Australian stars stewing about stump microphones this summer can breathe a little easier, with Channel Seven opting against an open-slather approach despite the International Cricket Council’s reforms.
The ICC recently announced a raft of changes to the sport’s code of conduct as part of a crackdown on bad behaviour.
The governing body rolled out new penalties for personal abuse and audible obscenities, also agreeing that broadcasters should be allowed to use stump-mic audio at any time in games.
Previous guidelines demanded that broadcasters turn mics down when the ball is dead, meaning most of what was said on the field stayed there.
Seven, whose six-year broadcasting deal with Cricket Australia starts this summer, will side with players on the vexed issue.
“Stump mics are an important part of cricket but you’ve got to remember it is players’ workplace,” Seven’s head of cricket David Barham said.
“I’m mindful of that. You’ve got to be careful and you’ve got to be smart about how you use it.
“You don’t want players saying ‘I don’t want to have anything to do with you because you’re doing this or that’.
I’m really mindful that we try and work with them, not exploit them.”
The Nine Network adopted a similar approach during its coverage, notably apologising to Michael Clarke when the captain’s “get ready for a broken f–––ing arm” sledge to Jimmy Anderson was errantly broadcast in 2013.
The mics have been a long-term source of frustration among many players, who insist their reluctance isn’t simply about wanting to sledge in private.
Seven has sought to deliver AFL fans a fly-on-the-wall perspective whenever possible during coverage, miking up umpires and occasionally players in games.
Barham masterminded Channel Ten’s innovative Big Bash League coverage, which included commentators interviewing miked up players between balls.
“We’ve got to get more and more player access. We’re really hoping the players get on board, but I don’t think you’ll ever see mics on players in Test cricket,” he said.
“It’s great for the Big Bash. But I don’t think it’s a good idea in Tests. It wouldn’t be appropriate.”
Nathan Lyon last week publicly flagged his opposition to stump mics staying up throughout a game, telling cricket.com.au that players may swear at themselves but expletives are “very, very rarely” directed at opponents.
English allrounder Ben Stokes was reprimanded last year for swearing at himself during a Test, a decision that legends Mike Atherton and Michael Holding branded “ridiculous”.