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World Twenty20: Kyle McCallan is bowled over to be taking the mic

By Ian Callender

Published 29/07/2015

Winning team: Former Ireland star Kyle McCallan with his commentating colleagues Jonty Rhodes and Matt Prior
Winning team: Former Ireland star Kyle McCallan with his commentating colleagues Jonty Rhodes and Matt Prior

We are in the television control van at Malahide, with 20 monitors showing the output from every camera at World Twenty20 Qualifying finals day, All, unfortunately, are showing a mass of white sheets covering the square or rain-soaked stands.

With no action imminent - indeed, not a ball was bowled on Sunday - Kyle McCallan, the former Ireland captain, is enjoying a rare break on a match day, now, since his retirement in 2009, the go-to expert when Ireland are in action on Sky Sports.

This tournament is actually a Sunset and Vine worldwide production, being shown in over 130 countries but McCallan's impressive contribution in the major events over the last four years got him this latest gig and a chance to work again with former England Test player Dominic Cork and, for the first time, with lead presenter Pommie Mbangwa, England's Matt Prior and Jonty Rhodes.

"It has allowed me to reminisce with Jonty, whom I played with for Ireland against South Africa A back in 1999 and he has been able to see just how far Irish cricket has come in that time," said McCallan.

"But I also wanted to come at it from the angle of letting these guys know just what's at stake for these teams (the best 14 below the elite of the sport).

"They are more used to watching the Test nations, where players are playing for their place in the team, but the players and teams here are playing for the future of the game.

"Look at Namibia (who did not make the top six and failed to qualify for the finals in India next year), they might not get another chance to play on the world stage until 2020. Nepal (another of the losers) drop out of all the rankings altogether and Papua New Guinea, hoping to build on their new top six Associate ranking, were looking to accelerate but have also missed out."

McCallan admits that covering a tournament like this, even though Ireland were the co-hosts with Scotland, involved a lot of homework, even for him.

"I watched all the Ireland games in Stormont, one as a (Ireland) selector, but also to have a look at the opposition we would be covering here in Malahide. Working at Ireland v Australia, for example, is a lot easier than working at this tournament so if it's difficult for me, then it's doubly difficult for Pommie, Dominic and Jonty but I was always trying to put the Associate side of it and the significance of it," he added.

We are interrupted by the voice of lead producer Gavin Scovell who is setting up a chat between Cork and the umpires - "you need to stick to prospects of play and how they enjoyed the tournament" - something that McCallan has had to get used to, and rather different from his daytime job in the classroom.

"As a teacher to talk and listen at the same time is very difficult, but I have had to learn to do that because you have somebody in your ear counting down to the world feed or telling you when to stop talking and that occasionally catches you out. So you have to think on your feet.

"Studio work is easier, as you have much more time to gather your thoughts, more analysis, while here (at the ground) it is telling what you see. I am the colour commentator, you have Pommie and Dominic who are doing the majority of the work and I am there to add, fill, discuss field placings, what they might have done, why they did it."

The 2011 World Cup in Bangladesh was his first television work, a tournament that, just two years earlier, he had hoped to be playing in but family circumstances prevented that and he decided to call time after 226 appearances for Ireland - then a record.

"So one door closed and the other opened," he said. "I was coaching the 1st XV rugby team on the schools pitches when I got a phone call from (Cricket Ireland CEO) Warren Deutrom who had been asked by Sky for someone with recent playing experience and he thought of me, so that's how it started and they seem to like what I do.

"Bangladesh was my first game, the most memorable game was, of course, England beating Ireland, much to the disgust of Cork and Prior whom I remind at every opportunity.

"But all the presenters and experts have been so affable. I had a fear of how I would be perceived but they have been really helpful. Ian Ward is a great guy, but I couldn't say an ill word about any of them.

"You get this impression of Bob Willis being cranky but he is very good fun. He tells it as he sees it and you listen and learn as you go along. Matt Prior is a three-times Ashes winner, for goodness sake, so just listening to his experiences you can't help but learn.

McCallan admits the last World Cup in Australia and New Zealand was difficult.

"Because of the time difference it meant we were going through the night. That was tough. I wanted to miss as little school as possible so I was getting the 8pm flight straight after a school day, was picked up in London, taken to the hotel, grabbed maybe two hours sleep and then into the studio. There was lots of tea drinking during the night and then it was straight back to Heathrow and the flight home."

He did that six times in three weeks. "We are basically watching the match, taking notes, looking at things we want to talk about and then talking to the graphics people who will clip it all together. By the end of the night, you are just trying to keep the brain switched on, and needing to be really careful what you say. So that was tough.

The most daunting aspect of the job, though, is working at the Sky Cart. "That's when you stand up, move the machine, slow it down, talk around it and that's all live.

"But it was part of the learning curve and it's brilliant. If you are doing it full-time it is a great way to earn a living."

Belfast Telegraph

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