Who is the best man?
A comparative analysis of various commentators and their styles.

By Tushar Bhaduri  

In the good old days, there was only Doordarshan. There were no satellite channels and the public had no option but to watch what was served to them. The lousy and unprofessional coverage of matches is still fresh in one’s memory.

The names of commentators like Dr Narottam Puri, Ravi Chaturvedi, Sushil Doshi and Abhay Chaturvedi are fondly remembered by many. Most of them had good insight and knowledge but lacked professionalism. They also suffered from the limitation that they had not played the game at the highest level. Hence, they could not create much esteem in the minds of the viewers. What they said did not make much effect on the viewers. It is here that the players turned commentators prevailed.
The first extensive exposure that the Indian viewers had to cricket coverage was during the World Championship of Cricket(WCC) in Australia in1985. They were amazed to see such a high quality of coverage. They found the Indian coverage wanting when compared to that of Channel 9.

With the India – England series of 1992-93, foreign commentators came to India. The first ones that the Indians were exposed to were Charles Colville and Henry Bhofeld. The latter is, till date, remembered for his weakness for earrings and glasses worn by the fairer sex. Blofeld does not speak nowadays due to health problems. He is recovering from a heart attack.

Of the present lot, Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri are the main Indian commentators. Both of them do not need any introduction.

Sunil Gavaskar is one of the legends of the game. This insight into the game is brilliant. His control over  the language is great. But Sunny sometimes loses out on objectivity. He seems to focus too much on the Indian angle, which is I guess, is obvious.

But, Gavaskar seems very reluctant to criticize the Indian team. He always find some or the other excuse for their poor performance – be it poor pitches, bad umpiring decisions or simply bad luck. He feels that the Indian players, especially the stars, are the best individual players in the world. Understandably, Sunny’s voice level rises and falls with the fortunes of the Indian team on the field.

Ravi Shastri is more balanced and objective. He tends to call a spade a spade. His knowledge about the finer points of the game is also quite good. But, one finds his vocabulary  quite limited. He has some favourite words and tends to repeat them quite often. Thus, he sometimes gets a bit monotonous.

Of  the Pakistani commentators, the only name worth mentioning is Rameez Raja. His knowledge about Pakistani Cricket is very indepth. But, he too sometimes loses objectivity and stretches the Pakistani angle a bit too far.

Of the international commentators, the first name that comes to mind is that of Tony Greig. The main thing one notices about him is that you cannot make out where his loyalties lie – South Africa, where he was born, Australia where he lives, England whom he represented as a player or Sri Lanka for whom he is the ambassador. He has great analytical skills and creates an exciting atmosphere for the viewers.

Richie Benaud is universally acknowledged as the father of cricket broadcasting. He is the only one who brought respect and credibility to cricket commentary. His understanding of the nuances of the game is great. His language, voice and accent entertain the viewers in no small measure. But, Benaud mainly works for Channel 9 in Australia and rarely ventures abroad.

Ian Chappell is one of the finest commentators around. His no – prisoners approach is as much a characteristic of his commentary as it was of his cricket in his playing days. His command over language is impeccable. But, he too is not free from bias. His fascination for the Australian team becomes a bit obvious at times.

Michael Holding has created a niche for himself in a short period of time. His characteristic accent and in-depth knowledge along with his unbiased views have made him well-liked by the viewers of all countries. He has almost replaced Tony Cozier, who was universally acknowledged as the voice of West Indian Cricket , as the No.1 commentator from the Carribean.

UK’s Sky Sports boasts of many splendid commemtators, mostly notably David Gower and Ian Botham. Their respective styles and indepth knowledge are a virtual treat for the cricket enthusiast. But, they seem a bit too laidback for the average cricket fan in the sub-continent.

Now, we come to my personal favourite – Sir Geffory Boycott. His insightful and forthright comments enhance the understanding of the game for the viewers. He is completely unbiased in his remarks and it is equally difficult for everyone to get any praise out of him. Add to it, his typical Yorkshire accent and one gets a unique combination.

There are a few non – cricketing commentators around too. The one who comes readily to mind is Harsha Bhogle. His style and language have endeared him to many. He is the perfect presenter and host among other cricketing experts.

The couch potatoes are having the greatest time in cricketing terms. They are getting the most intensive coverage in the most attractive styles with various kinds of opinions, all at the push of a button – all because of a good men with a mike in hand.


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