- An ability to express something which I cannot see. I am talking about TV commentators - radio commentators are really picture painters but in this day and age they are lost.
- Refraining from having repetitive hackneyed statements. Now statements that define your personality and can identify only you are funny and even pleasant - like Henry Blofeld and his fascination for Indian earrings.
- A lack of bias - I shall explain below
- If you are generally useless, then even the above 3 will not help
Based on the above definitions, I can rule out some of the 'top' commentators, the first in line being Ravi Shastri. A quick clarification - I don't hate him, I wasn't one among those those garlanded him with slippers when he scored 33 in 110 balls or 15 off 61 in the Australian summer of 92.
To illustrate 1., I do not need him to say "The grass is green here today" or "The stands are jam packed". He should keep in mind that most people who watch TV are not blind, given the advancements in camera, we probably see more than him.
Regarding 2., one almost certainly knows what he will say given a certain incident. For e.g., if a batsman is LBW, invariable the comment preceding would have been "Rapped on the pads and up goes the finger". I think it is probably a result of being one of the hatrick LBW victims of Aaqib Javed in Sharjah. What do you think he says when someone is caught behind? Yes, you are correct again - "EDGED!!!! and taken".
Having said this, Ravi Shastri has pretty good diction and respect for fellow commentators. Most of his fellow commentators fall into 4 so I will take him compared to Ranil whatever, Arun Lal - God help us, Rameez Raja - ummm, ok enough.
3 is most debatable and something that made me write this. It drives me absolutely crazy. I'll make my case with very specific examples.
Now, I am an Indian and an Indian supporter. I do not like Pakistan to win anywhere. I will support Australia against Pakistan, no matter what. In the first test between Pakistan and Australia (Boxing day match' 09 at MCG), last innings, Peter Siddle bowling into Mohammad Yousuf. Australia had almost wrapped up and I think this is an important point because it allows hyenas to scavenge. Peter Siddle got Younis (for returners, read Youhana) on the pads and the Australians yelled for an appeal for LBW. Umpire Rudi Koertzen of SA (who I think is overrated by the way) gave not out, Ponting went for the referral. The referral showed in super slo-mo that it was not out, bat first NO question. The conversation went something like this [my reaction in brackets]
Mark Taylor: "I reckon thats not out, but wait a minute - is there pad before bat there?....oh yes it could very well be." [HUH?]. Now lets take a look at this from another angle. [ARE YOU SERIOUS?] There might have been pad first but its hard to tell from here. I think the benefit of doubt goes to the batsman[DOUBT??? WHAT DOUBT???]
Michael Slater:"Yeah Tubby (hehe, he kinda looks like a tub), very hard decision [REALLY?? F*&^#*(^$*(^(*^*(^*W^$*%#$] I don't see how the umpire can overrule that" [ YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME]
Of course, the not out stayed and lowered my blood pressure but then I got thinking. This is just blatant bias. Now if the batsman was Michael Clarke and the bowler was Mohammed Aamer, I think the conversation would have been more like
MT:"Bat first, not out...very clear there"
MS:"Yup, Pad no where near the bat, waste of a referral". End of story.
4 is self explanatory. These guys shouldn't be anywhere near a microphone.
So based on all this, how do we improve commentary? How do we make it an enjoyable experience? How do we get the best guys up front? I have a few theories:
1. Form a league - the umpires team has an elite panel so why not commentators. I know these guys are hired by TV channels but I like my chances with my big bully ICC. Very autocratic but works.
2. Have a review system for commentators - where they review each other. Not fool proof. But imagine a day where Arun Lal and Rameez Raja vote each other in and Richie Benaud out. Communism and cricket don't mix especially Lalit Modi around.
3. My favorite - Have the viewers review them real time with the remote control with options for
a. Biased b.Idiotic c.Banal d.Repetitive e.I am about to turn off my TV f. Very good g. Pay the guy! h. The perfect commentator i. Asslicker of Australians
The commentators should be held accountable through fines and suspensions just like players (having said, that umpires should be fined and suspended too for bad decisions - I have no idea why they are allowed to stay)
So then the cream of the cream will rise. One day we will have a panel of
Richie Benaud, Mark Nicholas, Mark Taylor. Nicholas will go based on i. Mark Taylor will go based on a. They will swap in for Gavaskar who will stay because of a. :) and Ravi Shastri. Shastri will leave because of c. and in will come David Lloyd. And we will end up with h. a. and h.