Danny Morrison (above) has been impressed by young Indian spinner, Kuldeep Yadav © Getty Images
Danny Morrison chats with Nishad Pai Vaidya about his experiences with commentary.
Since his playing days, New Zealand quick Danny Morrison has made a name for himself as a commentator. Now a regular, he is seen not only during international games, but also during the Indian Premier League (IPL) and some other Twenty20 (T20) leagues as a commentator. Over the years, he has developed his own style to commentary and tends to don different hats according to the format on view. CricketCountry caught up with him on the sidelines of the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2014 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) to talk to him about his experiences with commentary, T20 cricket, some of the Indian players and lots more.
CricketCountry (CC): Tell us a bit about your foray into commentary box?
Danny Morrison (DM): I did some commentary in New Zealand for the short version called Cricket Max — Martin Crowe’s idea, but it was four lots [innings] of ten overs. So, I did that in late 1997, when I finished playing. I also worked with Rebel Sports, a shopping department store. I worked for them as a sports coordinator. It was a bit of a marketing role. Between that I had done some commentary. So, I sort of moved into that. Crowe was at Sky Sports and they were trying to get more cricket on, internationally in the late 1990s. So, I did the last season of Free-To-Air Television in New Zealand in 1998-99, when India and South Africa had toured and then Sky Sports got the rights in late 1999. I toured India that year with Ian Smith. That was my first overseas gig. So, you sort of gravitate into media. Some guys have gone into the coaching role. Mine tended to be the media and I enjoyed that. I did some Radio also in 2000, hosted some shows, talk-back stuff on sport.
CC: People look at you guys and see the glamour side of commentary. But, behind the scenes, how stressful is it? Leaving behind family, traveling the world etc…
DM: You’ve got to like traveling. Again, some don’t like it as much. Some of us get used to it. When you have played a lot, lived out of suitcases and in hotels, you understand that side of the circuit. Some don’t like it. I know a few who are a bit older, have probably had enough of traveling. Smith does a bit of Rugby commentary on the sidelines. [Marty] Crowe doesn’t really like touring away too much. So, he had more of an executive role at Sky Sports. Some would prefer to be based back in their home country. It is different for me because I moved to Australia in 2006. So, I am freelancing, traveling around overseas. I had to get on the circuit a bit more by moving to Australia and doing stuff there. I made those networks. I don’t go back to New Zealand and do commentary there during the summer. I am grateful that the IPL has happened and that has been like a good timing for me. Caribbean Premier League [CPL], the Bangladesh Premier League [BPL]. That’s been good in a way, those sort of leagues sprouting up.
CC: When you started off, did you have a look at other commentators to get a hang of things and to develop your own style?
DM: At the start, I wasn’t trying to project as much. It’s interesting as I was a bit quiet. In Tests, I am quieter. With T20 coming along, you find your voice. You realise the sound effects when you listen back at it. I was getting drowned by all the noise, be it the 50-over game or T20. Test cricket is a bit more quiet. You had to learn to project to the point and you can’t just talk in that softer monotone. Yes, you learn and you need to do it quickly and develop your own style. The more you do of it, you get better. If you are playing, learning to play an instrument, you are in your job — you understand it a bit more, you get more and more involved in it and you become stronger because you obviously get experience. I think T20 has helped me in terms of being a commentator, especially in terms of having a stronger voice, being excited about it. It lends itself to my extroverted nature. But, you’re right. You look at people to see what they’ve done and what works for you. I think you’ve got to find your personality too. That’s the beautiful thing about anything, whether it is the style of a batsman, bowler or even commentator. Each one adds their own flavor to it a bit.
CC: You come across as a very jovial kind during a T20 game with your on-boundary shows etc. Is that how you are or you are more serious?
DM: I am an extrovert. I pull those faces, like to have fun and I tend to be like that. I did some pantomime when I was between sports (sic) and with my mother, we moved to a different part of Auckland. When my parents split up in the mid-70s, I went and lived with my mother’s brother. I went with my uncle over there in a different environment and between different sports. There was a bit of a lull there. My mother is from an arts and cultural background. In terms of doing pantomime, it was like doing a bit of theatre on stage and getting to know that. That was when I was 11-12 years old. In a way, that gave me a grounding to be comfortable while performing in front of people. Then you also did a family game of charades: the stuff we do at home as well. So, for me, in the IPL, whether it is on the sideline, having a bit of fun or dressing up in characters and stuff with Samir [Kochar] or Gaurav Kapoor, I like it and it suits me. That flows for me.
CC: What did the fans have to say about it to you? You must have run into quite a few in India and they would have had their comments. They must have associated with you after it…
DM: Yes I think so. T20 is a carnival, you talk about a marriage between Bollywood and cricket. It is a wonderful thing and is very unique. So, it lends itself with that music, razzmatazz etc. Indians get passionate about their cricket don’t they! So it works for that. Of course, not everyone likes what you are doing. Some people hate what I do. But, this is IPL and you got to know your audience. Not everyone likes it, so that is fine. That’s just who I am: I get excitable. But, it’s not for everyone and that is fine. Enough of the bosses think it works for the genre. Test cricket has that place, then you got 50-over and then there is T20. So it is almost like you are wearing a different hat. You tone it down for Test cricket a lot. For the 50 overs, you can still be excitable, but a bit more serious as it is a little slower. In T20, you get up a bit more high octane, high energy.
T20 is a carnival, you talk about a marriage between Bollywood and cricket
CC: How difficult is it to switch hats? In Tests, we see you very calm..
DM: Some do. But, I don’t mind it. I like doing Test cricket, a cat and mouse sort with strategies which takes time to unfold. In Test cricket you get stories to tell when situations remind me. For example, you say, ‘When [Sachin] Tendulkar did this or that.’ So, you bring that into it and if you have played enough of Test cricket, you can bring in those anecdotes that are relevant to the situation that is going on. But, at the same time, if a Test is going on and a guy hits a six, you can say, “Oh yes! That is another maximum!” Or instead of going right at the top, “Oh Beautiful! He’s got the six of the best!” It is a Test match and you can still say that because it is a six because it is powerful and big. But, you are right. You tone it down and it is a different level.
CC: You’ve enjoyed T20 as a commentator. What if you had a chance of playing it?
DM: I played 50-over cricket. Here you talk of bowling yorkers and change-ups. These days they bowl different slower balls, slower bouncers, tennis ball bouncers and wide yorkers. The game is trailing new stuff and the batsman has got so many more weapons now. They’ve got to go at you and there are only 20 overs for that. When you look at it like that, I would have liked it for sure: foxing the batsman. You also look at international players going to India to play in it. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to say that you would have liked to be on that stage. It is fast and furious. You look at Kevin Pietersen smashing it like that or a Chris Gayle hitting it. Then you have someone like a Daniel Vettori, who is a wily fox like left-arm orthodox bowler, who gets the yorker right or holds it back, figuring the right time to bowl the loopy slower ones. People thought T20 is going to be the death of the spinners. But, out of the world’s top ten, seven or eight of them are spinners. They take the pace of the ball, turn it and if you are good, you are lethal. Look at Brad Hogg. He is 43 now. If you have a good enough spinner, you have a major say in the game.
CC: But, you were a fast bowler. Bowling that to the likes of Chris Gayle…
DM: Would have been difficult? Oh yes. That’s where you’ve got to produce a good yorker. We were talking about this on air: You can produce a good yorker on call, when you want it. When we played, Wasim [Akram] and Waqar [Younis] bowled a lot of yorkers. That was in 50-over cricket as T20 wasn’t around. In T20, you have the first ten overs and the last ten. It is like a condensed form of 50-over cricket, bang there are your two lots of ten. As a quick bowler, you can bowl a good yorker or a wide yorker on call, that’s the stuff. You have got to look at Lasith Malinga, who has been so successful. He bowls the slow yorker. When he gets it right — lethal!
CC: Your views on best Indian T20 batsman and bowler?
DM: Someone like Virat Kohli, who plays all-round the clock. Don’t have to be too cheeky with the dilscoop and those things. He plays some beautiful cricket shots on both sides of the wicket. He is right up there in all forms of the game really. Rohit Sharma, with his recent double against Australia in ODIs. Again, beautiful cricket shots, over cover, straight back over the bowler’s head, over long on. They play good cricket shots. I like those two particularly. And then you have someone like a Shikhar Dhawan, who has burst onto the scene a bit. So, it is hard to say which one is the best. I’d probably go with Kohli for his all-round game.
An Indian bowler, hard to say as a lot of them have been finishing up. Harbhajan Singh is there. Zaheer Khan doesn’t have too much longer left really. He gets those yorkers right and is left-handed. Then, you’ve got some of the other spinners that are around.
You need a dramatic spinner in the mix. The under-19 kid, Kuldeep Yadav. He is like Brad Hogg, the chinaman. You watch him mature quickly and he can be a handful. So that is exciting.
It’s a shame that with the political situation, what’s going on in recent history, not a lot of Pakistanis can play in the IPL. You are missing out on someone like Saeed Ajmal. Sohail Tanvir played the first season did well. So, you get some freaky players. Shahid Afridi is there. They’ve got some star quality. Junaid Khan is developing. I’d like to see those sort of guys play in it. But, it is exciting. You’ve got a great tournament, the biggest show in terms of T20 with the marriage of Bollywood and cricket.
CC: With the IPL coming up, what can we expect from Danny Morrison, the commentator?
DM: I wonder if I’d be dressing up more in the Indian attire. I quite like the kurta, which we’ve worn in the finals. Why not wear it all the time? Because it is the IPL. Even the cheerleaders, they could be in a more traditional mode. But, anything else, let’s wait and see, as the elections are on again this year. IPL might be in South Africa or in Dubai. They are talked about as options. It will be interesting if it is here in Dubai. You had the IPL in South Africa in 2009. This [in UAE] might be interesting because it is closer for the Indians to come. You can fly here, three hours from Mumbai or nearly four hours from Delhi. You can also expect the expatriate population to come and see it. The stadiums at Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi may have some double headers. You could perhaps strategise. The bigger venues can host games on Friday or Saturday [Holidays in UAE]. The weekday games can be at Sharjah, which has a smaller capacity. You never know. It’s going to be interesting.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)