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Rob Bagchi, in the Observer, pays tribute to two commentators who died within a week following illustrious careers behind the microphone.
The two adopted sons of Sussex represented best the contrasting models of commentary when the art diversified following the birth of World Series Cricket in 1977 and a defeated "establishment" handed Kerry Packer broadcasting rights to international matches in Australia as his victory spoils two years later.
In the Guardian Mike Selvey has a touching tribute for Christopher Martin-Jenkins, the cricket commentator, journalist and former MCC president, who died at the age of 67 on Tuesday
Angus Fraser pays tribute in the Independent.
Maybe it was because CMJ had a bit of the mad professor about him. His notorious difficulties with technology revealed that and my favourite anecdote came on a tour when, after a commentary stint, he tried repeatedly to phone his newspaper office using the TV remote control he had mistakenly picked up off his hotel bed.
Stephen Brenkley remembers CMJ, in the same newspaper.
CMJ's encyclopaedic knowledge, crisp voice, and perfect timing stood out, says Mike Dickson in the Daily Mail.
Scyld Berry, in the Daily Telegraph, says CMJ was the best ball-by-ball commentator that BBC's Test Match Special has had in the generation since John Arlott, and arguably the best anywhere, in any language.
The Daily Telegraph also has a collection of images capturing CMJ's life and times as a commentator and journalist.
Suhit Kelkar, writing in the Open Magazine, talks about the cult of the commentators' curse - the superstitious belief that prophesies and early judgments made my a commentator during play ultimately embarrass them. He cites various examples and tries to identify its origin.
No one knows the birth date of the Commentator's Curse, and it doesn't appear that any commentator wants to remember the birth year either. But soon after man used a stone as a hammer, the first thumb-crushing accident must have taken place. By that reckoning, the Curse has been around since the early days of radio commentary. What is known for a fact is that the term originated among BBC staffers.
A dispute over broadcasting payments has meant that Sky, the broadcasters of the India-England series in England, has a commentary team in a studio in London, as opposed to in India. An editorial in the Guardian says television viewers must be given the option of watching a match without commentary.
Most people who actually attend sports - not just cricket but football, rugby, tennis and the rest - manage to view the action in real time without the need for any commentary at all. So why don't the broadcasters give the viewers at home the same authentic experience? Muting the sound is not a satisfactory option, since it gets rid of the atmospheric ambient noise of the crowd as well as the commentary. Since few will want to watch their cricket or football in total silence, sports broadcasters should give television viewers the option of a viewing experience that retains the crowd noise but is wholly commentary free
The Age compiles a list of what one can learn while listening to a Test match on the radio.
That the pitch at the Brisbane Test was either exactly the same or completely different to one that Australia played England on about seven years ago. Also, that it is somehow possible for one affably minded broadcaster to agree with both points of view simultaneously. That an erroneous decision made under the video review system was not the fault of the third umpire, who was somehow forced to ignore the recorded evidence in front of his face and support the earlier decision made by the traditional ump, for whatever reason.
It has been a year since Peter Roebuck committed suicide in South Africa. A fan from Australia, Benjamin Golby, has written a song to mark the anniversary. "In Memoriam - P.M.R" is not an attempt at obituary for Peter Roebuck," said Golby, who is taking his Honours in Composition in Melbourne, having studied Music at the University of Western Australia. "Rather, it is a response to Mr Roebuck's death. This is what distinguishes an elegy from eulogy, in that an elegy is a personal lament rather than a detailing of its subject's qualities."
Golby wrote the song after attending a memorial service for Roebuck in Melbourne six weeks after the writer's death. "I had found Mr Roebuck's death difficult to comprehend and, when attempting to discuss it with friends, felt unable to express the confusion I felt regarding it."
In the song, Golby writes:
"Learnt of your death early on a Sunday morning hungover and consumed with my own complaints Soon after, my father telephoned touchingly to check I was okay, making sad warning Beside myself I had trotted down to the nearby oval, where I found solace watching the park cricketers"
"I feel like a charlatan saying this as a person who was personally unacquainted with Mr Roebuck but I felt the loss severely and still find it very troubling," Golby said. "I thought that this was an overreaction and was ashamed by my response until I realised that a great many others feel the same. His is not merely the case in Australia, where many felt a personal connection with Mr Roebuck through his commentary work on the ABC and the Fairfax papers. The English novelist Howard Jacobson expresses something similar in the opening paragraph of an article he wrote on the subject in the Independent.
"I assume that what is being expressed is not so much personal loss but that some dearly held idea or conviction, espoused by that person or achieving essence in them, is now lost. Fortunately ideas do not die with individuals. As has been expressed in many of the tributes written, Peter Roebuck's most significant contributions, excellence in cricket journalism and that cricket should be placed in the context of greater social and political issues, will abide."
Tony Greig, who has been a regular commentator for Channel Nine for 24 years, had a crisp style of delivering the pitch report, with the help of his car keys and later a pen. He won't be part of this season's commentary team as he has been diagnosed with cancer, and Ian Chappell says in the Daily Telegraph that it won't be the same without him.
The keys were later traded in for a biro pen after Greigy lost the key to Room 210 of a Perth hotel deep in the WACA wicket. To this day, the room key remains buried. The first Test at the Gabba have been tough for the Channel 9 team, as their old mate battles lung cancer.
Asked how he felt about Greig being absent from the Gabba, Chappell paused. "It's like when we were playing and a player was dropped or injured, it's a shock to all of a sudden not have them there," Chappell said.
Five decades in the commentary box and does Richie Benaud still get nervous? Yes, says Benaud as he tells reporter Christine Sams in the Sydney Morning Herald about his life as a commentator.
For me, commentating is wonderful because of the way cricket technology has evolved over the years. Most of all that is to do with the brilliance of the cameras, and those who stand behind them, plus the director who shapes the story. The best at those I have seen anywhere in the television world is Channel Nine's Rob Sheerlock whose voice in my ear, counting down from 10 to zero, is one of the greatest confidence boosts I know. A few things I try to remember run along the lines of 'never ask a statement', 'remember the value of the pause', and there are no teams in the TV world called 'we' or 'they'. Only little things, but I believe they make a difference.
Former English commentator Alan Gibson was arguably the most learned commentator, remarks Arunabha Sengupta in cricketcountry.com, for he turned cricket commentary into "sublime art".
With his gifted sense of inflection at appropriate moments, expressions sprinkled with wit and wisdom selected to perfection, and the keenness of eye to capture the minutest detail, Gibson was a natural genius when it came to commentary. Even with John Arlott in the box, he was easily the most erudite soul to ever grace the box of Test Match Special. When he teamed up with Arlott, as they often did during Gibson’s brief but brilliant stint, the broadcasts were graced with a double barrel of poetry, lyrical description and razor sharp humour, elevating the commentary to the level of sublime art.
Arunabha Sengupta, writing for cricketcountry.com, says John Arlott made commentary special with his ability to illustrate cricket through the imagination.
John Arlott had the unique power to weave the sights and sounds of the ground and far beyond in an intricate picture painted with words. In many ways, his was not really the archetypical BBC voice. A heavy Hampshire drawl, often emphasised to bring out his uniqueness, took the traditionalists – Rex Alston among them – more than a while to get used to. Besides, he spoke from the purest recesses of his soul and never were emotions shoved away under the modulation of professionalism.
Arunabha Sengupta, writing on cricketcountry.com, says legendary cricket commentator Rex Alston, who was part of BBC’s commentary team in the 1950s, had an exquisite style of delivery which was "youthful and slightly schoolmasterly.”
Rex Alston, who reputedly brought a grain of sanity into the box housing eccentrics like Arlott and Johnston, had his own exquisite style of delivery, which Peter Baxter termed, “Youthful and slightly schoolmasterly". Schoolmasterly or not, there has hardly been anyone in the history of cricket commentary who has escaped Brian Johnston’s famous leg-pulling. For all his pranks, Johnston maintained that Alston was “precise, meticulous, fair and unbiased.”
Arunabha Sengupta, writing for cricketcountry.com, focuses on legendary cricket commentator, from the 1930’s, Howard Marshall. He says Marshall, along with BBC director Seymour de Lotbinière, formed the equivalent of Jack Hobbs and Herbert Sutcliffe in the art of cricket commentary.
The poise and neutrality of his broadcasts were a marvel to many. When he showed a minute bit of emotion at the dismissal of Stan McCabe, Glasgow Herald wrote, “Mr Howard Marshall very successfully dispelled one false impression ... that if Bradman himself dropped dead at the wicket, (he) would not allow even such a shocking happening as this to betray him into raising his voice or indicating anything untoward has happened. When Mr. Marshall came on at 2.20 on Saturday he was describing an over by Farnes to McCabe, and the beautiful voice went easily on, soothing as sunshine to a holidaymaker taking it easy in a deck chair after a good lunch. And then there was a fearful shout as if Mr. Marshall had swallowed his tonsils. ‘He’s out.’”