December 23, 2009

Commentary

A code for commentators

Andrew Hughes


Richie Benaud: “… and if there are no infractions for three years, you get to wear a cream suit, just like mine” © Getty Images
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I love the ICC Code of Conduct. I read it all the time. There’s a lot of good stuff in there. Drama, pathos, tragedy, even a little romance. Oh and an awful lot of “Thou Shalt Nots”. Really, if Moses had had to bring this little lot down from the mountain, it would have taken a fortnight. I particularly like the rules on showing dissent at an umpire’s decision, which, as far as I remember, forbid a batsman from lingering overlong at the crease, raising either eyebrow quizzically (both eyebrows is a Level 2 Breach) or making sarcastic quips over the salad bowl at the post-match buffet.

Now, to be honest, I do enjoy watching the occasional dust-up on a cricket field. It brings out the Roman emperor in me, watching these gladiators tear into one another. Admittedly, I’m not sure that Nero would have been satisfied with a little bat-waving or the kind of handbag scuffles that we witnessed in Perth, but as Harbhajan is behaving himself these days, it’s the best we can do. But after a bit of an on-field set-to, there is nothing I like more than the serving up of a big steaming plate full of justice. And thanks to the ICC, there is a punishment to fit every crime.

Yes, when it comes to codes, I’ll pick the ICC version over Dan Brown’s any day. But, Haroon, I feel you can do more, much more. Television viewers may be considered the lowest of the low, even more unworthy than the plebs who pay good money to sit on uncomfortable seats amongst the drunks, but we pay our satellite subscriptions and we are entitled to at least a modicum of consideration. Hearing Shane Watson scream like a four-year-old who’s just beaten his older brother at Buckaroo is mildly troubling, but it pales into insignificance when set against the aural torture that the sofa-dweller must endure from the commentary booth.

Following recent events in Australia, impressionable youngsters may start waving their bats, scuffing the floor with their boots or pretending to hurl cricket balls at elderly ladies waiting at bus stops. I don’t have a problem with that. But what if they start to imitate their idols with microphones?

At the breakfast table yesterday, I had just delivered a smart blow to the shell of my boiled egg, whereupon my daughter declared, “When he hits them, they stay hit.” I demanded to know where she had heard that and she confessed to having stayed up late one night listening to some IPL commentary. I have informed her teachers that any other such lapses should be dealt with harshly.

So, if not for our sake, for that of our children, let’s bring in a Code of Conduct for Commentators. I’ve already made a start. Here is just a brief extract:

“Article 2.1: In describing the progress of a cricket ball from the moment it leaves the bat, no commentator shall be permitted to refer to a) tracer bullets, rockets or munitions of any description; b) imperial measurements such as a mile, a country mile or non-specific distances such as a long way, a very long way or over the hills and far away; c) specific seating areas of the stadium, particularly Rows X, Y & Z; d) interjections such as “wow”, “shot”, “gone”, “out of here” etc.

Article 2.2: In attempting to communicate technical information to the viewer, no commentator shall be allowed to employ complicated jargon likely to be difficult for the non-cricketer to grasp. Specific examples are given below:

2.2.i If you’re going to flash, flash hard. In addition to introducing an unwanted element of innuendo to a family sport, this phrase is likely to leave the viewer confused, since this use of the verb “to flash” does not appear in any dictionary.

2.2.ii Tickled that one down to fine leg. Coaching manuals are silent on the question of the tickle, and as it is not an officially sanctioned shot, it could lead to confusion, since little actual tickling is involved.

2.2.iii Got im! Used to indicate that the bowler has successfully dismissed the batsman: silence at this point is usually to be preferred, since, barring a power cut, the viewer will be fully abreast of the situation.

2.2.iv This pitch isn’t doing much. Avoid, except at those venues situated within an earthquake zone, since in the ordinary course of events, viewers will not be expecting the pitch to do anything.

I haven’t worked out all the details yet, but there will be heavy fines for transgressors, including reduced dry-cleaning allowances, withdrawal of comfy chair privileges and community service spent covering Division Two of the County Championship. Harsh, but fair, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Keywords: Commentary

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Ayemdee on (January 11, 2010, 2:57 GMT)

Mr Nicholas: "MAXIMUM!" Ummm, isn't that a six? MR Lawrey: "And he's a Victorian" Aaah, so what? Mr Warne: "getting his balls in the "right area"" What about the old fashioned "line and length"? Mr Greig: "Marvellous shot!" Der! Obviously

(Sir) R Benaud was once quoted as saying that unless you can add something to what is happening on the fiels (as a commentator), then it is best to say nothing. Nuff Said!

Posted by keralite on (December 27, 2009, 15:03 GMT)

Isn't "tickling to the....and got im" .. used by Richie Benaud? I just want to say one thing.. .. I enjoy the crazy commentary as much as you enjoy "the occasional dust-up on a cricket field". Also I am happy (being an Indian) to know that your daughter has stayed up late to watch ipl ( or listen to the commentary)

Posted by mikeywhisperingdeathholding on (December 26, 2009, 23:06 GMT)

some time ago - and for maybe two tours we had Sidhu on the radio broadcast back in australia. Local broadcast probably but jim maxwell and glen mitchell were also on. I loved Sidhu - he was original, funny and very wacky... bit like kerry o'keefe - but deeper. More please!!!!!

Posted by jamshed on (December 26, 2009, 18:22 GMT)

Benaud is the undisputed master.Next comes Ian Chappell.Tony Greig is insufferable,loud and extremley biased.I also enjoy listening to Ian Bishop,David Gower and Harsha Bhogle.It is disappointing that only former Cricketers become commentators these days.They are not necessarily very articulate and most of them,if anything,are rather annoying.John Arlott is such a revered name and he was not a former Test Cricketer.

Posted by vish on (December 26, 2009, 17:06 GMT)

Agree with JB completely. Mark Nicholas - OMG !! its almost disgusting the way he fawns over any australian cricketers .. whatever happened to the pommie pride ?? i like nasser hussain though.Quite balanced and one of the best at the moment.

Posted by andy(england) on (December 26, 2009, 12:56 GMT)

hey mate dont kill the excitement in the game. restricting commentators would only make it boring since they have to think twice before saying anything and by the time they utter some words the actions is long happened..well i know the ICC is trying best to cripple the game but the article is bullshit.. are you guys trying so hard to kill the game....come on.

Posted by JB on (December 26, 2009, 10:38 GMT)

I always have to go for the mute when Mark Nicholas enters the commentary box. The accent. The smarmy delivery. Terrible! Anyone who has exclaimed "Crikey O'Reilly!" after seeing a six hit should immediately be sacked and possibly jailed. Why he gets to interview most guests on Channel 9 I'll never know....even Richie Benaud looks like he wants to punch him!

Posted by ShortLegsLongArms on (December 26, 2009, 9:29 GMT)

Tracer rounds (bullets) have, for various reasons not presently relevant, a lesser velocity than "normal" rounds, at least over longer distances. Hence it makes not sense to liken a shot hit with power and timing to the boundary to a tracer round. Better to drop the modifer completely.

Posted by donaveraged99 on (December 26, 2009, 5:16 GMT)

Well this jargon made it interesting didn't it? I grew up watching a lot of world-series cricket and i just loved it. Specials were lawry's "Got 'im" , "ripper", "buzz around the gabba". Benauds calmness contrasted lawry's enthusiasm- it was a perfect mix. Somehow it lacked elsewhere- english commentators barring maybe Lloyd were too demure. Allots or willis's voice reminds us of a glum autumn day in london. Australias up-coming commentators are rubbish - healy,taylor included. The lowest point in commentary was of course the DLF maximum crap. but a lot has been said on that already. Bias is understandable but somehow it is very pathetic to see grown up men having orgasms when their favorite players do well. As the article seemingly points towards the indian commentators. I may add that despite being biased Gavaskar and shastri are quite al right. However Shiv is total crap, and sometimes you wonder what language he speaks.Maybe the worst after athar-ali-khan.

Posted by lukas on (December 26, 2009, 4:37 GMT)

on a second note i personally like the commentary of Greig, benaud, haysman,bishop, and mark nicholas , Ramiz Raja's a load of crap and so are most of NZ commentators. Sri lankan commentators are too afraid to express their views barring Russel Arnold who is quite good. English commentators - willis,allot etc are useless old-lady's . Bhogle is an entertaining commentator but he speaks a lot of BS. Shivaramakrishnan and arun lal are ear-sores and so irritating to hear.Gavaskars quite ok but biased. And shastri in the same league. Nuff zed. Oh and athar-ali khan needs english lessons.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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