I have been extremely fortunate in being able to watch all international cricket games on TV thanks to Shan Chandrasekar, the owner and promoter of Asian Television Network. Thanks to his business genius, Canadians have been able to enjoy and relish cricket on television for next to nothing. While the abundunce of cricket on TV has certainly lit up our living rooms, we have as a result, been subject to a diverse set of commentators across the globe — some good and some not quite so.
The choice for the commentary team (I believe most series have multiples sets of teams representing the respective nations/channels) has been entirely dependent on the feed source for ATN. As a result, for example, during the recently concluded series in South Africa, we were subjected to bordeline racist commentary from the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).
Folks like Barry Richards seemed to have free reign in what they could say, and therefore commented on everything from Ganguly’s mother to the selection of the Mumbai team for the Ranji Trophy. Richards’s comments irked Sunil Gavaskar too. It seemed that everytime South Africa won a game, the arrogance-levels and ignorance-levels of the commentary-team went up a notch. It was indeed a sense of relief listening to a slightly less jingoistic tune on the Indian set — provided by Ravi Shastri, et al — when I caught the last few games of that series (the games that mattered most) in India.
I have also had the opportunity in the recent past to watch less important games (from a viewership standpoint) like the Challenger Trophy. I have observed the steady rise of mediocre commentators in India as well. The likes of Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, Arun Lal, Atul Wassan, Saba Karim, Rohan Gavaskar, Nayan Mongia, et al, have certainly taken a fondness to the mike. Star value apart, the quality of their analysis and reporting is somewhat pathetic. What is most irritable about their reporting is their penchant for irresponsible comment, particularly on matters of importance such as selection and player performance. The less said about their non-perceptive, shallow reporting of actuals on the field, the better!
Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, during a recent awards ceremony gathering, responded sharply albeit professionally to some of this frivoulousness from the commentators’ box. For someone like Sachin Tendulkar to publicly snap petulantly indicates the level of disgust.
You can see the YouTube video of the Arun Lal interview with Sachin Tendulkar on the victory podium. Sachin Tendulkar’s irritation is easy to see. Moreover, at the end, watch the whole Indian team appluad Tendulkar’s retort. Also notice how Tendulkar stresses that it was because of the help from the team, fans and family that he made his comeback. In other words, “No thanks to you jokers.”
It is not necessary that only exceptional cricketers make good commentators. Mark Nicholas, for example, has done a very good job. He has a deep knowledge of the game. He reads the game well. He is unbiased. He is also non-parochial. He calls well and he is also somewhat sharp and witty. These are the traits that are required.
While, the selection of the Indian team has been outstanding in the recent past and importantly so, I am not sure that the same applies to the selection of the commentary teams around the world.
It may have something to do with the contractual obligations of production companies. However we are unable to hear/watch the likes of Sanjay Manjrekar, Ravi Shastri, or Harsha Bhogle more often. They are amongst the best from India.
I do wish there was a way that viewers could comment/vote on the quality of the commentary team — we pay for hearing them after all.
My wish list for the commentary team at the World Cup would be:
- India – Sanjay Manjrekar, Ravi Shastri, Harsha Bhogle
- Australia – Ian Chappell, Ian Healy and Mark Taylor
- Pakistan – Rameez Raja, Wasim Akram (maybe)
- England – Mark Nicholas, Naseer Hussain, Mike Atherthon, Peter Roebuck
- New Zealand – Ian Smith, Martin Crowe
- South Africa – Allan Donald, Daryl Cullinan
- West Indies – Tony Cozier, Ian Bishop, Michael Holding
- Sri Lanka – None (Roshan Mahanama was good before he took up the ICC job)