Tuesday 02 June 2020, 03:12 AM
The commentator's dilemma
By Yajurvindra Singh | Bharat Defence Kavach | Publish Date: 3/21/2020 11:47:12 AM
The commentator's dilemma

Cricket would never have become popular or flourished without the support from the writers and commentators. Not all of them played the game but their passion, love and undying zest to relay the events on the ground and off it, was what made the sport interesting, absorbing, exhilarating and at times intriguing.

Writers, such as Neville Cardus, C.L. James, Ray Robinson and our own K.N. Prabhu, were not only brilliant in their description of the match but with their spice of superlative adjectives, their cricket articles were wonderful to read. They created cricket stars, heroes and characters and brought glamour to a game that needed patience and plenty of time to follow it.

The commentary of John Arlott, Richie Benaud, E.W. Swanton and many more created images in ones' mind, that described not only the actual action on the field, but also the blade of grass on which they were playing. This they did so through the medium of the radio initially and then through television they took it to another level altogether. Their humorous anecdotes and tales was what kept cricket alive when play was slow and boring.

The responsibility and professionalism that one requires in both writing and commentating, may seem jovial and casual to a listener, but the thought and research that one needs to go through requires a lot of hard work.

I can recollect my personal incident with the legendry commentator John Arlott. I was in the playing eleven in the 1979 Oval Test match in London. My name 'Yajurvindra' is a tongue twister, not just for Indians but is also quite impossible to pronounce for most foreigners. John Arlott came to the dressing room and spent time with me to get the pronunciation of my name right. His words to me were that to get the name of a player wrong is an error that commentators should never commit. He, in his own way, phonetically deciphered my name and that showed the professionalism and seriousness that he brought to his work.

This brings one to the controversy that seems to have erupted concerning Sanjay Manjrekar. The former cricketer has been removed from the commentators' panel of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), similar to what happened to Harsha Bhogle a few years ago. Both, one gathers, may have not towed the line and so had to face the eventuality of being asked to go. The journalists were up in arms as regards Harsha and now the cricketers are the ones rooting for Manjrekar.

Both of them also have a good public fan following to boast off and hence, similar to a cricketer, removing any one of them from the commentators' team would always lead to a few raised eyebrows. Harsha was reinstated and one wonders whether Manjrekar may be back as well. A writer or a commentator should be allowed to pen or relay one's thoughts freely, as long as it not malicious or harming anyone.

Presently, one can see benign pleasantries being exchanged amongst the experts in the commentators' box. There is hardly ever a debate or any serious exchange of views. Everyone seems to be in harmony and one feels that they are all conscious of and conscientious about not saying anything that may become controversial or unpleasant. A bunch of picnickers singing praises not only about each other but also about all the players concerned. As they say "be nice, you will always be right".

What intrigues one is that there is no process that is followed by the BCCI in recruiting or appointing a commentator. This, one gathers, is done in an arbitrary manner, at times as a goodwill gesture to well-known cricketers or to curry favour with those who have the backing of the administrators.

The BCCI has to create a transparent system for recruiting and appointing commentators. Essential skills and qualities that are required are proper diction, delivery and most importantly knowledge of the game. At present, at times, it gets embarrassing to hear some of them speak without any historical knowledge of the game.

The Australian cricketer and renowned commentator, Richie Benaud, always said, "what one sees through the television is for everyone to see, but what additional knowledge that one can relay is what makes the difference." That is why he remains an all-time great not just as a cricketer but also as a writer and commentator.

The world of cricket and the medium of describing it has gone through a radical change. Social media interaction through digital, print, radio and television has brought cricket into drawing, dining and bedrooms. Therefore, it has become essential to have well read, articulate and knowledgeable people talking on it and freely exchanging their views.

One can see efforts are being made by the various sports channels, print mediums and sports websites to make cricket relaying interesting. Cricketers from all over the world are being called upon to bring a bit of spice into the commentary teams. However, many of their cricketing guests lack local knowledge and their accents make them very difficult to appreciate.

Maybe it is time for the cricket lovers to go back to the days of when the romantic image of the game was so well illustrated by the cricket experts on the radio and through the articles they wrote. That was when cricket was on a song with lyrics that brought harmony and ecstasy to the lovers of the game.

Tags:

Cricket,flourished,support,commentator,sundying,

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