Commentary December 23, 2009

A code for commentators


Richie Benaud: “… and if there are no infractions for three years, you get to wear a cream suit, just like mine” © Getty Images

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