Monday, March 21, 2011

Nonsense and Non-sensibility: The tale of the commentator

I read this brilliant piece today. It was a column written by Avirook Sen in Saturday's edition of DNA on the Indian commentator and their attempt at being funny. It's quite a torture for the viewer when they're on the receiving end of Sidhus, Shastris and Gavaskar giving their expert opinion of a game. Some times, I cringe in embarassment and wonder if my dream of becoming a cricket writer would mean interacting with people like these. But then I remember that everything has a good and bad, so I look at the brighter side, which is the game, and keep dreaming.

Navjot Singh Sidhu, Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar are slightly refined versions of Arun Lal, Charu Sharma and Kishore Bhimani. Now that doesn't do justice to anyone. I remember watching India's 1997 tour of South Africa. The series was covered on Star Sports with everyone of the above people except Sidhu (who was playing international cricket at that time) as part of the commentary team. Star Sports and ESPN were two different entities at that time and Harsha Bhogle was part of ESPN. The match was the second test at Durban where Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin had that great partnership. There was one ball I remember which was bowled by Allan Donald. Sachin was on strike and Charu Sharma was in the commentary box. The ball was short and Sachin pulled it for four. Charu says, "He's pulled. Ah! He connected well! Four runs to midwicket. Great stroke." Now Charu might have thought that what he said made perfect sense, but I still laugh because it sounded daft then when I was in Class 9. It sounds funnier even now.

In his article, Mr. Sen speaks about how unfunny the Indian commentator is. He has made jabs at Sunil Gavaskar and Navjot Singh Sidhu, but I feel Mr. Sen has left Shastri out. The trio of Sidhu, Shastri and Sunil are full of Shit and unfortunately, we're on the receiving end of it. The channels may argue that it's good for the show. The advertiser may say, "But you remember what they said so it works." I'm sure that it does and there are people laughing, but like Mr. Sen said, these experts, especially Sidhu has this habit of inturrupting someone when they're talking sense. For the true cricket lover, that's the piss off.

Sidhu, Shastri and Gavaskar aren't the only problems in the commentary box. I have some serious issues with the likes of Tony Greig and Danny Morrison, who again have their own style of bad humour. In the 1998 Sharjah Series, popularly known as Sachin's Desert Storm, Sachin had hit Tom Moody back over his head for six. Tony Greig in the commentary box says, "The little man has hit the big man for a six. He's half is size." Now, if that isn't a Sidhu, I don't know what is.

Danny Morrison also tries really hard to be funny. He repeatedly says "Gee, Whiz!" like an 80s hero and tries to be the standup comic in the commentary box. Rarely it's funny. Most times it's not.

From the funny commentators, we have really boring commentators. The Pommie Mbwangas, the Saurav Gangulys, the Russel Arnolds fall into this category. In Ganguly's defence, however, he's a much better panel expert because he knows the game and makes a lot of sense while talking, if only Sidhu didn't interrupt him ever time he opened his mouth.

Then you have the really good commentators. Benaud, Holding, Chappell, Lawry and more recently David Lloyd, Mark Taylor, Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain. They talk sense and only talk when they need to. The good thing is that they're still a large number, even if the crap is significantly larger.
Richie Benaud is still the best commentator today

But with the good, you also have the really bad. The class of commentators I mentioned at the beginning are in the elite company of Wasim Akram, Ramiz Raja, Athar Ali Khan and Sanjay Manjrekar. It's a pity about Manjrekar, though. He started off really well and now he just talks rubbish. It's the Shastri effect, I guess.

As for Harsha Bhogle, he's more of a cricket presenter than a commentator. Someone at work sent me something someone she knows wrote about him. This is what it said:

HB is a self styled PR man of SRT and has built his career around eulogising him . while this article is justified , there have been many cases during his career where he has chosen to ignore all the failings of the man , he sees only one side of the SRT
These days i take HBs view with a bagful of salt . That said he was a fabulous commentrator on Radio when he made his debut in australia 90-91 series ( incidently SRTs first Aussie tour and that where he displayed glimses of his impending greatness ) . He was outstanding there and a couple of other times he was on radio . once the TV bug bit him , it has been a huge letdown . These days just cant stand him on TV
All IMO please . no offence meant to anybody.

I still like Harsha. In my view, he's been a Sachin loyalist, yes, but there's no denying that he's still very passionate about the game. If his commentary has gone down, it's probably because of his colleagues who are crap.

Worst case scenario, if we're in need for commentary, we can always watch a match through Twitter or tune into a podcast like TestMatchSofa. Hopefully someday, we cricket lovers will be part of the sofa rahter than inside a studio listening to Sidhu opening his mouth.

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