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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Case for Good Cricket Commentary

In my opinion, a good cricket commentator should provide three things among others.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. A lack of bias - I shall explain below
  4. 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.



  1. You are a rockstar freelance writer. Love the way you define the problem and then propose probable solutions. The humor in between is beautiful and made my chuckle. Write on Mate!

  2. ROFL while reading the post! Loved the sarcasm - appreciate it all the more cause that's one thing I know I'm good at ;-))

    Held Sunil Gavaskar very high until I realised that he is freaking biased towards sachin. I'm a huge Sachin fan but not to the extent that I'll praise his single Vs a Yuvi's six! Get my point?

    Of the current lot I like Ajay Jadeja - sadly he does not do live commentary but the guys insights are freaking good - out of the box thinking. Sad he goofed up - we missed out on a great captain!

    Akash Chopra is another favourite - he writes well. Simple and to the point. He too is not much into commentary sadly

    Harsha Bhogle ( honestly he is another God - straight from the heart!), Geoffrey Boycott ( Again the sarcasm) and Ian Chappel - extremely innovative in thinking. Tony Greig only for his enthusiasm if not the insights.

    Loved your article - waiting for some more!

  3. Minal: Yeah, Gavaskar is blatantly pro India but sometimes you need to fight fire with fire, hence I like him. He does go overboard though and often ends up making a mockery of himself. I haven't listened to Jadeja. Akash Chopra writes for cricinfo and he is refreshing. Harsha Bhogle's command over the language is off the hook. Ian Chappell is right most of the time - I really like him, but the next time listen to Benaud in a critical way. How he takes the field setting, compares it to what some other captain did in some other way and says it in minimal words. He gives credence to the fact "you don't have to say something just coz you can". But thanks, I will try to write more - I just don't think I have enough things worth reading.
    Mr: Thanks dude (or dudette :)). Your write on makes me think you are australian. I plan to try some Vegemite.

  4. Can't debate regarding Benaud can we? Isn't he the one responsible for making commentators celebrities in their own right!

    I suggest you keep writing. I follow a lot of blogs and websites - especially on cricket and the writing is honestly appalling! I'm unable to figure out the reason for their popularity!

    Please keep the articles coming!

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