February 22, 2010

Where did opinion go?

All too few men stand between us and the mind-numbing drivel that commentators and players spew these days
65

As 2009 drew to a close, an atypical cricket-related comment emanating from unusual quarters startled and delighted us, and provided a much-needed giggle. A phlegmatic observation by Phil Stoyanoff, the curator of the McLean Park cricket ground in Napier, illustrated a quality cricket has lost in recent times. Questioned about his insistence that the pitch he had prepared for the deciding Test against Pakistan would produce a result, he said, "Yes, because both sides have such bad batsmen. That's my honest opinion - they're useless."

Even before the drum roll had subsided, the damage controllers had been flown in. The PR manager for the New Zealand cricket board practically implored anyone he spotted to "use [Stoyanoff's] comments in context and with restraint". While the well-oiled spin machine had been concentrating on monitoring and orchestrating Daniel Vettori's utterances in front of the press corps, an errant microphone stuck under the nose of an unsuspecting member of the supporting cast had breached the façade.

"Opinions are like a**holes. Everybody has one." So observed a glint-eyed Dirty Harry. Those were the seventies and Harry's wisdom would have been out of place in cricket in the new millennium. The 2000s were cricket's first global television decade. A decade when every cricket utterance reached us bleached, filtered, sanitised, and sans any semblance of opinion. Insight and introspection gave way to inanities of such mind-numbingly repetitive nature that players and commentators blurred into each other - like they had all been sent to finishing school, drilled by Professor Henry Higgins. "Your lips move, but I can't hear what you are saying" sang we, the comfortably numb, as yet another captain released a stream of nothingness into a microphone far away.

Cricket matches of all ilk sprouted year-round and worldwide, like weeds in a time-lapse National Geographic video. As blanket television coverage of events was beamed out incessantly, we had to endure the ubiquitous ritual of the post-match ceremony, the epilogue to every encounter, providing the perfect embodiment of the vacuous nature of the spoken word in cricket over the last decade. Breathless presenters, who appeared to have watched an entirely different match than the one beamed out to us, orchestrated these affairs from logo-laden platforms bearing rows of dignitaries, a la police-identification line-ups. Captains and men of the match dished out homilies, platitudes and pockets of wind.

Dhoni? Ponting? Smith? Strauss? Did it matter? No, for "we were 30 runs short on the day" anyway. Thirty runs short? You were just one run short, but let us not mention the atrocious bowling by your frontliners.

"I just wanted to play every ball on its merit"? Not quite. You spent the first 10 overs fanning your off stump.

"We needed our bowlers to take early wickets". Oh yeah? No shit, Sherlock.

As Ravi Shastri breathed hard like Darth Vader in pregnant pauses mid-question, and as Ramiz Raja entangled himself irretrievably in the web of grammar, players retaliated with, "The team cause was more important for me."

The prized place in the pantheon of inane verbiage that the decade begat has to go to "the right areas", which brooks no competition as the poster child of the malaise afflicting cricket interviews and press conferences. And in the latter half of the decade it came with the perfect accompanying visual - one of a doleful Monty Panesar.

As blanket television coverage of events was beamed out incessantly, we had to endure the ubiquitous ritual of the post-match ceremony, the epilogue to every encounter, providing the perfect embodiment of the vacuous nature of the spoken word in cricket

Making a much-ballyhooed delayed entrance in the third Ashes Test match of the 5-0 whitewash England were handed out in 2006-07, Monty immediately nailed Justin Langer, bowled by a drifting and dipping beauty. When asked later on the sidelines by Mark Taylor about that perfect delivery, Monty, looking like he was about to burst into tears, mumbled, "I just tried to get the ball into the right areas." It evoked images of coaches scheming and plotting with their bowlers, hovering over low-lit tables, moving pins around the "areas" of a pitch map, like General Patton in his bunker pondering the Normandy landing.

Live commentary, a well-established source for opinion and analysis, was scrubbed clean too. Erstwhile opinionated voices were now contracted by ratings- and revenue-obsessed cricket boards, and matches were accompanied by the voices of cheerleaders. Too wary of saying anything substantial, they concentrated on honing their clichés and giggling away with their co-hosts. Even the once edgy and opinionated-by-nature Sunil Gavaskar had begun to sound like a chirpy choirboy as the decade ended.

The scalpel was wielded now and then, but all too rarely. Like when Geoffrey Boycott spluttered, "In my day we didn't indulge in any of that nancy-boy stuff" as the ritual of batsmen coyly touching gloves mid-pitch unfolded between overs.

Ian Healy, Tony Greig, L Sivaramakrishnan, Arun Lal, Michael Slater, Ranjit Fernando, Ian Bishop, Danny Morrison, Kepler Wessels, Robin Jackman, Waqar Younis, Aamer Sohail blended seamlessly into the commercials and background noise of the crowd. Exceptions in the form of the thoughtfulness of Mike Atherton, the loquacious openness of Harsha Bhogle, or the schoolboyish enthusiasm masking a keen insight of a Mark Taylor did exist, but by and large white noise was what we got.

However, nestled amid "right areas", "tracer bullet", "if you are going to flash, flash hard", "not enough dot balls", "it's all happening out here today", "looks like a good pitch for batting" and "the boys gave it their best", there is hope. Flowers can and will burst through the weeds occasionally. Mr Stoyanoff aside, as the new decade dawns on us, the hopes and expectations of the cricketing world were gamely and boldly being borne by two individuals at least: Virender Sehwag and Graeme Swann.

Sehwag single-handedly has done enough to warrant being appointed spokesperson for every match India plays. Picture this: as the winning captain of the Delhi Daredevils in an inconsequential game in the second IPL (his team had already qualified for the semi-finals), Sehwag was asked by a hyperventilating Ravi Shastri how his team motivated itself for the match.

"There is always an incentive to play hard. The team management has promised $50,000 for each win. So there is an incentive," said a poker-faced Viru.

His views on an upcoming tour of New Zealand and the kind of pitches he expected: "If they give us bouncy and seaming tracks, they will struggle against our attack, because their batsmen are not technically sound."

He has also demonstrated that he is equally proficient with foot-in-mouth as he is with tongue-in-cheek, as when he branded the Bangladesh bowling attack "ordinary" the day before India went down like ninepins in Chittagong this year. But get past his arsenal of clichés - the "of course", the "obviously", and the "see the ball, hit the ball" - and Sehwag never fails to elicit a chuckle or raise an eyebrow with a straight-faced gem.

Swann packs some serious insights into his seemingly cheeky and flippant remarks every time he spots a microphone.

"I want my MBE now," he retorted after England clinched the 2009 Ashes, those five words speaking volumes about the aftermath of the previous edition in England.

Asked about his immediate feelings on taking the wicket that sealed the series, he responded with, "I am not really sure. I think I was too busy sliding around midwicket on my knees, looking like a cheap Italian footballer".

Man of the Match at the tense draw in Centurion in December: "We [England] are single-handedly saving Test cricket right now."

Bless them. And may they win many a Man of the Match award in the coming year, thereby redeeming their anodyne brethren and providing solace to our numbed ears.

"In a world full of audio and visual marvels, may words matter to you and be full of magic," wrote English journalist Godfrey Smith. Alas, amid the sensory overload of those marvels, words have ended up victims, trampled in the stampede. Players and commentators, prodded and pressured for soundbites relentlessly, have eschewed wit, humour, incisiveness and openness for mumbling. Exceptions arrive like a bolt from the blue now and again, the element of surprise having more to do with rarity than relevance. Anil Kumble's impeccable impersonation of Bill Woodfull after the ugliness of the Test match in Sydney early in 2008 stood out - not only for its nod to an epochal event but for the power of the words, and for Kumble's intent to express an opinion. Reminding us that in this world of audio and visual marvels, words can be magical too.

Sriram Dayanand is a writer based in Canada

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • SRT_Jammy_Dada_VVS_and_Anil_legends on February 23, 2010, 22:38 GMT

    If only there was a way of muting the commentary without missing out on the crowd and atmosphere noise... and of course there was the ridiculousness of Danny Morrison screaming about DLF Maximums or Citi Moments of Success as if they were the rarest events to have ever happened on this planet.

  • vijay__________ on February 23, 2010, 18:02 GMT

    And another boring piece of commentary is when yuvraj singh misfields.They stereotypical Ravi Shastris and Gavaskars would begin sayin,"You wont see yuvraj do that often"!

  • on February 23, 2010, 16:43 GMT

    Sehwag is straight forward whether he is batting or talking. He speaks what he is thinking like his careless batting style. He is again not scare about who is bowling like he is not bother about the reaction for his speech. He is something different from others again like his attacking batsmanship. The game needs such volatile batsman and character to entertain us.

  • donovancarragher on February 23, 2010, 15:26 GMT

    As an Englishman, my favourite commentators are usually WI and NZ, and subcontinentals when its not the IPL. Aussies are good, often with a dry sense of humour, but tend to support Australia too much. English are boring (apart from Boycott and Hussain, who are the only ones who combine opinion with expertise in my opinion) and the worst must be the saffas: some of them practically appeal for LBWs when SA bowl, then sound like they're going to cry when SA are losing!

  • the_cooz on February 23, 2010, 11:09 GMT

    Sriram, great article. Someone needed to bring this up BADLY. I too am sick of the same cliched/stupid/inane/give-it-any-name-you-want comments from today's commentators. The subcontinental and English comms are the worst - boring, for the most part (except Bumble/Sidhu/Holding/Boycott), English-language deficient (all subcontinentals, except Bhogle/Shastri, although they get annoying too) and not outspoken/honest (except Hussain/Boycott/Atherton at times). The Aussie comms tend to be very biased (esp. Greig/Slater/Nicholas/Lawry sometimes); Richie Benaud is legendary though. I'm sad he's giving up colour commentary. RSA/WI comms tend to be good (esp. Shaun Pollock/Jackman/Dujon/Holding as before/Bishop), as do NZ comms (esp. Smith/Richardson/Doull/Crowe - Craig McMillan tends to frustrate me though, with his boring, monotone voice). But, as you said, the ones who can liven up a game with their commentary with honesty and outspokenness are, sadly, too far and few between now.

  • Teece on February 23, 2010, 10:51 GMT

    This summer's coverage was a leap backwards. Chappelli has become my favourite now you hardly hear from Richie. Tubby's grown on me a lot, and Warney's engaging. Heals is good with the technical side, but a pain in the arse. The rest are getting worse. Notice how Bill Lawry calls Hauritz "Horrace"? I think it's because he does so little research for his job that he's never actually seen it written down.

  • beardeye on February 23, 2010, 9:40 GMT

    The reason professionals give such bland, 'media friendly' answers (in the UK especiallly) is because journalists are so quick to jump on any statement made which could cause controversy.

    I hope the irony is not lost on you Sriram

  • waspsting on February 23, 2010, 7:50 GMT

    thats a wonderful article. its become so mind-numbing that i'd hardly noticed what commentary had become - and i'm glad Sehwag is a straight shooter. with that in mind, i'd like to share my favorite piece of comentary ever - this probably happened in the late eighties.

    there was a very close appeal for LBW turned down. as the replays showed it to have been plumb, the commentators watched in silence for a couple of seconds. Tony Lewis, a diplomat if ever there was one, broke the silence.

    Lewis - "that was very, very close. I think it was juuuust missing off-stump." Boycott - "I agree. It would have hit middle!"

  • venkatesh018 on February 23, 2010, 6:05 GMT

    It is one more sad reflection of the path cricket is taking in the modern commercial era,that even reputed past cricketers mouth inane,repetitive comments without any forthright opinion on larger issues like dead batsman friendly pitches,the role of IPL in condensing the ranji season,ill conceived scheduling of two match test series between major opponents etc. Still we will do well to savour the last remaining gems among commentators like Michael Holding,Atherton,Nasser Hussain,Harsha bhogle,Ian Smith,Tony Cozier. most of the others have long ago given up and shouldered arms to the bcci.

  • TheOnlyEmperor on February 23, 2010, 5:05 GMT

    @inswing's comments : Commentating is not about ball to ball commentary. The TV medium is not the radio! It's about maintaining viewer interest and excitement. Many a time, the most interesting parts of commentary to a viewer are when an incident is recounted or even idle banter. Commentating is an art and the subject need not necessarily have to be on-field proceedings all the time. There's a distinct difference in style between a pair of English commentators and say Indian commentators. They seek out each other opinions and make skimming jousting comments on each other's views to spice up things, instead of being all heavy and stiffjacketed in approach. Then there's something called 'speech pattern' and a training in that would help. A positive presentation/construction of a view/sentence helps....Like a wiseman said 'Everything that needs to be said has already been said, it's how you say it now, that makes the difference'. Maybe that should be food for thought!

  • SRT_Jammy_Dada_VVS_and_Anil_legends on February 23, 2010, 22:38 GMT

    If only there was a way of muting the commentary without missing out on the crowd and atmosphere noise... and of course there was the ridiculousness of Danny Morrison screaming about DLF Maximums or Citi Moments of Success as if they were the rarest events to have ever happened on this planet.

  • vijay__________ on February 23, 2010, 18:02 GMT

    And another boring piece of commentary is when yuvraj singh misfields.They stereotypical Ravi Shastris and Gavaskars would begin sayin,"You wont see yuvraj do that often"!

  • on February 23, 2010, 16:43 GMT

    Sehwag is straight forward whether he is batting or talking. He speaks what he is thinking like his careless batting style. He is again not scare about who is bowling like he is not bother about the reaction for his speech. He is something different from others again like his attacking batsmanship. The game needs such volatile batsman and character to entertain us.

  • donovancarragher on February 23, 2010, 15:26 GMT

    As an Englishman, my favourite commentators are usually WI and NZ, and subcontinentals when its not the IPL. Aussies are good, often with a dry sense of humour, but tend to support Australia too much. English are boring (apart from Boycott and Hussain, who are the only ones who combine opinion with expertise in my opinion) and the worst must be the saffas: some of them practically appeal for LBWs when SA bowl, then sound like they're going to cry when SA are losing!

  • the_cooz on February 23, 2010, 11:09 GMT

    Sriram, great article. Someone needed to bring this up BADLY. I too am sick of the same cliched/stupid/inane/give-it-any-name-you-want comments from today's commentators. The subcontinental and English comms are the worst - boring, for the most part (except Bumble/Sidhu/Holding/Boycott), English-language deficient (all subcontinentals, except Bhogle/Shastri, although they get annoying too) and not outspoken/honest (except Hussain/Boycott/Atherton at times). The Aussie comms tend to be very biased (esp. Greig/Slater/Nicholas/Lawry sometimes); Richie Benaud is legendary though. I'm sad he's giving up colour commentary. RSA/WI comms tend to be good (esp. Shaun Pollock/Jackman/Dujon/Holding as before/Bishop), as do NZ comms (esp. Smith/Richardson/Doull/Crowe - Craig McMillan tends to frustrate me though, with his boring, monotone voice). But, as you said, the ones who can liven up a game with their commentary with honesty and outspokenness are, sadly, too far and few between now.

  • Teece on February 23, 2010, 10:51 GMT

    This summer's coverage was a leap backwards. Chappelli has become my favourite now you hardly hear from Richie. Tubby's grown on me a lot, and Warney's engaging. Heals is good with the technical side, but a pain in the arse. The rest are getting worse. Notice how Bill Lawry calls Hauritz "Horrace"? I think it's because he does so little research for his job that he's never actually seen it written down.

  • beardeye on February 23, 2010, 9:40 GMT

    The reason professionals give such bland, 'media friendly' answers (in the UK especiallly) is because journalists are so quick to jump on any statement made which could cause controversy.

    I hope the irony is not lost on you Sriram

  • waspsting on February 23, 2010, 7:50 GMT

    thats a wonderful article. its become so mind-numbing that i'd hardly noticed what commentary had become - and i'm glad Sehwag is a straight shooter. with that in mind, i'd like to share my favorite piece of comentary ever - this probably happened in the late eighties.

    there was a very close appeal for LBW turned down. as the replays showed it to have been plumb, the commentators watched in silence for a couple of seconds. Tony Lewis, a diplomat if ever there was one, broke the silence.

    Lewis - "that was very, very close. I think it was juuuust missing off-stump." Boycott - "I agree. It would have hit middle!"

  • venkatesh018 on February 23, 2010, 6:05 GMT

    It is one more sad reflection of the path cricket is taking in the modern commercial era,that even reputed past cricketers mouth inane,repetitive comments without any forthright opinion on larger issues like dead batsman friendly pitches,the role of IPL in condensing the ranji season,ill conceived scheduling of two match test series between major opponents etc. Still we will do well to savour the last remaining gems among commentators like Michael Holding,Atherton,Nasser Hussain,Harsha bhogle,Ian Smith,Tony Cozier. most of the others have long ago given up and shouldered arms to the bcci.

  • TheOnlyEmperor on February 23, 2010, 5:05 GMT

    @inswing's comments : Commentating is not about ball to ball commentary. The TV medium is not the radio! It's about maintaining viewer interest and excitement. Many a time, the most interesting parts of commentary to a viewer are when an incident is recounted or even idle banter. Commentating is an art and the subject need not necessarily have to be on-field proceedings all the time. There's a distinct difference in style between a pair of English commentators and say Indian commentators. They seek out each other opinions and make skimming jousting comments on each other's views to spice up things, instead of being all heavy and stiffjacketed in approach. Then there's something called 'speech pattern' and a training in that would help. A positive presentation/construction of a view/sentence helps....Like a wiseman said 'Everything that needs to be said has already been said, it's how you say it now, that makes the difference'. Maybe that should be food for thought!

  • TheOnlyEmperor on February 23, 2010, 4:47 GMT

    Continuing ... The case put up by ex-cricketers that they are supposedly the best people to comment because "they know what it's like out there", doesn't hold water. Being a good soldier doesn't make him a good analyst or a strategist. Or for that matter consider F-1. Does one have to be an ex F-1 driver to figure out quality of performance and glaring mistakes done by drivers? In fact the commentators proximity to the game, the team and to certain players prevents objectivity in the comments and an incisive sharpness often necessary to critically evaluate player and team performance in a given situation. Of course, there'll be tons of fans who won't react well to criticism of their icons or pointing out their blindspots - but serious commentating is not a popularity game, if the commentators are genuine well wishers of the game! Frankly, there's many a time when I mute the TV to cut off commentary and that's always at the cost of missing out on crowd excitement. Anybody listening?

  • Raju_Iyer on February 23, 2010, 4:36 GMT

    I do not agree that ex-cricketers like Ravi Shastri make for boring commentators. Many talked of using the Mute button, I do the reverse here in Singapore where I can't get radio commentary. Often I use a wireless headphone to listen to the TV commentary when I'm not in front of the screen. Excitement ? What a hue and cry the purists made when Mandira Bedi dubuted on Sony during the 2003 world cup !Honest opinions? Even a great like Allan Border was not spared by Ricky Ponting for criticising his absurd tactics during the Nagpur test when he asked Hussey to bowl instead of going for the kill when India were 6 wickets down!And later Ponting complained how "hurt" he was by Allan's cricism... Come on guys, let's get real, while it is fun to read an article like Sriram's once in a while, imagine if every commentator tried to be "exciting" , surely there is cricinfo's live coverage for that .... !!

  • TheOnlyEmperor on February 23, 2010, 4:34 GMT

    I don't know of a single Indian commentator who can keep his sense of humor and enthusiasm up when the home team is down. If the word 'pressure' is banished from the dictionary , all these guys would be rendered speechless. And this is followed by an utterly morbid view of the situation if a couple of wickets were to fall. There is no sense of upliftment, excitement and hope that comes out in the commentary. While the opposition tailenders are supposed superstars, when it comes to Indians it's the pitch that plays the devil. Let's get one thing straight, if you have to blame the pitch, the team is downright incompetent! I'm an SRT fan, but I've not yet seen any commentator speaking of SRT's obvious flaws - like going into a shell and digging deeper into a hole when the team is in a tight situation typically in the 4th innings, or the fact that he can't handle the inswinger - at all! Let's have some honest plain -speak commentary for once! It'll do the game tons of good!

  • on February 23, 2010, 1:46 GMT

    I disagree with the comments on Australian commentators. They are always willing to give their opinions on players and the state of the game. There are of course cliches but not like some of the other countries commentating teams. It is always fun listening to the commentary on channel 9.

  • dunbarfire on February 23, 2010, 0:47 GMT

    Tms with Tony Cozier, Mike Atherton, Boycott and Holding are the only ones worth listening to. I also like shane warne from time to time, but he does have a tendency to be slightly biased.

  • scritty on February 22, 2010, 22:25 GMT

    What happened to Navjot Singh Sidhu? His commentary stints (esspecially those along side Geoff Boycott) were absolute gems. Shame there's not so much of that these days.

  • Inswinging_Yorker on February 22, 2010, 20:28 GMT

    Sriram, your thoughts and writing are refreshingly new. Where have you been all this while ? Hope to see more from you .

  • Sri_chicago on February 22, 2010, 20:02 GMT

    And not to forget the good guys: Boycott, Atherton, Ian Chappell, Tony Cozier, Mark Taylor, Bill Lawry, Nasser Hussain are really cool (the last two for being outspoken and forthright). Some others who are decent: David Lloyd, Slater, Mark Richardson, Mark Nicholas (although he has slipped quite a few rungs much like the Gavaskars and Bhogles).

    I still enjoy Channel 9 - all others are rubbish - yeah incl. Sky Sports when England plays. Most of them (Sky) drone on and put you to sleep. There is seldom any excitement in the Sky panel - actually they look happier and more comfortable when it's raining and they are being filmed in the studio, being critical or whatever of whoever. Channel 4 was outstanding - I watched the 2005 Ashes and it was immensely enjoyable for the coverage and commentary as well as the cricket itself. Pity it got kicked out by Sky.

  • Chin9 on February 22, 2010, 17:38 GMT

    heheh....great article and Thanks Cricinfo for allowing Mr. Dayanand to air his views. I used to love Sunil Gavaskar but as mentioned in this column even a person of his status is getting bogged down by BCCI and Indian broadcasters. I think at the end of the day everyone wants to get paid. And no one cares what people want. (Cricinfo is an exception and kudos to them!)

    I think the best duo was Mr. Boycott and Mr. Gavaskar. Can we bring them back?

    Also, I don' think Indian broadcasters will ever allow Sehwag into commentary box after he retires.

  • inswing on February 22, 2010, 17:26 GMT

    The fact is that there are just not enough insightful things to be said to fill time. Some commentators are a little better than others, but basically everyone must rely on cliches. Any match situation has happened 1000 times before, and what players should be trying to do is mostly self-evident. You can't really blame commentators because they have so much time fill. Next time you watch a match, try this. Say two or three sentences, aloud, on every ball that you wouldn't mind being broadcast. See what "insights" you can come up with on every ball or even every few balls. So, the batting team needs partnerships and the bowling team needs wickets? There is no solution, except the situation can be mitigated by (1) encourage the commentators to talk less. They can go a few balls without saying anything, its okay, and (2) viewers should reduce their expectation that they must hear something ingenious every ball or every over. Commentrators will say many things you already knew, relax.

  • GrahamLloyd on February 22, 2010, 16:21 GMT

    Great article. My pet hates are " taking something positive out of the game" ( we've just been thrashed ), " the line belongs to the umpire" ( No. He's there to adjudicate on where someones foot / bat is.) and " obviously" ( The record for overuse of this word currently held by Wayne Parnell, approx 18 times in one interview.)

  • sack123 on February 22, 2010, 15:50 GMT

    Ravi Shastri is truly the "Caliph of cliches" e.g. .. almost every presentation ceremony he will start with ... "over 550 runs scored ... blah blah"

  • Vkarthik on February 22, 2010, 15:48 GMT

    I am glad someone has brought this up. We have been discussing about this for years.

    1) It will do his confidence world of good (Ravi)

    2) He got the elevation not the distance, or got the distance not the elevation or got the distance and elevation - (L Siva)

    3) Something is gonna give ( Pretty much everyone)

    4) They need a partnership (everyone)

    etc.. there are tons of them.. don't have to write all of these. Our subcontinental commies have to change a lo.t

  • donovancarragher on February 22, 2010, 15:39 GMT

    I must assume that PottedLambShanks watches a different Sky Sports to the one I do. Sky's commentary is unbelievably repetitive and cliche-ridden and has none of the charm that Channel 4 used to have. I will admit that Sky's commentators are certainly not afraid to criticise the players and officials, though, and for that alone it is a lot better than the IPL cheerleading team. But on the whole I would rather listen to a power drill than Ian Botham's boorish "insights"

  • katochnr on February 22, 2010, 15:28 GMT

    haha when you started i thought no way you gotta mention sehwag separately which you did .. aye and the man there is right .. sky sports has an excellent team and it is always fun watching stuff happening in england ..

  • CricketMaan on February 22, 2010, 14:48 GMT

    Dhoni - 'well ofcourse you can say that......' and answers in 1000 lines for 1 question. Ponting -'Yeah....and goes on and on and on...... Inzy - 'Thanks to allah..(nothing wrong with that)..but even in a loss !! Ravi - 'The last thing India need is a wicket here....' Bill Lawry - the famous 'Goooone.....' Harsha - Caught in between cricket and english vocabulary Arun Lal - 'Really, harsha, rk...' of whoever is in front of him

  • CricketMaan on February 22, 2010, 14:41 GMT

    Its no more an art, unlike the radio days where the commentators had a big role to bring the picture infront of the listener. I cant blame the new age commentators especically the just retired pros, did you know Brad Hodge did Ind-SL series, that i thought was horrible. They are paid and taken care of, to keep the sponsors, advertisers, boss, producer happy. These days the producers especially Indian broadcasters doesnt even allow them to get excited after a wicket falls, as midway they are cut for a commercial break. I used to run to my friends house when i was a school kid just to listen to Channel 9 commentary and I still do enjoy it. Not that i dont when i watch matches in India, but its become monotonous, you almost can lip sync after a wicket, or no wicket for a while. Remember the famous Ravi Shastri comment 'the last thing India need is.....bla bla..and immediately a wicket falls.

  • ww113 on February 22, 2010, 14:13 GMT

    Move over,all you commentators,Sriram Dayanand is here.

  • lazytrini on February 22, 2010, 13:35 GMT

    It's a pity Fazeer Mohammed does not get many opportunities for international commentary outside of limited overs WI engagements. I agree that most contemporary commentary is beyond inane, but it is indeed a pleasure to listen to him.

  • PottedLambShanks on February 22, 2010, 12:56 GMT

    One must assume that the author of this article has not had the pleasure of watching England play on Sky Sports. With the exception of the deliberately non-committal Gower, the whole commentary team speaks wisely, forthrightly and with great insight. I cannot understand how or why Harsha Bogle remains employed as a cricket commentator though.

  • Infomaniac on February 22, 2010, 12:42 GMT

    Both cricketers and commentators alike need to exercise some 'tact' when they use the media to address the fans. This tact need not be at the cost of good analysis. Most matches fall under one category or the other and there are only so many things one can say about it. I'd like to see Mr Dayanand cuss the hell out of a fielder who dropped a sitter in light of being 'frank'. Being brazen DOES NOT always mean being smart. And hell, nobody likes a 'DLF maximum' but thats what you get with capitalism! If I'm sponsoring an event I will damn right want to get my brand across and if thats not going down well with you then too bad, don't come to me for money. I digress. Back to the point, I think the cricketers and commentators in the spotlight today do a good job overall in being the face of the gentleman's game that cricket is. And of course someone like Viru coming along is a refreshing change. But if thats the norm, then wheres the charm? What this article suggests is therefore ridiculous

  • sslapper on February 22, 2010, 12:23 GMT

    I do agree…there are a lot of very dour commentators out there. Although, out of some that you mention, I do quite enjoy Tony Greig (who speaks his mind) and Danny Morrison (who genuinely sounds like he has a schoolboy enthusiasm for the game). Boycott is probably head and shoulders above all cricket commentators in terms of speaking his mind, which is probably why he has been getting the cold shoulder from Sky's cricket coverage for the past while (he was in SA during the England series, but was primarily commentating for the local broadcaster, SABC).

    Another one that deserves mention is David Lloyd (aka Bumble)…who is probably the most entertaining of the current crop and has a great sense of humour. Lastly, yes agreed on Michael Atherton…he does put across his views in a quietly spoken way, that shows his intelligence.

  • TheOnlyEmperor on February 22, 2010, 12:04 GMT

    In India, the commentators have learnt to fear the backlash of public opinion. Speak against Ganguly for instance and all of the Bengali wrath will be on you as well as the paper/tv channel responsible for the views. Effigies would be burned and the critic would be demonised for daring to criticise the region's pride and hero. It's not just the Bengalis - the Tamils, the Hyderabadis, the Kannadigas and the Delhi brigade all protect their own while fighting the Bombay 'hegemony'. Regionalism has a negative fallout. I notice that in the recent India-SA series, the Indian commentators comment on the critical parts of the Indian performance leaving the South African commentators to do that for their players! It's time the audience learn to take commentary and critique like men instead of boys and this can be done only when the media and the rest of the cricketing establishment don't bow down to pressures. Neutral country panel of commentators should be a beginning!

  • dsirl on February 22, 2010, 12:00 GMT

    I find the best solution is to turn down the volume on the TV and switch on the radio. In Australia and the UK at least, this gives you a lot more opinion and insight along with a bit of merry prattle about very little. Feels more like being engaged in a conversation about the cricket than just hearing a whole lot of inane drivel but actually being told very little. I don't agree with all the opinions expressed but surely that's the whole point? It would be pretty boring if I did!!

  • jakecricfan on February 22, 2010, 12:00 GMT

    The Pre Match Coverage on Neo Sports is appalling. I dont expect to see the host talking so much about any "particular" shot on a "particular" day and letting the likes of Zulu just utter some phrases here and there. Watching cricket on mute seems to be the best option as of now.

  • on February 22, 2010, 11:40 GMT

    Imagine cricket without them. Too boring. Scoring rate for the century would be down by 5 an over and no comments to look forward to.

  • __PK on February 22, 2010, 10:40 GMT

    Words can certainly become magical. Imagine the power of a handful of words, when frequently used, to conjure consistent, even identical, images in our minds, time after time. These are what Mr Dayanand derides as cliches. Ironically, he takes 1500 words to paint a picture of nothing but the bitterness of talent envy.

  • Mystikal89 on February 22, 2010, 10:36 GMT

    I couldn't agree with this article more. As someone said, commentators want to be in everyones 'good books'. I must ask you ... how does it give them any job or creative satisfaction if they cant speak their true mind owing to constant pressure of offending someone? How do you differentiate the quality of commentators then? I seriously think commentators shouldn't be chosen solely on the basis of the fact that they are ex-players. Commentating is a different job altogether.

  • on February 22, 2010, 10:24 GMT

    "Cricket is the winner" invented by Ravishastri "Boys did well", invented by Azhar "No need to run for that" again Ravishastri Gimme a break!!!!!!!!

  • Avid.Cricket.Watcher on February 22, 2010, 10:16 GMT

    Well written, Sir! The guys I still enjoy listening to are Geoff Boycott (still incomparable), David Lloyd, Ian Chappell, Mark Taylor, Simon Doull (especially his pairing with Mark Richardson), Sunil Gavaskar, Robin Jackman (quite like their pairing in the Ind-SA series), Harsha Bhogle (more so when paired with Boycott, Sunny or Chappelli), Nasser Hussain and Bill Lawry (for his enthusiasm and appreciation of non-Aussie cricketers). The guys I'm sick of are Tony Greig, Mark Nicholas, LS (India's ex-leggie), Ranjit Fernando and Ramiz Raja (though there are several others who can also be quite repetitve & boring...like Ravi Shastri).

  • ebbie-qld on February 22, 2010, 10:15 GMT

    As BUSTERMOVE and EMPEROR stated most TV opinions are sanitised because the bean counters behind the scenes don't want to offend one person, because profits might dip by 1or 2 %. We probably only have ourselves to blame. At the first sign of controversy, the switch boards of tv or radio are full of irate callers demanding the players or commentators should be stood down for voicing an opinion that doesn't agreed with some wowser. Players are also caught between a rock and a hard place becasue of the same reason associated with sponsors. Here's to the "foot in mouth" brigade who won't shut up and have the guts to say the TRUTH.

  • bustermove on February 22, 2010, 9:37 GMT

    TV commentary has declined dramatically and there are very few players who are prepared to truly vent their feelings these days because the media turns every slip into an international incident. This sanitisation, mostly board- sanctioned I'm sure, achieves nothing except to make the game less interesting. Apart from the ever insightful, but thoroughly well-mannered Richie Benaud, and the occasionally provocative Ian Chappell, in Australia we have been treated to very little in the way of actual "opinion" on TV. I doubt the commentary is much better elsewhere, certainly not if the "Amazing 6 that one" drivel that the IPL serves up is any indication. My suggestion is to turn on the radio, at least here in Australia. Kerry O'Keefe is without doubt the funniest, and most unpredicatable commentator in the world and while I don't agree with all that many of Peter Roebuck's frequently polarising opinions, at least he provokes a response in my otherwise-completely anaesthetised cerebrum.

  • Hooves on February 22, 2010, 9:20 GMT

    Long live Test Match Special for that touch of old school opinion, and no little helping of senile but pleasant banter.

  • bat_bowl_field on February 22, 2010, 9:08 GMT

    cricket commentary these days is horrible. i live in australia and have to listen to the channel 9 commentary team confessing their love for the aussie team. you wouldnt even know there was another team out there. you can hear the pain in Healy and Slater's voices when the touring team hits a boundary or takes a wicket. the IPL commentary is almost as bad with every part of the game being sponsored. it is sad to hear good commentators like Jeremy Coney yeliing "DLFerr!" when a batsman clears the ropes.

  • Psyc_s on February 22, 2010, 8:47 GMT

    Hi Sri, how did they ever allowed you to write such an article? Cool !!!!!!!!!!!! Worst of all commentary team will be the one for IPL....What the hell is DLF Maximum? Better mute the television and can watch the video. Anyways, very nice article.

  • Rajesh. on February 22, 2010, 8:28 GMT

    Give me Bill Lawry....... !!

  • Longmemory on February 22, 2010, 8:25 GMT

    Nice piece. Has anyone noticed the commentary for one-dayers is much like the matches themselves? Boring, predictable and desperately trying to manufacture excitement when there isn't really any. Today's India-SAfrica match is a good example. On paper, it looks like a thriller - a team wins by one run off the last ball of the match. Yet, in about a couple of week's time I (and a billion others) will have little recollection of anything about the match. Methinks the commentary we get is quite appropriate for the cricket we get most of the time.

  • jimbo.ch on February 22, 2010, 8:01 GMT

    Dennis commetii needs to start commentating games in Australia. Genius

  • nuru76 on February 22, 2010, 7:59 GMT

    The MUTE button has been working overtime in my T.V. since Neo got rights for ind matches , Sriram Dayanand --take A Bow ! Hope someone invents a thrash disposal unit for dumping commentators like arun lal , L siva , ammir sohail , Robin Jackman , bob willis , even tony grieg sounds monotonous now , aargh ! What a joke cricket broadcasting has become - just watch DD National or Sony max prematch rubbish --utter thrash.

  • ram5160 on February 22, 2010, 7:57 GMT

    Worst thing is IPL is around the corner. Soon our days will be filled with DLF maximums and citi moments of success. One day a young boy is going to go to his father and ask him to teach him how to hit a DLF maximum.

  • TheOnlyEmperor on February 22, 2010, 7:52 GMT

    It pays to be politically correct and be on the good books of as many people as possible, if one wants to make a career under the public eye. People seldom forget a slight and carry the memory forever. For instance, no Indian commentator would write a piece about how bad the Indian bowlers are when compared to the other top test playing countries or for that matter, Indians can't slide on the field or dive to save themselves from getting run out. For that matter, no non Indian commentator wants to make controversial comment on Indian cricket either for fear of offending the moneybags and that's one reason why Greg Chappell is my hero. He called a spade a spade and didn't bother about the stupid egos around him while voicing his opinion. And it's precisely for that reason they took him down! The same thing happens when you disagree or speak agaoinst any Establishment, be it English or Aussi or Pakistani. Sadly, the print and broadcasting media too tows this line.

  • abhijithsimha on February 22, 2010, 7:20 GMT

    commentary in cricket has definitely lost its charm, there was a time when i used to switch on the TV set a good one and a half hour before the actual match, to catch the build up to the match, these days however i tune in to catch the toss, then promptly go back to whatever i was watching and return by the time the 1st ball is bowled. Ravi Shastry is sounding stereotypical, SMG is ridiculous, often countering his previous claim. L Siva must have the mot horrible voice of them all, and his intended puns are the worst of them all.

  • Nduru on February 22, 2010, 7:10 GMT

    Great article! One of the worst cliche's of current times appears often in cricinfo commentary. It is the Indian habit of insisting on saying/writing 'waddaplayaa' whenever a cricketer performs well. I can only think this annoying habit was picked up from Slumdog Millionaire?

  • Theena on February 22, 2010, 7:07 GMT

    Hear, hear. I've not read your work on Cricinfo before, but I'll make it a point to look out for them from now on. Excellent article.

  • on February 22, 2010, 7:00 GMT

    It's good to know that there are fellow cricket lovers who hate the cliched pre-match and post-match TV nonsense. The allergy to this started for me during Azhar's captaincy and he would usually have nothing more to say other than, "The boys played well today," "It's great, you know," "We batted well today," etc., usually interjected by his standard pause filler "I mean."

    Once in a while, he would add some stupidity to this nonsense as well. I remember a quote, which stands out as the most comical of all. When he was going through a bad run of form in 1996, there were calls for him to take a break from cricket and come back after regaining form. Asked a similar question in a post-match interview, his reply was a gem: "I'm batting well in the nets."

  • Alexk400 on February 22, 2010, 6:29 GMT

    Good Article.

    All indian commentators are vocabulary challenged. L siva is worst!. My brain goes freeze and go on mute mode when L siva speaks.

    It is not just indian commentators , i miss dean jones , siddhu etc.

    We need more colorful commentators , what we have is people who repeat same sentences over and over again and every ball. I can do the commentary with a robot that will do better than these people.

  • Ajay42 on February 22, 2010, 6:17 GMT

    One of the best recent articles I've read here and thankfully, there arent 200 comments by squabbling Indian, Pakistani fans or Aussie fans to sift through! Breathless hyperventilating is the order of the day and the agony is well nigh unbearable. Speaking of unbearable, I'm surprised you forgot the ever gushing Mark Nicholas, who would make any self respecting cricket lover want to throw up with his brand of worshipful drivel.

  • inderjitvm on February 22, 2010, 6:08 GMT

    Its was fun reading this article :)

  • on February 22, 2010, 5:27 GMT

    hmm...here was an incident on air..guess it was wesindies gainst pakistan a few years ago.Sunny,"Oh what a shot!".Boycott responded, "Any one in the WestIndian XI could have hit that shot". Its a rarity to hear such forthright and honest commentary. The batsman in question was Brian Lara by the way. He is my demi-god but i agree wid Boycott-don't eulogise a normal shot just cuz its hit by a great basman. Comment on the shot for what it is whoever the batsman is. And with the IPL not far away fasten ur seat belts for "great shot", "amazing shot" for every ordinary cricket shot and wonder who the cheerleaders are- the pretty gals in colorful outfits or the guys wearing suits in the commentary box..

  • VipulPatki on February 22, 2010, 5:16 GMT

    Great article... The commentary we in India get to listen is getting too clichéd. All Indian commentators, barring Harsha Bhogle, use too many repetitive words. I have lost count of how many times I have heard Sunil Gavaskar saying "It was a half volley/full-toss alright but it still has to be put away"; Or Ravi Shastri, at the post-match ceremony saying "Ladies and Gentlemen, we've had a cracker of a match, and it's only fair to say that the best team won" or Arun Lal saying "It is a <longish break> ____ shot [The blank can be filled up by any adjective using a random phrase generator]. Harsha Bhogle, in one of his article had said that "...the best writing in cricket still seems to come from those beyond the boundaries". I think it applies equally well, if not more, when it comes to commentary.

  • CricFan78 on February 22, 2010, 4:42 GMT

    Excellent article. Listening to cricket commentary nowadays whether it is Neo., Sky or Channel 9 is too boring. Its a shame that cricketers and characters like Sehwag and Swann are not given more freedom to speak their mind.

  • deepblue22 on February 22, 2010, 4:42 GMT

    could not agree more !!!!

  • FifferPerth on February 22, 2010, 4:08 GMT

    Three cheers for a great essay (Where did opinion go?), Sriram. Oh for the days of commentators like Richie Benaud who only spoke if they could add something to the picture. Now all we get are statements of the bleeding obvious, repeating the captions on the screen, or telling us that the ball was outside the off stump and there was no run. Really? We can see that for goodness sake. Amongst the veritable overload of commentating dross Ian Botham on Sky/Fox must surely rank as one of the worst, demonstrating eloquently why he was such a hopeless captain, recycling other commentators' opinions and telling us what we can already see with our eyes. Mind you we get the same in tennis. During the recent Australian Open men's semis we had motor-mouth Courier with his cod psychology and no fewer than three other commentators all fighting for air time. And when it's all thankfully over there's the squirmingly awful on-court interview. Like most bad TV habits the Americans invented it.

  • randikaayya on February 22, 2010, 3:33 GMT

    A superb cricket article, albeit next to nothing is spoken about the game! Bravado of yesteryear has got drowned in lackluster commentary and statements by players. Some recent captains however have a knack for colorful use of language to mask a cleverly disguised opinion or two, Kumar, Gayle and Dhoni come to mind

  • gilbert84 on February 22, 2010, 3:23 GMT

    Indians used to be some of the most astute commentators, but for at least the past five years all of them have been unbearable - Gavaskar, Shastri, Arul Lal and yes, even Harsha Bhogle are one cliche after another. When will we be rid of them?

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • gilbert84 on February 22, 2010, 3:23 GMT

    Indians used to be some of the most astute commentators, but for at least the past five years all of them have been unbearable - Gavaskar, Shastri, Arul Lal and yes, even Harsha Bhogle are one cliche after another. When will we be rid of them?

  • randikaayya on February 22, 2010, 3:33 GMT

    A superb cricket article, albeit next to nothing is spoken about the game! Bravado of yesteryear has got drowned in lackluster commentary and statements by players. Some recent captains however have a knack for colorful use of language to mask a cleverly disguised opinion or two, Kumar, Gayle and Dhoni come to mind

  • FifferPerth on February 22, 2010, 4:08 GMT

    Three cheers for a great essay (Where did opinion go?), Sriram. Oh for the days of commentators like Richie Benaud who only spoke if they could add something to the picture. Now all we get are statements of the bleeding obvious, repeating the captions on the screen, or telling us that the ball was outside the off stump and there was no run. Really? We can see that for goodness sake. Amongst the veritable overload of commentating dross Ian Botham on Sky/Fox must surely rank as one of the worst, demonstrating eloquently why he was such a hopeless captain, recycling other commentators' opinions and telling us what we can already see with our eyes. Mind you we get the same in tennis. During the recent Australian Open men's semis we had motor-mouth Courier with his cod psychology and no fewer than three other commentators all fighting for air time. And when it's all thankfully over there's the squirmingly awful on-court interview. Like most bad TV habits the Americans invented it.

  • deepblue22 on February 22, 2010, 4:42 GMT

    could not agree more !!!!

  • CricFan78 on February 22, 2010, 4:42 GMT

    Excellent article. Listening to cricket commentary nowadays whether it is Neo., Sky or Channel 9 is too boring. Its a shame that cricketers and characters like Sehwag and Swann are not given more freedom to speak their mind.

  • VipulPatki on February 22, 2010, 5:16 GMT

    Great article... The commentary we in India get to listen is getting too clichéd. All Indian commentators, barring Harsha Bhogle, use too many repetitive words. I have lost count of how many times I have heard Sunil Gavaskar saying "It was a half volley/full-toss alright but it still has to be put away"; Or Ravi Shastri, at the post-match ceremony saying "Ladies and Gentlemen, we've had a cracker of a match, and it's only fair to say that the best team won" or Arun Lal saying "It is a <longish break> ____ shot [The blank can be filled up by any adjective using a random phrase generator]. Harsha Bhogle, in one of his article had said that "...the best writing in cricket still seems to come from those beyond the boundaries". I think it applies equally well, if not more, when it comes to commentary.

  • on February 22, 2010, 5:27 GMT

    hmm...here was an incident on air..guess it was wesindies gainst pakistan a few years ago.Sunny,"Oh what a shot!".Boycott responded, "Any one in the WestIndian XI could have hit that shot". Its a rarity to hear such forthright and honest commentary. The batsman in question was Brian Lara by the way. He is my demi-god but i agree wid Boycott-don't eulogise a normal shot just cuz its hit by a great basman. Comment on the shot for what it is whoever the batsman is. And with the IPL not far away fasten ur seat belts for "great shot", "amazing shot" for every ordinary cricket shot and wonder who the cheerleaders are- the pretty gals in colorful outfits or the guys wearing suits in the commentary box..

  • inderjitvm on February 22, 2010, 6:08 GMT

    Its was fun reading this article :)

  • Ajay42 on February 22, 2010, 6:17 GMT

    One of the best recent articles I've read here and thankfully, there arent 200 comments by squabbling Indian, Pakistani fans or Aussie fans to sift through! Breathless hyperventilating is the order of the day and the agony is well nigh unbearable. Speaking of unbearable, I'm surprised you forgot the ever gushing Mark Nicholas, who would make any self respecting cricket lover want to throw up with his brand of worshipful drivel.

  • Alexk400 on February 22, 2010, 6:29 GMT

    Good Article.

    All indian commentators are vocabulary challenged. L siva is worst!. My brain goes freeze and go on mute mode when L siva speaks.

    It is not just indian commentators , i miss dean jones , siddhu etc.

    We need more colorful commentators , what we have is people who repeat same sentences over and over again and every ball. I can do the commentary with a robot that will do better than these people.