Television commentary needs more like Sourav Ganguly and Aamir Sohail

Aamir Sohail (left) and Sourav Ganguly © Getty Images

By Hamza Ahmed Khan

Most of the population in Pakistan has access to a television and the advantages that it comes with. One of these being cable TV. In fact, channels that come from across the globe dominate our ‘viewing time.’

Amidst numerous entertainment channels, mainstream channels that are solely dedicated to sports are Star Sports, Star Cricket, Ten Sports, Geo Super, ESPN and PTV Sports.

While it may be argued that the best cricket coverage and analysis are provided by Super Sports and Sky Sports, we have to admit that they have become less accessible to the mainstream cable providers over the years, and are only available after additional payment for these channels, or alternate cable TV packages.

So watching cricket matches with top-class coverage, especially with the current Indo-Pak series under way is a national concern, with cricket being a rare unifying factor in our society today.

A cricket-starved fan will tune in an hour before the game starts, to listen to what the experts think, what factors they think will drive the game, and what decisions will be crucial for the captain.

It’s a fascinating hour before the game starts. Veins pumping with adrenaline, one is excited and all geared up as one struggles to watch as many people as one can on various sports channels broadcasting the game.

Different channels employ different methods to present sports shows.

Retired cricketers, cricketers who are still in action, and senior sports journalists and analysts are employed to conduct match analyses. Although, sports analysts tend to change with every new series, sports channels, however, retain some analysts.

For example the Channel 9 team that covers all Test matches in Australia retained the lovable and exciting Tony Greig, the enthusiastic Bill Lawry, the opinionated and controversial Ian Chappell and the statesman Richie Benaud.

The Geo Super team for the Indo-Pak series is Sikandar Bakht, Yahya Hussaini and Hamid Mir. They are producing a combined Pak-India takra with an Indian channel which has Vinod Kambli, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Manoj Prabhakar.

Star Sports boasts of Ravi Shastri, Sunil Gavaskar, Navjot Sidhu and Sourav Ganguly on their team, with Arun Lal, Ramiz Raja and Wasim Akram pitching in for the ongoing series. Here you see analysts trying to score valuable patriot points and others drowning in the confusion of political correctness.

Shastri and, of late, even Gavaskar have been extremely partial. Shastri, of course, still suffers from the Indian Premier League (IPL) disease to commentate professionally. Ganguly, on the other hand, carries himself with great authority and dignity, as he did on the cricket field.

Since the last year, I have found it impossible to switch away from PTV Sports, which has associated itself with Aamir Sohail, Ali Sanwal and Dr Nauman Niaz – the team imparting the best analysis.

Although not a part of the current Indo-Pak series, Dr Nauman has been an integral part of the PTV Sports team that has injected real professionalism in sports show hosting.

PTV Sports doesn’t have flashy attractions to hold a viewers’ attention. That is why they have focused on the basics of a good match analysis and the quality of the analysts. Their analyst team for the first T20 of the Indian tour was Ali Sanwal as program host and Aamir Sohail and PJ Mir as guests.

Their coverage offers top class pre and post-match analysis, with profound emphasis on the technical details and the nitty-gritty of the game. Its direction is starkly different from other local and international channels, where the focus is more on cross-border analysts delivering subtle jibes to each other.
Most importantly, their show does not make a deliberate effort to direct viewer focus to controversial issues to generate spice and viewership.

Aamir Sohail is the shrewdest cricket analyst in Pakistan and has the talent and knowledge to be compared to the likes of Simon Hughes, Ian Chappel, Harsha Bhogle and Michael Holding. These analysts leave you with a deeper understanding of the game and a session with Sohail, Sanwal and Dr Nauman does exactly that. Ali Sanwal is now a veteran at hosting sports shows – a man of vast cricketing knowledge and experience yet humble and refreshingly boyish in attitude.

It is best when you have analysts from opposing countries discussing the game. But it is worth watching only if the analysts are willing to impart substantial knowledge. Watching Sidhu, Arun Lal and Ramiz doing Hindi commentary is a dull affair. Their coverage has set new lows in script oration. Indeed, it’s downright ridiculous.

It would be wonderful if Harsha, Ganguly, Sohail and Shoaib Akhtar were clubbed together in a show. These are refreshingly frank, reasonably unbiased and not yet products of the cliché factory. Such analyst are desperately needed as sports channels in the subcontinent are failing to bring real dynamics to a match analysis.

The trio of Aamir Sohail, Ali Sanwal and Dr Nauman are worth in gold and I truly believe sports coverage in Pakistan will only improve if it recognised as such and appreciated. Sensationalism is good, but substance will last.

(Hamza Ahmed Khan is a consultant by profession, cricket-crazed human by heart and a wanderer by choice. He breathes cricket. His Twitter handle is @GumbyAKhan. The above article is reproduced with permission from www.