By Venkataraman Ganesan
An integral and indispensable tenet underlying a game of cricket is the churn of voices emanating from the commentators’ box. Cricket commentary, encompassing both the radio and television versions, has left a lasting and indelible effect on the aural senses of the listener. Whilst radio commentary served as the surrogate eyes of people wanting to enjoy the thrills and spills of this pristine game from the confines of their living rooms or from vantage positions in various stands, television commentary aims at enhancing a cricket aficionado’s visual pleasure by bestowing upon him, the various nuances and intricacies pervading the game. Along with the cricketing greats, commentators (many of them former cricketers themselves) have also become household names attaining enviable status. The game of cricket would have been rendered much the poorer without the likes of John Arlott, Neville Cardus, Christopher Martin Jenkins, Richie Benaud et al.
However, along with the blistering evolution of various formats and facets of the game, the nature of commentary has also undergone a metamorphosis. The entertainment quotient being demanded of the purveyors behind the microphone has far outshone and suppressed the need for sober technicalities. A commentator who can conjure a few spontaneous lines of rap is held in far greater esteem than the one who describes to the viewers in great detail the copybook aspects of a defensive shot. This is not to say that the former is incompetent than the latter. However, with a view to please an appreciative listener, instances abound of commentators going overboard with banal humour, bland banter and blind perorations instead of sticking to the basics.
In an era where quality of cricket commentary ranges from the mesmerising to the macabre (mostly the latter), here is a humble attempt to provide to the reader, a humorous and a bird’s eye view of how the medium of cricket commentary has undergone a paradigm shift. In the following lines, I employ the hypothetical setting of Sachin Tendulkar executing a cover drive and then don the pseudo mantle of various living and dead commentators to describe the shot:
# Sir Neville Cardus: This breathtaking shot, executed more precisely than even the London Philharmonic, had the stirrings of a Mozart, the fluency of a Chopin and the finesse of a Beethoven.
# Sir John Arlott: That delivery was as deserving of a boundary as was a throat parched of quality wine. India 48-1 after 14 overs.
# Bill Lawry: It’s all happening out there! Oh it is a magnificent shot and the ball races away to the cover boundary. It’s all happening out here!
# Richie Benaud: A very good and pleasant morning to all of you wherever you are and as the sun begins to shine brightly, Sachin plays a glorious cover drive that sends the ball beyond the boundary ropes.
# Ian Chappell: This strokes illustrates in great detail not only the pedigree possessed by the batsman, but also the unique ability of peripheral awareness that characterises his game. I know one player who was totally lacking in such awareness and it was Sir Ian Botham!
# Sir Geoffrey Boycott: A great shot by Sachin! The form he is in, he could have hit it with a stick of rhubarb, the lad! However the bowling today has been absolute ‘roobish’ and my mum could have put away all the bad balls, which have been bowled in plenty and defended the good ones, which have been very rare.
# David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd: Ah! The bowlers are in for a long, long haul here! The pitch is absolutely flat and benign. The gamble of employing four pacemen is not working. There is not one puff of dust where the ball pitches. No puff of dust whatsoever!
# Michael Holding: That…….is a boundary!
# Henry Blofeld: This shot has singularly outshone the glitter emanating from the collective ear-rings adorning the pretty ears assembled in and around this cricket stadium today!
# Tony Cozier: The moment the willow made contact with the ball, it was in the latter’s destiny to be retrieved by a bunch of over optimistic ball boys manning the boundary ropes at cover!
# Navjot Singh Sidhu: Sachin stands as tall as the tallest pygmy in a public urinal and punches the ball through covers leaving the ground scorched and the fielders still and dejected like a bunch of eggs reluctant to hatch!
# Sunil Gavaskar: His head was so still when he played the shot. If you see the slow motion replay, it will be absolutely clear as to how still his head was till such time the bowler delivered the ball. The balance was perfect and so was the timing. A beautiful boundary for the Little Master of Indian cricket, Sachin Tendulkar
# Ravi Shastri: This shot would have done his confidence a world of good. The ball reaches the fence at the speed of a tracer bullet!
# Harsha Bhogle: There was only one direction towards which the ball was heading, and it was not in the direction of any of the fielders who were left standing like mute and bewildered spectators
# Laxman Sivaramakrishnan: That is a superb shot – a real Citi moment of success and a DLF maximum! Oops sorry this is not the IPL! I am so used to lending my voice for the IPL, that everything else loses perspective! Anyway a great shot resulting in four brilliant runs for the greatest batsman on the planet.
# Sourav Ganguly: The name is Sachin Tendulkar. That is a cover drive for you and the result is four runs added to the kitty.
# Ramiz Raja: A class ‘ect’ (act) this fellow. A really class ‘ect’ (act again). He puts away a poor delivery with remorseless disdain and the score moves onto 408-1, am sorry 48-1 rather!
The views of Danny Morrison do not matter!
(Venkataraman Ganesan is a Chartered Accountant by intent and a lawyer by accident. He has a maniacal penchant for books, more books, still more books and lot more books, when he is not watching cricket that is! He loves his Scotch and scribbles for fun. He blogs at www.the-venkyloquist.com)