March 17, 2010

The fine art of Bumbling

Coverage of the IPL and ICC events has become tedious in the extreme, with banal, cliché-ridden, hyperbolic commentary. More reason why we ought to treasure the likes of David Lloyd
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Peter West was one of the BBC's foremost old-school radio and TV commentators, a genteel, no-frills, all-purpose microphonist who coped as smoothly and serenely with ballroom dancing and state occasions as he did with rucks and sweeps. Cricket, one always sensed, was his greatest passion. In the summer of 1998 I asked him whether, given the pace of technological change during a career that had spanned England's retrieval of the Ashes in 1953 and Headingley '81, he felt that the art of commentary had changed. The answer was instant, and firm. "No."

Happily, he elaborated. "The basic essentials still haven't changed. I think it's much more difficult to commentate on television than radio. Radio is your own thing: you're the eyes and ears of the listener, so it suits you if you like to be the chap who's telling the whole story. It's more satisfying, whereas on TV you're part of a great big machine really - cameramen, lighting crew, sound crew and God knows what else. You've also got the eternal problem of how much to say, because whatever you decide to do you're not going to please everybody."

He recalled the head of Outside Broadcasts issuing "an absolutely timeless" edict while West was on his first job at the BBC. "The art of TV commentary is to know when to say nothing. It's true, isn't it? I think we've all talked too much over the years - and I suppose this is a mild criticism of Sky, whose coverage is so good. Because they've got the commercials coming in between overs, they tend to talk too much. They know they're not going to get a chance otherwise."

For as long as I have been watching televised cricket - summer No. 45 is fast-approaching - one man has been universally acknowledged as the master of saying nothing, the Bradman of the booth, the Murali of the mike: Richie Benaud. It has often been said of Eric Clapton that what separated him from other guitarists were the spaces between the notes; much the same can be said of Richie.

Where the vast rump of television commentators chatter interminably, petrified of silence, he embraces the well-chosen pause. He also knows how to weigh what he does say, and when to say it. One never has the sense, even in his dotage, that he is searching for something to say. He knows his job. He knows he is there to supply the essential punctuation - the commas, full-stops and exclamation marks. He is there to guide and encapsulate, to be, not our eyes and ears, but our nose. He is there to sniff the air and scent the mood, smell the sun and the wind, the rain and the crowd, to inhale the day. As he has aged, however, he has been increasingly reluctant to criticise. Having begun his broadcasting career as an Australian interloper in Pomland, this may be traced to an understandable fear of giving offence.

The problem, as Sriram Dayanand recently noted with some eloquence on this site, lies with those who fear giving offence for other reasons - whether to organisers, national boards, individual players or sponsors. It is they who have generated the excruciating, nauseating blandness that blights so much television coverage.

The desire to be fair should always be applauded, but the casualty has been the independence, honesty and frankness for which newspapers - and radio stations to a lesser extent - are rightly celebrated. Worse, the cheerleaders are taking over. Not so much arch-patriots such as Ian Healy, who check their critical faculties in at the door to the commentary booth and serve as non-stop, flag-waving boosters, but those whose entire raison d'etre is to promote the event, warts and all.

Coverage of both ICC-sanctioned tournaments and the IPL is, with an exceedingly few precious exceptions, anodyne in the extreme. In order to land such a gig, commentators do not merely require a famous name but a degree in hyperbole, an MA in clichés and a PhD in the Blindingly Obvious (mind you, when it comes to overkill, even the commentators lag behind Shane Warne's touting of Yusuf Pathan's 37-ball ton for Rajasthan against Mumbai as the greatest innings he's ever seen, relegating, merely to name the most obvious, Brian Lara's Bridgetown masterpiece in 1999). A boundary is almost invariably the consequence of a "great" or "fantastic" shot. Here burns the bonfire of the banalities and inanities. While one sympathises with those to whom commentating is solely a way of earning a crust rather than a means of self-expression, there is a happy medium.

All the more reason, then, to hail those who resist the safe option. In one corner stand (or should that be bellow?) the expressionists, the likes of Tony Greig, Bill Lawry and Mark Nicholas, men unafraid of their inner boy, unafraid of sounding daft. They may be salesmen, but at least what they're flogging is worthier of our attention and consumption than aluminium siding or dead horses. We need them, need their unbridled enthusiasm. But commentary is about teamwork; their excesses must be balanced by subtlety, by those less eager to turn a hiatus into a crisis, less compelled to sell so hard.

At the risk of being accused of parochialism, I can't help but suspect that Sky Sports subscribers are blessed. The lack of a professional broadcaster may trouble some. For all his unflinching insistence on calling a spade a shovel, Ian Botham's reluctance to admit he is ever remotely in the vicinity of wrong can grate; Bob Willis' manly efforts to sound less sour often border on the saccharine. In Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain, however, the team boast two of the most fearless and erudite commentators ever paid to dispense on-air wisdom. Their frankness aggravates current players, who accuse them of disloyalty. That they delight in niggling each other, and indulge in prickly but good-humoured games of one-upmanship, only adds to the frisson.

As does their willingness to say the unsayable. While commentating on the 2007 Trent Bridge Test, both scoffed at those who bang on ad nauseam about over rates. If this was primarily to justify their own captaincy tactics, at least they did not follow the lead of so many others by ridiculing what they once promoted. Hussain explained India's sluggishness by listing all the causes of delay, from the need to sawdust the run-ups and footholds to the remarkably greater incidence of left-hand batsmen in the modern game (up from 17% in the 1950s to 30%) and the consequent impact on field adjustments. Atherton simply declaimed that Test cricket was more exciting than it had ever been, so why complain about something so petty?

Two other members of the Sky team stand out, for differing reasons. Michael Holding's mode of delivery has much in common with his modus operandi afield - smooth, superbly co-ordinated, cooler than a frozen cucumber and seemingly effortless. But whereas pace was his sharpest weapon as a bowler, his gift to commentary is his stately minimalism. Richie has plainly been an influence.

Coverage of both ICC-sanctioned tournaments and the IPL is, with an exceedingly few precious exceptions, anodyne in the extreme. In order to land such a gig, commentators do not merely require a famous name but a degree in hyperbole, an MA in clichés and a PhD in the Blindingly Obvious

And then there's David "Bumble" Lloyd, the swingingest sixty-something in town. For all that twittering and tweeting, he remains the epitome of modesty (hell, he doesn't even have a middle name). Here, after all, is a pundit with few claims to flannelled fame. Sure, his CV includes a double-ton against India and a three-year stint as England coach, but he is considerably better known for mastering the not inconsiderable art of looking foolish without losing face.

In his only Ashes series he was cruelly crusted by Jeff Thomson - one of the few scenes from that x-rated 1974-75 Ashes tour we Poms have ever been permitted to see was Bumble bent double, paralysed by pain. He was also the author of that forgivable if profoundly ill-advised "We flippin' murdered 'em" speech amid the emotional aftermath of England's unprecedented scores-level draw against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo in 1996. Crucially, and unlike any other member of the commentariat, he has seen the game from a kaleidoscope of professional angles - as player, captain, coach and umpire. Few have known so much whereof they pontificate.

Except that Lloyd is less a pontificator than an entertaining companion. All those years on the after-dinner circuit have paid dividends. Here is a chap accustomed to holding an audience in the palm of his hands. Self-deprecation comes easy; drawing laughter is second nature. Like journalists, broadcasters have a dual duty: to inform and entertain. Unlike most broadcasters, Lloyd never forgets the second half of that equation. In this respect he has only one peer, the arch-iconoclast Jeremy Coney, whose wit, verbosity and innovative aphorisms keep him just the right side of cosmic buffoonery.

Sure, Lloyd makes mistakes, commits errors of judgement and lets his enthusiasm get the better of him. It's a bloody difficult job. But while his own struggles as a player deprive him of the automatic credibility commanded by colleagues, they make empathy easier, more believable. Helpfully, that Lancastrian accent, chockful of warmth and homely humour, is a significantly greater advantage than a snobby Home Counties tone or an arrogant Yorkshire twang.

What shines through, though, is his ardent love of his subject, his compassion for players and his belief in the game he so eloquently describes, in the soul of cricketers and the spirit of cricket (as opposed to Spirit of Cricket). Nor does he take it all so seriously that he forgets he is paid to interpret a game. Long may he bumble.

Rob Steen is a sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on March 20, 2010, 17:35 GMT

    Blah !! Blah blah blah, blah blah....blah blah blah....You guys too should realize when to stop bashing IPL too much to take

  • mittheimp on March 19, 2010, 13:16 GMT

    Very good article. Sky, with the clear exception of Botham have a very good commentary team. They are fair, knowledgeable and are prepared to criticise the England team when merited. The Australian ch9 team by comparison is an embarrassment.

  • cricfan06 on March 19, 2010, 10:12 GMT

    Nasser Hussein is the best commentator for me - he always offers a very tactical explanation for why things may be going the way that they are in a game. Some off the Aussie commentators are very biased however, the pitch of their voice and accent I suppose make them exciting to listen to.. Bumble is awesome, he has the same effect with his very weird accent. For those slating IPL commentary, it is indeed a bit annoying, but these are the guys calling the shots theses days (the sponsors) their the ones pumping in all the money - which is what makes IPL so exciting - so if they want their 'maximum's' and their 'moments of success' - I say - let them have em.

  • on March 19, 2010, 0:47 GMT

    Citi moment of success....DLF maximum! My foot!! This isnt Cricket....its Modiket....Saala slimeball

  • Yasirsaleem on March 18, 2010, 20:20 GMT

    I can't agree more the commentary in IPL has absolutely been doing my head in. Whats with the 'kamaal catch' and the 'DLF maximum.' There are so many other ways to weave sponsors into your webs! Why torture listeners back home??? Actually if I think about it, I havent really been mad about commentary in recent years as it has absolutely been cliche-ridden, until I watched the Australia West Indies series followed by the Australia Pakistan Series in 2009-2010. Michael Slater, Mark Taylor, Ian Healy, Shane Warne and the rest of the gang absolutely blew me away. They were interesting, humourous, sarcastic, informative and intense. Shastri, Harsha, Gavaskar please take some lessons from these lot and just think about it as another cricket coaching tour down under, Im sure you guys are used to it!

  • __PK on March 18, 2010, 20:19 GMT

    Not sure what commentary this author listened to, but in Australia Mark Nicholas is widely regarded as a fool who adds nothing to the game, spending most of his on-air time pandering to Richie Benaud in an attempt to secure his job when he retires. And your comments about Ian Healy totally miss the point that he is the most knowledgable commentator in the world about the science and finer points of the game and how to play it. How many other commentators can explain, in plain English, not just the hows, but the whys of batting, bowling, keeping and fielding?

  • manning__18 on March 18, 2010, 18:43 GMT

    the presenting of the ipl on itv is shambolic,cant believe they are allowed to present cricket

  • Bubaloo on March 18, 2010, 17:58 GMT

    Indian and S.A. commentators very professional. Danny Morrison completely out of his depth. Very painful childish enhusiasm and quips of " I'll tell you what" all the time are just painful. Take him off please before I scream !!

  • PottedLambShanks on March 18, 2010, 16:12 GMT

    I have to agree completely with the author of this article, Sky has indeed assembled a near-perfect collection of commentators. I notice no mention of Gower though...perhaps it's time for him to make way for Athers in the anchor role and maybe get Lord Vaughan in as a commentator?

  • Ulio on March 18, 2010, 16:05 GMT

    Danny Morrison of them all is really a headache. Harsha, Ravi and co in IPL need to read this piece. Please guys, I like IPL but I am tired of you guys repeating DLF 100 times in a game. I know the sponsors so please do not repeat it 100 times. Another thing is the Carbon JUNK. We want to watch cricket not ads within an over while bowler just bowls. I have told about 90 of my friends to never deal with Carbon and they have suggested others that Carbon sucks as well. So you guys are just destroying their business instead of building it. In other words you are SPAMMERS. Please let us enjoy the game.

  • on March 20, 2010, 17:35 GMT

    Blah !! Blah blah blah, blah blah....blah blah blah....You guys too should realize when to stop bashing IPL too much to take

  • mittheimp on March 19, 2010, 13:16 GMT

    Very good article. Sky, with the clear exception of Botham have a very good commentary team. They are fair, knowledgeable and are prepared to criticise the England team when merited. The Australian ch9 team by comparison is an embarrassment.

  • cricfan06 on March 19, 2010, 10:12 GMT

    Nasser Hussein is the best commentator for me - he always offers a very tactical explanation for why things may be going the way that they are in a game. Some off the Aussie commentators are very biased however, the pitch of their voice and accent I suppose make them exciting to listen to.. Bumble is awesome, he has the same effect with his very weird accent. For those slating IPL commentary, it is indeed a bit annoying, but these are the guys calling the shots theses days (the sponsors) their the ones pumping in all the money - which is what makes IPL so exciting - so if they want their 'maximum's' and their 'moments of success' - I say - let them have em.

  • on March 19, 2010, 0:47 GMT

    Citi moment of success....DLF maximum! My foot!! This isnt Cricket....its Modiket....Saala slimeball

  • Yasirsaleem on March 18, 2010, 20:20 GMT

    I can't agree more the commentary in IPL has absolutely been doing my head in. Whats with the 'kamaal catch' and the 'DLF maximum.' There are so many other ways to weave sponsors into your webs! Why torture listeners back home??? Actually if I think about it, I havent really been mad about commentary in recent years as it has absolutely been cliche-ridden, until I watched the Australia West Indies series followed by the Australia Pakistan Series in 2009-2010. Michael Slater, Mark Taylor, Ian Healy, Shane Warne and the rest of the gang absolutely blew me away. They were interesting, humourous, sarcastic, informative and intense. Shastri, Harsha, Gavaskar please take some lessons from these lot and just think about it as another cricket coaching tour down under, Im sure you guys are used to it!

  • __PK on March 18, 2010, 20:19 GMT

    Not sure what commentary this author listened to, but in Australia Mark Nicholas is widely regarded as a fool who adds nothing to the game, spending most of his on-air time pandering to Richie Benaud in an attempt to secure his job when he retires. And your comments about Ian Healy totally miss the point that he is the most knowledgable commentator in the world about the science and finer points of the game and how to play it. How many other commentators can explain, in plain English, not just the hows, but the whys of batting, bowling, keeping and fielding?

  • manning__18 on March 18, 2010, 18:43 GMT

    the presenting of the ipl on itv is shambolic,cant believe they are allowed to present cricket

  • Bubaloo on March 18, 2010, 17:58 GMT

    Indian and S.A. commentators very professional. Danny Morrison completely out of his depth. Very painful childish enhusiasm and quips of " I'll tell you what" all the time are just painful. Take him off please before I scream !!

  • PottedLambShanks on March 18, 2010, 16:12 GMT

    I have to agree completely with the author of this article, Sky has indeed assembled a near-perfect collection of commentators. I notice no mention of Gower though...perhaps it's time for him to make way for Athers in the anchor role and maybe get Lord Vaughan in as a commentator?

  • Ulio on March 18, 2010, 16:05 GMT

    Danny Morrison of them all is really a headache. Harsha, Ravi and co in IPL need to read this piece. Please guys, I like IPL but I am tired of you guys repeating DLF 100 times in a game. I know the sponsors so please do not repeat it 100 times. Another thing is the Carbon JUNK. We want to watch cricket not ads within an over while bowler just bowls. I have told about 90 of my friends to never deal with Carbon and they have suggested others that Carbon sucks as well. So you guys are just destroying their business instead of building it. In other words you are SPAMMERS. Please let us enjoy the game.

  • Nixe on March 18, 2010, 15:37 GMT

    I have no problems with the commentators. Just last night at KKR game, Sunny came up with a perfect explanation as to why a batsman was hurt while running betweeen the wickets. He pointed out that the batsman was holding the bat in wrong hand and his eyes were not on the fielder.

    I beleive that we are trying to equate comentary with the command over English language. I for one have no value attributed to that. Those English language purist can go to Oxford for an MA in English literature and not bother to watch IPL or watch it on mute if they like. It is disgusting to note people getting jealous of a very succesful product and knit pick on it. We enjoy IPL and Ravi and Sunny and Sanjay and Siva and the South Afrikaans Cheers

  • ww113 on March 18, 2010, 15:33 GMT

    Will Tony Greig ever retire ? ?

  • fifth-umpire on March 18, 2010, 14:58 GMT

    Hey! We, in India, should be thankful that SET MAX is covering IPL. Consider if Doordarshan was covering IPL... http://fifth-umpire.blogspot.com/

  • mautan on March 18, 2010, 14:53 GMT

    The good ones..Shastri(unfortunately needs to cheerelead for IPL though), Benaud, Bhogle(same as Shastri), Gavaskar( although, a bit unfortable with all this new cricket), Bill Lawry, Hussian, Tony Grieg, Bishop, Rameez,Taylor,Lloyd

    The nightmares or pure cheerleaders who should probably dress like ones - DANNY MORRISON(man oh man, Sivaramakrishnan (god...save me), Manjrekar, Sidhu, Henry Blofeld ( the man who started cheerleading about India, for him even a dusty street in India would be amazing, great, gorgeous etc etc)and prety much all IPL commentators except Shastri, Bhogle, Sunny. Honestly the cricket commentary, especially in IPL is at its lowest, if it goes down anymore people will watch the matches on mute.

  • idontknowidontcare on March 18, 2010, 12:18 GMT

    What's with that DLF maximum thing? Is it so hard to realise that you can score more than 6 runs off one ball?

  • uppy on March 18, 2010, 12:15 GMT

    While I admit it is not easy to tink of a good Indian (or for that matter Asian) commentator, the auhtor might have considered Sanjay Manjrekar.

  • srini701 on March 18, 2010, 11:24 GMT

    Nice...Please get Messrs Harsha Bhogle (and if they can understand on reading this), Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, Arun Lal, Rameez Raja, Danny Morrison and Sanjay Manjrekar to read this piece and see if they can learn something, anything on the art of commentating. Let's not even talk or mention Ravi Shastri here.

  • AlokJoshi on March 18, 2010, 11:20 GMT

    Few thoughts: a) Gravest issue is of independence. Political correctness is the buzzword lest the powers are unceremoniously hurt. Calling a spade a spade is preposterous. b) On lucky days, there can be two sets of exciting fare: engrossing cricket; and stimulating commentators' chat! c) Viewers have different expectations from commentary given they are disparate (geographically, age-wise, cricketing knowledge vary etc) yet commentary is unique. The challenge is to align all this. Wonder how many commentators attempt it! d) Objectivity, knowledge and 'way-with-words' are three essential qualities of good commentators. e) TV commentators must be shown footage of their non-sensical utterances in a bid to improve them f) A vital component of commentary is what one 'reads' on cricinfo! Rob has either forgotten to mention it; or has chosen to ignore it, instead using precious words to chide at IPL/ICC events commentary. In a way it shows columnists' independence at Cricinfo is intact!

  • vijayar on March 18, 2010, 9:52 GMT

    IPL has restrictions of four foreign players in the playing eleven.If only they can insist on only one Indian commentrator per game and allow four foreign it would be lively for the viewers.With out sounding unpatriotic we have had enough of the former test players and Harsha Bogle.We need variety and like the ones Rob Steen has described.

  • boooonnie on March 18, 2010, 9:35 GMT

    One of the most embarrassing and yet entertaining commentators is Bill Lawry. Highlight of his careet for me is when the first ball after lunch the bowler bowls a rank knee high full toss which the Austrralian batsmen dispatches to the boundary, Bill says "Great bowl." Embarassing yet entertainment - like an epsiode the The Office.

  • aposto on March 18, 2010, 9:33 GMT

    Tony Cozier is right up there with Richie Benaud as the best TV commentator. It was a shame the white West Indian with the straw hat did not come out to Australia last summer.

  • PaddyBriggs on March 18, 2010, 9:13 GMT

    "Jeremy Coney, whose wit, verbosity and innovative aphorisms keep him just the right side of cosmic buffoonery."

    Wrong side for me Rob. Coney's ignorant remark when the Kiwis were last here that "Ross Taylor isn't a real New Zealander - he's from a Pacific Island but I don't know which one" went way beyond buffoonery and down a very dark track indeed.

  • kalikesam on March 18, 2010, 9:05 GMT

    why boycott was not chosen for ipl3 1 may embarass the hosts with his candid comments 2 may nor recogonise modi, srk,mallaya etc. 3 may become speechless when shilpa shetty comes on screen

  • kalikesam on March 18, 2010, 8:58 GMT

    my ideal 4 fort20 commentary would be boycott, boycott, boycott and boycott

  • CricFan78 on March 18, 2010, 6:48 GMT

    I cant believe how someone can rate Atherton as a commentator or cricket analyst. He is so self-righteous while commentating and his analysis of Sachin few years ago as supercomic hero sums up his cricketing knowledge. An average player, poor commentator and worse analyst .... thats what Atherton is.

  • Naseer on March 18, 2010, 6:23 GMT

    I think u r absolutlely write, we are tired of hearing words like great, fantastic, brilliant, effortless, which has now a days become a common song of the commentators, it is really boring, I think there should be a proper system thourgh which these commentators should qualify, ex-cricketers should not be automatic commentators, anyone who meets the certain qualities required for a best commentator should be only considered as commentator. a commentator should be dynamic, creative, innovative and more importantly has good communiation skills.

  • ChaitanyaK on March 18, 2010, 5:51 GMT

    For me, if i like the person.. I like him to talk.. So I loveeeeeee sachin and sehwag to do commentary after they retire.. IMHO both will retire in the same year ;)

  • joseantony001 on March 18, 2010, 4:28 GMT

    Cricket commentators have failed miserably in educating fans about the technical sides. If you follow NFL or NBA, they do such a nice job making a viewer understand and NOT just state the most obvious facts like, "The batsmen has played a shot with his bat", ..duh!!! I am not blind Mr. commentator.

  • 9ST9 on March 18, 2010, 4:09 GMT

    Have we forgotten cozier? Coming to the IPL guys like Morrison are absolute jokes. The best in that list would be Bishop (undoubtedly) and Haysman. Harsha Bhogle simply talks too much. Lakshman Shivaramakrishnan sounds as he is speaking some other language and Brad Hoggs a stupid joke, just like Morrison.

  • sushil67 on March 18, 2010, 3:57 GMT

    liked your article, and now that you've got me on my soap box, let me have a go !!

    To begin with there's Harsha Bhogle- I feel that every he carries around a 'phrase diary' with him, which he pores over in his rest periods on commentary day ! And then- God forbid- I switched on one of the early IPL matches, and found Navjyot Singh Siddhu there. All you people who don't live in India, count yourself fortunate for having been spared HIM !!!

    Two of my favourites have been Christopher Martin-Jenkins and Henry Blofeld. I still tune into test match special every summer (at least I used to till the BBC stopped allowing listeners outside the UK to tune in on the internet) just to listen to the lovely, lazy, flowing style of these two gentlemen !

  • takenaback on March 18, 2010, 3:14 GMT

    I actually prefer Tony Greig. He can hardly be accused of being biased as he has a foot in just about every door. I find his commentary to be pretty much on the money most of the time and he doesn't mind giving it to his fellow commentators when they make idiotic statements. Ian Chappell is downright unbearable, a much better captain after all these years looking from the commentary box than he ever was in reality. Nevertheless he has gone down in history as a great captain and I think this has gone to his head and needs to criticise and preach. I think little of David Lloyd but I do like Michael holding even though he can be way too critical times. Cricket is basically a simple game with simple rules but commentators of today over complicate things, reading too much into every little thing that goes on.

  • NChopra on March 18, 2010, 2:39 GMT

    I remember having muted TV more than once when Sanjay Manjarekar, Arun Lal are commenting. Their repeated cliched, hyperbolic expressions get too much to bear. Ravi Shastri, Harsha Bhogle are the best India has to offer, I guess. Rest are still living in the age of radio commentary.

  • Arvian on March 18, 2010, 2:38 GMT

    ahhhhhhhhhh........finally somebody talking about commentary....this is what i've been looking for so long......i have no idea why anybody wants to hear something like great shot...beautiful shot....that ball is disappeared....what the hell man....I am watching all this and UNFORTUNATELY AM NOT BLIND.....gimme something which i don't know or something make me laugh at..........IPL commentary hopeless.......these days am watching tv with MUTE ON........

  • Cookie15 on March 18, 2010, 2:06 GMT

    I would have like to have seen Ian Smith from New Zealand mentioned here, he is deemed good enough in NZ to commentate both All Black tests and Cricket tests. A totally unbiased commentator who also has been able to keep a few Aussie commentators in check. A talent in its own!

  • KrishnaDatta on March 18, 2010, 1:20 GMT

    Hi Rob - Any particular reason harsha, ravi and sunny were missed out in your list?

  • anton1234 on March 18, 2010, 1:14 GMT

    Ian Bishop is very good. I think he is the new Benuad because as he is intelligent and his knowledge of the game in terms of its analysis is brilliant.

    As for selling out, well, like everyone else, he needs to try and make a living and the IPL must offer good money so he takes it, as anyone else in his position, would. And who does not want to be part of the most glamorous domestic cricket tournament?

    Had he not been part of the IPL, he would be pretty much redundant for the next two months until the 20-20 world cup a sthe WI are currently not playing. And since commentating is his profession, he will work where there is work available.

    I agree that Danny Morrison is bad and Pommie Mbangwa, though exciting to listen to as he gets excited and has a shouty voice which is quite apt given the fantastic noise at the IPL, is very clichéd in his commentary. More originality would be good from him. But he is still quite good. Jeremy Coney is pretty good.

  • Lennon_Marx on March 18, 2010, 0:54 GMT

    Mark Richardson at times can be a reasonable commentator, but like all his comrades in the Sky New Zealand they do trample too far on the incessant repetition sin of commentary, as well as talking far too much and getting downright goofy. As much as Tony Greig can annoy some no one can ever say that he is not capable of making and communicating his own point of view, something you can't say for Taylor and Healy who in essence are simply shills for Channel Nine. Meanwhile I was a little disappointed not to see reference to Tony Cozier, who for the most part I regard as the most astute commentator around. It seems to me that Holding; who undoubtedly has spent much in the same commentary box as Benaud and Cozier; is now seen to be the finest commentator of his generation. Sadly though my watching of recent T20 games has greatly diminished my respect for Harsha Bogle and Wasim Akram but by far the worst commentator I have heard is Justin Langer- the ultimate apologist for the Aussies

  • the_blue_android on March 18, 2010, 0:52 GMT

    This is a lame article. An Englishman saying all English commentators are good.

  • gilbert84 on March 18, 2010, 0:42 GMT

    It's not surprising that most commentators are bad given that they are not trained broadcasters but former cricketers. I enjoy Bumble, Boycott and Atherton, and don't mind Ian Healy either. Mark Taylor and Jeremy Coney have annoying voices, even though what they have to say is good. Mark Nicholas is an Aussie cheerleader- an odd profession for an Englishman. The list of awful Indian commentators is way too long and it's a pity because Sunil Gavaskar when he first started was excellent. The worst commentator in history? Navjot Sidhu.

  • Sehwagology on March 18, 2010, 0:23 GMT

    The FT"s motto - Without Fear and Without Favour - should be the byword for every journalist and commentator. With the exception of Sanjay Manjrekar no other Indian commentator even remotely aspires to that ideal. And I haven't even started on the rest of the sub-continent where standards are even worse!

  • Sehwagology on March 18, 2010, 0:20 GMT

    You are right about the pitiful standards of modern day commentary. If those living in the UK are blessed (with the exception of the chest thumping Botham who seems to have a Rule Britannia chip on both shoulders), then those living in India are equally as cursed. Standards of broadcasting integrity have plumbed to new depths. From the cliché ridden Ravi "tracer bullet" Shastri, the sourpuss Sunil "it's all the white man's fault" Gavaskar to the utterly tedious Laxman Sivaramakrishnan. Even the once trenchant Harsha Boghle has been reduced to a cheer leading mascot of the Indian cricketing establishment. Indian commentators lost all pretence of neutrality and objectivity the day they signed exclusive contracts with the BCCI. How could anything be more utterly ridiculous! The gamekeepers have become the poachers. When was the last time we heard any criticism from these guys on the BCCI's incompetent, venal and corrupt administration of the gagame.

  • Jayypee on March 17, 2010, 23:58 GMT

    With some relaxation and comfort lessons Shaun Pollock could be turned into a decent commentator. Most of the average commentators need to rid themselves of the over-use of superlatives like fantastic, brilliant

  • fyrestorm on March 17, 2010, 23:14 GMT

    Whilst Bumble may be fun to listen to, he is still extremely biased towards England. When England are losing, he very rarely focuses on the skills of the opposition.

    The best commentators, and by best I mean fun to listen to and not biased in any way, are: Tony Greig, Mark Nicholas and Robin Jackman. I also like Ian Chappell for his brutal honesty.

    And as for Warne's comment, I think he is entitled to have his own opinion. Personally, I would have rather watched Yusuf Pathan's 100 over Brian Lara's 150+ against Australia.

  • apache31 on March 17, 2010, 23:11 GMT

    Send in Tony Cozier and Henry Blothell from the old school of broadcasting.

  • cloudmess on March 17, 2010, 21:56 GMT

    Mr Steen makes some good points. The IPL commentary team seem to range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Harsha Bogle and Jeremy Coney are - in different ways - articulate, witty, with an undercurrent of mischief. Danny Morrison stands at the other end of the scale - a bewildering range of voice intonations, but with little else to offer. The modern-day scenario seems to gravitate towards only appointing high-profile ex-players as commentators. Ian Botham is the best example of a man being appointed to do an unsuitable job, simply because he was very good at another - very different - job. He brings substandard service to Sky, year after year. His content is poor, because he never prepares. His bullish lack of humility helps turn many of his less well-informed (and defensible) opinions into gospel.

  • testmatchsofa on March 17, 2010, 21:49 GMT

    One can argue till the cows come home about who is good and who isn't (and despite agreeing vaguely with the pro-Atherton stance I haven't ever quite forgiven him for his arch "what a performance" cricticm of the umpires removing the bails in the conclusion to the 2005 ashes) the fact remains that the overall hegemony that ex-players have on the profession is ill thought through. Why, just because they were "there" at one time, should they be best placed to talk about it? They spent their youths practicing how to hit, bowl or catch a sublimely. Did they spend the same amount of time on language and elocution? No. Rather it is the less gifted cricketer, the one who devotes all their time to watching, rather than playing, the game who is best qualified to commentate. I've listened to and analysed a great deal more commentary than Michael Vaughan I can tell you. We need to take commentary away from the ex-pros and put it back where it belongs - amongst the true commentators - you and me.

  • anush222 on March 17, 2010, 21:32 GMT

    Steen complains how todays commentators need to be more critical and incisive. I didn't see him name one commentator that he did not like in this article!

  • on March 17, 2010, 21:22 GMT

    The commentary for IPL has been pathetic as it has been for most ICC games, I believe the average English commentator is much better than his global counterparts as they do not seem to be so blatantly parochial as an Ian Smith or a BIll Lawry. Bumbli makes good listening to . I wish Harsha Bhogle would just listen to his own commentary, for christ"s sake we are watching, he is not a radio commentator. I wish some of the commentators would not try to outshout the audience of 50,000 frenzied people. Give me an Alan McVilgray anyday. I feel that today"s tv commentators with the exception of Richie would do well to listen to the audio tapes of the old greats like Brian Johnston and John Arlott. Best watch with the mute button on. Sridhar

  • bobby3054 on March 17, 2010, 21:20 GMT

    I did not have had the time to read the entire article,,but me along with many of my friends,,,we just hate listening to Rameez raja and aamir sohail,,,its been a long time that i saw a live match,,,but many of us were not in a position to stand and hear their commentry,,they suck big time,,,and some of the best,,,nd like to hear are harsha bhogle,,,sunil gavaskar..geoff boycott..ravi shastri,,ian chappell,,nasser hussain,,,richie benaud,.,etc...

  • mykuhl on March 17, 2010, 21:12 GMT

    Perhaps my perspective is different - but I really enjoy Jeremy Coney and Danny Morrison. However my knowledge of both of them is more as radio commentators than TV commentators, and in New Zealand the role of both is very different. Martin Crowe is a perfect example. On the radio he is calm, intelligent and clear. On TV he reverts to "wacko" and "ka-pow" with his commentary often resembling a fight scene from the original Batman TV series.

    I also don't find Ian Healy to be blindly patriotic, as he is often the only Australian commentator to take the New Zealand team seriously. I remember Bill Lawry talking once about a New Zealand team that contained Cairns, Vettori and Astle as having no stars, and no players that could take the game away from Australia. I enjoyed listening to him at the end of that match describing how clinical the New Zealand team were in destroying Australia, and how much of a star Astle and Cairns were.

  • on March 17, 2010, 21:11 GMT

    navjot singh shidu for the indian fans out there but mark taylor, bill lawry, tony greig and ian chappell are good, plus athers, nasser hussain and david lloyd ...............

  • Noob_Sauce on March 17, 2010, 20:29 GMT

    Mark Nicholas is an aussie pet, they can do no wrong. Shastri used to be reasonable but is now prone to hyperventilate at everything. Harsha Bhogle does make some insightful comments once in a while but even he has been unable to avoid the trap of hyperbole. worst commentators are Ranjith Fernando and Aamer Sohail. I can never forget a Fernando special: that's a beautiful cover drive through the covers!!!

  • Bharat_number_1 on March 17, 2010, 20:12 GMT

    @krrish001

    "ravi shastri the best we have"... keep him for yourself. Don't ruin all of India's name because of this king of hyperbole and memorized lines about being a 'tracer bullet' or his brilliant on the spot deductions - 'india have lost a wicket here' (recipient of the prestigious Holmes Award - 2 years running)

    personally i think shane warne is brilliant... not only does he educate rather than comment, he's deeply insightful and a great panderer to the viewer - which is never a bad thing.

    all of the indian commentators should be thrown out, starting with shastri and laxmisrk

  • waleedbaig on March 17, 2010, 20:12 GMT

    Rameez Raja is one of the best commentators in the world.

  • Test-Cricket on March 17, 2010, 19:40 GMT

    @ jerrymaguire101 - you forgot LSRK, Arnold !!! As worst as it gets... Only decent commentators in IPL are Harsha, Sunny and Ravi to some extent... How i wished there was Richie, David Llyod, David Gower, Mark Nicholas, Boycott, Botham commentating in IPL... Tht's my dream commentating team !!

  • thebrownie on March 17, 2010, 19:19 GMT

    Any one who says Ravi Shastri is close to a half decent commentator deserves to be lined up and shot. No point examining their head. So much cliche ridden, that I have on more than one occasion guessed what he was about to say. Tracer bullet, grease lightning, geez do these even exist? Making things worse, I saw "tracer bullet" in one of the articles on cricinfo. Sunil is irritating, Arun Lal and Maninder Singh give me two reasons to watch cricket on mute. Siva has a fake accent. Manjrekar and Harsha are probably the only two sane guys left from India.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDQLVJ04Ic0 Had me reeling with laughter.

  • Tuggaraghu on March 17, 2010, 19:18 GMT

    Everyone is going to like different commentators for different reasons. But one thing that really bothers me in the IPL is they call a six as "DLF maximum" and more sponsors name tagged to different cricketing terms. I don't mind calling a package of sixes at the end of the game along with a sponsors name. Bot every six is DLF maximum, not every wicket is CITI moment of success and not every catch is Karbom kaa kaamal catch. This is ridiculous. Just because Modi is giving jobs to these commentators, will they call their wives "Modi ka wife".

  • CricFan810 on March 17, 2010, 19:02 GMT

    It has always been a pleasure to listen to David Lloyd, Micheal Atherton, Nasser Hussain and Micheal Holding, whenever any country plays in England.. Among Asian commentators Ramiz Raja, Sunil Gavaskar and Laxman Sriramakrisnna are very good. But I've never enjoyed Australian commentators.. Except Tony and Greg Blewet..

  • on March 17, 2010, 18:53 GMT

    Mbangwa now thats a commentator.He knows what to say and when to say it. His mastery of the Queen's language is unquestionable. Keep it up Pommie...

  • roundthewicket on March 17, 2010, 18:52 GMT

    The author is one who wishes everyone was born with prodigious talent, enough to not only know statistics by heart but also to get that last bit of grammar correct. One might recall a statement by Ayaz Menon exclaiming IPL the slang of world cricket. True that we need not have sponsored commentary ridiculing good ol' cricket, but I can also imagine Benaud or Slasher Sidebottom having a go at T20. Won't they slow the pace on what is otherwise non meaningful cricket? Steen is one of those arrogant Poms who believe its not defense if your footwork isn't correct and its impossible to lift it above the keeper for a six. Lets just give it a rest and enjoy. I'd stake money on a Boycott over Holding, who was hardly understandable. Yes, the quips are there with Atherton, moreso in his writing, but his aggression and listener affinity loses out to the delight in Gavaskar's tone. Im happy hearing cricket the way it is. Except for some trash - Manjeraker, Arun Lal, Raza, and Akram etc...

  • on March 17, 2010, 18:45 GMT

    I think Harsha bhogle is the best we have in IPL... Its not only the knowledge but also the inputs he gives are remarkable..also sunny gavaskar...

  • viralpatel15 on March 17, 2010, 18:40 GMT

    Following are in my good books: Geoff Boycott, Bob Willis, Bill Lawry, Tony Greig, Ian Chappel, Michael Holding, Sanjay Manjrekar, Ravi Shashtri, Nasser Hussain, Ian Smith (NZ), Mark Nicholas, Ian Bishop (he is not a good speaker but awesome and nice guy), Robin Jackman, Rameez Raja (not so good, but again not biased guy, he is honest).

  • on March 17, 2010, 18:15 GMT

    I agree with you Rob..I am hoping one can choose the commentators for a match...some kinda interactive feature..every wicket taken is a citi moment of success and every catch a Karbonn Kamaal catch?what next every no-ball is a hero honda no-ball every dot ball an idea-dot ball?every free hit an Orbit free hit?come on guys comment on the state of the game..please so not remind me of the hawkers/announcers in some big malls here in india...while they think they are selling the product they are actually distracting quite a few from even entering the malls. Its the core of the game that will eventually draw the crowds not these outlandish pr efforts..

  • jerrymaguire101 on March 17, 2010, 18:01 GMT

    danny morrison, jeremy coney, pommie mbangwa - truly terrible/ incredibly annoying commentators - in fact pretty much the entire IPL comm team are awful, barring maybe mike haysman, robin jackman, and ian bishop - i dont know why bishop has sold out, considering he has a MA in Media + Communications and is a pretty smart guy (anyone catch him in the studio during the Champs League defending Trinidad & Tobago from the media stereotype of being a 'flair' and 'flamboyant' team?) so listening to him mention that we're in a 'Maxxi Mobile' timeout is disapppointing.

    worst addition to the IPL comm team = Brad Hogg - not only infuriating hyperbole but he feels the need to read out all the batting/bowling figures at the end that are ALREADY ON THE SCREEN. does anyone else encounter the same annoying brylcreem ad as the only ad on the YouTube coverage btw?

    and despite my wish for free-to-air coverage, Atherton, Hussein, Bumble and Holding are great - I actually like the Channel 9 Aussies too

  • nafzak on March 17, 2010, 17:58 GMT

    How about Tony Cozier.. he's pretty darn good me thinks.

  • BearAllen on March 17, 2010, 17:50 GMT

    Benaud's talent and innate modesty being taken as read, perhaps his supremacy as a commentator is owed to his attitude. When he retired and was offered jobs in the media, he decided that if he was going to be a journalist he wasn't just going to rely on his name and cricketing background to carry him through, but was going to get a proper grounding in the profession. Rather than taking the easy route, he took a job as a trainee reporter doing the night-time crime beat, working his way up until he felt justified in taking a commentary job. If only more of the recent retirees took his lead, rather than assuming an ability to play cricket automatically transfers to an ability to talk about it informatively and entertainingly, without becoming a 'it were better in't my day' bore.

  • muthu77 on March 17, 2010, 17:48 GMT

    to rdxten - but somehow I feel that whenever Shastri says that the batsmen is doing great he gets out...

  • kumars on March 17, 2010, 17:47 GMT

    GokulChov - hating the voice is not important. It is what they say.

    most indian commentators narrate the play as opposed to using some intelligence, history etc., to comment.

  • yuvi07 on March 17, 2010, 17:44 GMT

    yea boy!!! manoj brap brap!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  • Test-Cricket on March 17, 2010, 17:37 GMT

    Nice article.. Please someone remind Neo Sports to get some decent commentators. i am sick of hearing the same old commentators who irritate most of the viewers by their stupid commentary..

  • muthu77 on March 17, 2010, 17:19 GMT

    What about Ravi Shastri? Any takers? ***GRIN***

  • krrish001 on March 17, 2010, 16:52 GMT

    From an Indian perspective Ravi Shasthri is the best we have. Sanjay Manjrekar and Arun Lal is also okay. Maybe Akash Chopra [who writes here] would also make a good commentator in the future. No other Indian commentator is good. From others; yes David Lloyd and Nasser are good. I hate Michael Atherton - he once called Sachin a comic hero! I was never a big fan of Richie Benaud. Michael Holding and Mark Taylor are good. Ian Chappel can be preachy and stubborn at times but I still like him when is telling old stories! Tony Grieg is the worst ever....

  • US_Cricket_Fan on March 17, 2010, 15:23 GMT

    nice article..I just wanted to say that personally I think Mike Atherton is the best, both his commentary and his articles..the others that I enjoy listening to and RESPECT their opinions/commentary are Mark Nicholas, Nasser Hussain, Mark Taylor, Tony Greig to name a few..a lot of them out there are just annoying..Richie Benaud has been great but w/o being disrespectful, i think his time has passed, maybe it's time to move on..but the ones mentioned above are just great to listen to.

  • BearAllen on March 17, 2010, 14:52 GMT

    I was lucky enough to share a commentary box with Michael Holding at Lord's during the 2001 Ashes. Your assessment of him is quite right. He spent virtually the whole day watching C4 racing in a back room, but could walk in to the box and in a moment gauge the match situation perfectly. He didn't waste any words, but what he said was clear, insightful, and, crucially, added to the viewers' understanding of the game. If only there were more Holdings, and fewer Bothams and Willises.

  • Trachiniae on March 17, 2010, 14:43 GMT

    Excellent article, beautifully written. But do I detect a thinly-veiled ad hominem in your dislike of the "arrogant Yorkshire twang"?

  • KTiwari on March 17, 2010, 14:33 GMT

    I find it funny that you rate David Llyod high.....I guess he will be covering mouth watering contest between England and Bangladesh..

  • Bobby_Talyarkhan on March 17, 2010, 14:23 GMT

    What a delightful article! How pleasant to be reminded of those who seek to articulate the divine indolence of contemplating the Olympian trial by combat which is cricket! The characteristic nuances and fetishes of individual commentators are beautifully captured - the incomparable Benaud, the impish duo Atherton and Hussain, the deceptive and layered bufoonery of David Lloyd and - yes - the loud and unthinking fraternity of ex-cricketers lining up to generate heat but shed little light whilst always having the interests of their corporate sponsors and employers uppermost in their minds. Is it a coincidence that Arlott and Johnson and Agnew and Benaud and Laker belonged to an older generation reared in the (albeit Reithian) values of public sector broadcasting (and once could add here the All India Radio legends such as Rajan Bala, "Bobby" Talyarkhan and even Dicky Rutnagar)? Today the commentating is a kind of verbal cheerleading for the commodity being sold.

  • SachIsTheBattingGod on March 17, 2010, 14:08 GMT

    One notable omission is Geoffrey Boycott. He has always had the ability to call it as he sees it and his commentary is more prophetic than narrative. There are few commentators that match him for insight. He is as unashamedly an Afridi fan as he is Lara's.

  • on March 17, 2010, 14:04 GMT

    Great article, well articulated . Its very heart warming to read such praises for lloyd and Benaud. They are surely the master of the art of commentry. But i thought two very important names were missing..first one is Sir Geoffry Boycot and the other is my fav Harsha Bhogle.. One suggestion to Rob...please try your hand in commentry...i wud love to hear you..

  • GokulChov on March 17, 2010, 14:02 GMT

    Good article, but this is all very subjective. For the 1000s that hate Sivarakakrishnan's voice, there must be a few dozen who like him! *grin*

  • sanath007 on March 17, 2010, 13:59 GMT

    one of the best commentators who is under used is sri lanka's Roshan Abeysinghe..i dont know why they get ranjith fernando and ranil abeynaike..both are useless...mike haysmen is good too..and danny morrison...i personally dont like daviv lloyd or most english commentators like ian botham etc..they are biased

  • Bobby_Talyarkhan on March 17, 2010, 13:57 GMT

    What a delightful article! How pleasant to be reminded of those who seek to articulate the divine indolence of contemplating the Olympian trial by combat which is cricket! The characteristic nuances and fetishes of individual commentators are beautifully captured - the incomparable Benaud, the impish duo Atherton and Hussain, the deceptive and layered bufoonery of David Lloyd and - yes - the loud and unthinking fraternity of ex-cricketers lining up to generate heat but shed little light whilst always having the interests of their corporate sponsors and employers uppermost in their minds. Is it a coincidence that Arlott and Johnson and Agnew and Benaud and Laker belonged to an older generation reared in the (albeit Reithian) values of public sector broadcasting (and once could add here the All India Radio legends such as Rajan Bala, "Bobby" Talyarkhan and even Dicky Rutnagar)? Today the commentating is a kind of verbal cheerleading for the commodity being sold.

  • rdxten on March 17, 2010, 13:50 GMT

    Amid the bonfire of the banalities and inanities one man stands out. Ravi Shastri easily fits the bill to be among the chosen few who can balance information, entertainment and plain truth.

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  • rdxten on March 17, 2010, 13:50 GMT

    Amid the bonfire of the banalities and inanities one man stands out. Ravi Shastri easily fits the bill to be among the chosen few who can balance information, entertainment and plain truth.

  • Bobby_Talyarkhan on March 17, 2010, 13:57 GMT

    What a delightful article! How pleasant to be reminded of those who seek to articulate the divine indolence of contemplating the Olympian trial by combat which is cricket! The characteristic nuances and fetishes of individual commentators are beautifully captured - the incomparable Benaud, the impish duo Atherton and Hussain, the deceptive and layered bufoonery of David Lloyd and - yes - the loud and unthinking fraternity of ex-cricketers lining up to generate heat but shed little light whilst always having the interests of their corporate sponsors and employers uppermost in their minds. Is it a coincidence that Arlott and Johnson and Agnew and Benaud and Laker belonged to an older generation reared in the (albeit Reithian) values of public sector broadcasting (and once could add here the All India Radio legends such as Rajan Bala, "Bobby" Talyarkhan and even Dicky Rutnagar)? Today the commentating is a kind of verbal cheerleading for the commodity being sold.

  • sanath007 on March 17, 2010, 13:59 GMT

    one of the best commentators who is under used is sri lanka's Roshan Abeysinghe..i dont know why they get ranjith fernando and ranil abeynaike..both are useless...mike haysmen is good too..and danny morrison...i personally dont like daviv lloyd or most english commentators like ian botham etc..they are biased

  • GokulChov on March 17, 2010, 14:02 GMT

    Good article, but this is all very subjective. For the 1000s that hate Sivarakakrishnan's voice, there must be a few dozen who like him! *grin*

  • on March 17, 2010, 14:04 GMT

    Great article, well articulated . Its very heart warming to read such praises for lloyd and Benaud. They are surely the master of the art of commentry. But i thought two very important names were missing..first one is Sir Geoffry Boycot and the other is my fav Harsha Bhogle.. One suggestion to Rob...please try your hand in commentry...i wud love to hear you..

  • SachIsTheBattingGod on March 17, 2010, 14:08 GMT

    One notable omission is Geoffrey Boycott. He has always had the ability to call it as he sees it and his commentary is more prophetic than narrative. There are few commentators that match him for insight. He is as unashamedly an Afridi fan as he is Lara's.

  • Bobby_Talyarkhan on March 17, 2010, 14:23 GMT

    What a delightful article! How pleasant to be reminded of those who seek to articulate the divine indolence of contemplating the Olympian trial by combat which is cricket! The characteristic nuances and fetishes of individual commentators are beautifully captured - the incomparable Benaud, the impish duo Atherton and Hussain, the deceptive and layered bufoonery of David Lloyd and - yes - the loud and unthinking fraternity of ex-cricketers lining up to generate heat but shed little light whilst always having the interests of their corporate sponsors and employers uppermost in their minds. Is it a coincidence that Arlott and Johnson and Agnew and Benaud and Laker belonged to an older generation reared in the (albeit Reithian) values of public sector broadcasting (and once could add here the All India Radio legends such as Rajan Bala, "Bobby" Talyarkhan and even Dicky Rutnagar)? Today the commentating is a kind of verbal cheerleading for the commodity being sold.

  • KTiwari on March 17, 2010, 14:33 GMT

    I find it funny that you rate David Llyod high.....I guess he will be covering mouth watering contest between England and Bangladesh..

  • Trachiniae on March 17, 2010, 14:43 GMT

    Excellent article, beautifully written. But do I detect a thinly-veiled ad hominem in your dislike of the "arrogant Yorkshire twang"?

  • BearAllen on March 17, 2010, 14:52 GMT

    I was lucky enough to share a commentary box with Michael Holding at Lord's during the 2001 Ashes. Your assessment of him is quite right. He spent virtually the whole day watching C4 racing in a back room, but could walk in to the box and in a moment gauge the match situation perfectly. He didn't waste any words, but what he said was clear, insightful, and, crucially, added to the viewers' understanding of the game. If only there were more Holdings, and fewer Bothams and Willises.