Oh yes, maximum! This week we settle in with Hampshire’s finest, Mark Charles Jefford Nicholas.

Face value

Gives the impression of having been a very Dapper Dan in his pomp. In truth, he’s probably just grown into an age that suits him ‒ and that age is 59, which doesn’t seem right. Rarely caught in anything other than a fitted navy number, Nicholas sports the standard issue leathery tan of the luxury Pom down under.

Hits & Misses

It doesn’t feel like that long since Nicholas swanned into our summers, but he’s something of an old hand. His original remit was to relieve an ageing Richie Benaud from hosting duties which he’s managed relatively smoothly. His eagerness to return to the MCG after being rushed to hospital on a gurney also reeks of consummate professionalism.

As the only non baggy green owner in the main roster, Nicholas often plays the role of asking the simple question or probing for clarification when the ex-pros are getting too boisterous or tangential. It also gifts him some semblance of impartiality clearly lacking in Nine’s cookie cutter larrikinism.

His biggest hit so far has to be the commentator’s curse he placed on David Warner against South Africa at the WACA. The shrug and subsequent call of the wicket without missing a beat showed a master of his craft.

You get the sense that he genuinely loves what he does ‒ not just the cushiness of it ‒ and that goes a long way in any business. Nicholas makes a decent fist of leading a team suffering from a serious gravitas deficiency. He specialises in the pseudo-poetic recap at the start of each session, accompanying a slo-mo highlights reel. When Slater, Warne, Healy et al get carried away, Nicholas can seem like the last bastion of intellectualism saving Nine’s cricket from becoming The Footy Show.

If any critique can be levelled, perhaps it’s that he’s too fawning in dealing with the star power of players, not to mention his fellow commentators. But when you’re steering the goodship WWOS, there’s little room for journalistic grit. His role as chief presenter calls for geniality and deference to keep player-pundit relations well-oiled. It’s a far cry from the early 90s when Nicholas referred to Shane Warne as “a tubby, slightly uncommitted boy who didn’t seem to be going anywhere.”

Public opinion on Nicholas ranges the full spectrum, from those who appreciate his pursuit of eloquence, to various shades of the interloping Pom argument. Even News Corp reporting of Nicholas’ absence from the 2017 Sydney Test hailed it as an opportunity for “Wagga-born Michael Slater to host”…”who starred on the ground as a player for NSW and Australia.” A cynical lens might translate that as: Mark Nicholas isn’t from here and he never even played at the highest level. The nerve.

That said, a spell on the sidelines mightn’t be the worst thing for a man whose biggest threat is overexposure.

View from the stands

Runs on the board

ESPN Cricinfo describes his playing career thusly: “Mark Nicholas was almost a throwback to the era of amateurs, and although he did not play for England, many inferior players did during his time with Hampshire. He did captain England A to Zimbabwe, but that was as close as he got.”

BT Sport, Cricket, pic: 9th July 1988, Benson and Hedges Cup Final at Lord's, Hampshire beat Derbyshire by 7 wickets, Mark Nicholas, the Hampshire captain celebrating with the Benson and Hedges trophy

Despite having carved out a respectable first class career, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’d never played the game due to being surrounded by boisterous cricket royalty at Nine. At the very least, he’s had brushes with greatness, if not ever quite achieving it himself. If you’re going to lose a knuckle, you might as well lose it to Waqar Younis.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s