the pair as Paine and Usman Khawaja frustrated India with a 58-run, wicketless first session of the day.
Kohli: “I’m not saying a word to you, why are you getting riled up?”
Paine: “I’m fine. You’re the one that lost it yesterday, why are you trying to be cool today?”
Gaffaney: “Oi, that’s enough.”
Paine: “We’re allowed to talk.”
Gaffaney: “Nah, come on, play the game. You guys are the captains.”
Paine: “We can have a conversation … there’s no swearing.”
Gaffaney: “Tim you’re the captain.”
Paine: “Keep your cool, Virat.”
After being dismissed, Paine was given a full send off by the Indian skipper, with what was said not being picked up on the broadcast, however the on-field treats didn’t stop there, with Paine delivering the final word to Kohli via Murali Vijay.
Not all of the exchanges between Tim Paine and Virat Kohli were captured by the stump microphone. (AAP: Dave Hunt)
Broadcasters take different approaches to technology
World Series cricket introduced stump microphones to help bring the viewers closer to the heart of the action, although it soon became apparent that some moderation would be required as players frequently indulged in on-field exchanges that were decidedly not PG-friendly.
Despite ICC laws stating that microphones should be turned down when the ball is dead, a situation that was changed at July’s annual meeting of the governing body in Dublin, stump mics have often been left on by broadcasters, offering a tantalising glimpse into how players try to get under each other’s skins without resorting to crude threats or foul language.
Former England captain Andrew Flintoff’s “mind the windows Tino”, comment to West Indies skipper Tino Best being one of the best, and most comical examples of how an ongoing feud can get into a players head.
This summer, the two broadcasters of Australian cricket have taken wildly opposing views of the situation, with Channel Seven abiding by the old rules of turning the microphones down between balls.
Head of Seven’s cricket coverage David Barham said in July: “Stump mics are an important part of cricket but you’ve got to remember it is players’ workplace.”
“You’ve got to be careful and you’ve got to be smart about how you use it.
“I’m really mindful that we try and work with them, not exploit them.”
Fox Sports on the other hand, has gone the other way, going so far as dedicating entire overs to the on-field exchanges between the players without a commentator uttering a word.
This feature has generally been well received and has given us gems such as Paine’s Kohli putdown.
Whether this coverage will continue if the language gets more fruity during these select overs, is yet to be seen.
‘What’s on the field needs to stay on the field’
ICC boss David Richardson said at the annual meeting in July that the ICC hoped the change would help curb the rise of, “ugly sledging, send-offs, dissent against umpires’ decisions, a walk-off … and some ordinary off-field behaviour”.
Prior to this ruling, stump microphones were meant to be turned down when the ball is dead, although that hasn’t always happened, as Michael Clarke and James Anderson can attest.
Clarke’s now famous “broken arm” threat was broadcast, leading to Channel Nine apologising to Clarke for breaching the sanctity of the on-field discussions.
There are plenty of players who disagree with having the stump mics on, with serial chirper Nathan Lyon an advocate of what happens on the field, stays on the field.
“I’m not the biggest fan of the stump mics being turned up,” Lyon said in an interview with Cricket Australia after the ICC ruling in July.
“I think what’s on the field needs to stay on the field.
“There’s a few expletives flying around when people don’t execute their skills.
“It’s very, very rarely that people are sharing expletives with the opposition or an umpire or an official.”