Harsha Bhogle
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Commentator, television presenter and writer

Where is the next generation of broadcasters coming from?

There are not many options for youngsters looking to make a career in the field

Harsha Bhogle

January 5, 2013

Comments: 44 | Text size: A | A

Broadcaster and journalist Christopher Martin-Jenkins poses outside Buckingham Palace after receiving his MBE, London, May 28, 2009
Christopher Martin-Jenkins: they don't make them like him anymore © PA Photos
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Christopher Martin-Jenkins and Tony Greig took different routes to becoming broadcasting icons. They couldn't have been more different, even though, in a way, both found solace and an identity in cricket.

CMJ was quintessentially English, loved the village green as much as he did Lord's, was educated and erudite and had the most wonderfully mellifluous voice. He was always your friend, speaking in smooth tones, and in my association with him, he never deviated from the courteous. He played just enough cricket to understand the feelings associated with it, which he was able to transmit to eager listeners, of whom hardly any had played international cricket.

Greig was a traveller, was at various times South African, English and Australian, though his definition of his nationality didn't always find widespread acceptance. That was sad because he was actually all three, and that is not easy to be. He played cricket hard, was not afraid of being abrasive, and quite revelled in the role of the showman. Those who knew him better than I did say that this was a fa├žade, but at my level of association that is the feeling I got. He was always energetic, always searching for excitement, and some might say he had the right voice for that style.

They were as different as maple syrup and vinegar, but they had one thing in common. They understood their medium and their craft very well, and were willing to work at it. In Greig's case his popularity as a broadcaster even overwhelmed his substantial persona as a cricketer of some distinction. To neither of them was broadcasting a lazy second option.

The broadcasting world is significantly poorer for their absence. And as we mourn them, we must also look at the changing contours of the profession, as the beauty of the spoken word and the elegance of description are increasingly rendered irrelevant in the chase of the box-office name. A younger version of Tony Greig can still hope to have a commentary career if he is willing to learn the skills that the great Channel 9 quartet of Benaud, Chappell, Lawry and Greig had, but another talented CMJ cannot even dream of it.

I mean no malice when I say this, for it can easily be construed as making a case for my constituency. I have already had an innings better than I could have imagined, but I was able to because traditional broadcasting skills were sought after when I was growing up. Today the genuine flag-bearers of the CMJ school are virtually extinct. Jonathan Agnew at the BBC's Test Match Special is excellent but he had a fair career in first-class cricket and even toured with England, so we will have to leave him out. As indeed we must the classy Alan Wilkins and Mike Haysman, and the outstanding Mark Nicholas.

There is no point in reminiscing about a Cardus, an Arlott and a CMJ and applauding a Cozier if we crush the next generation possessed of those talents

But look beyond. The great Tony Cozier, hero to so many of us, is winding down, and Fazeer Mohammed is trying to fill those giant shoes. And in Australia, Jim Maxwell remains the voice of their cricket and a deeply committed lover of the game. But neither he nor Fazeer are really in the most powerful, most influential medium of them all.

And so I wonder where the next CMJ or Cozier or Maxwell will emerge from. Or whether the opportunities for many talented young people here in India are forever gone. And indeed whether the game becomes richer by shutting these people out. The essence of broadcasting remains the ability to communicate the drama to those watching or listening; to be able to educate but also to get them to feel the emotion, for that is what sport really is, a great theatre of emotions. Sport needs narrators to bring the game alive, and even if you have been there yourself as a player, you must possess the ability to tell the story in as compelling a manner as possible.

Now imagine the plight of a bright young talent in India. Radio as a career doesn't exist and that is cruel. Indeed I dream of the day when somebody in power understands the beauty of radio, but till then we in India must be denied it. Most newspapers don't have cricket writers; the local man does international cricket and in any case very few sports editors seem convinced of the need to have the day's play reviewed. Television shuts its door on them, fishing in a smaller pond as it does. And I believe the game is poorer for this, a fact I am convinced of every day as I read pithy, studied and stylishly written articles on the net.

We need nurseries. My heart sinks as I see young reporters being indoctrinated into that suicidal rush for speed over authenticity, for volume over content, for 15 minutes of attention over a lifetime of trust. They must sniff out controversy and scandal, though they entered the profession because they were enamoured by the cover drive and the outswinger.

We in the media, especially in this part of the world, need to introspect. There is no point in reminiscing about a Cardus, an Arlott and a CMJ and applauding a Cozier if we crush the next generation possessed of those talents.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. His Twitter feed is here

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Posted by shillingsworth on (January 7, 2013, 21:20 GMT)

Excellent article. The great Richie Benaud spent some years working in a variety of media roles while he was still playing. By contrast, too many more recently retired players expect to walk straight into the commentary box without developing the communication skills required in their new career. For BCCI.TV commentators, these skills are however totally redundant - the latest missive 'BCCI right, rest of world wrong' is on the autocue.

Posted by themightyfenoughtys on (January 7, 2013, 20:18 GMT)

The BCCI mind control removes any hope of informative, opinionated commentary in India any more. It's inevitable that the Gangulys and Manjrekars will end up just on news channels for being too much their own men. We'll just end up with 5 x LMS who can spot a dignatory in the crowd better than a doosra

Posted by   on (January 6, 2013, 18:29 GMT)

I just want to ask Mr Bhogle, Jatin Sapru the present Anchor on star cricket was discovered in a talent hunt competition 5 years ago in the year 2007. He is doing alright at the international level as a presenter, i am afraid to become a cricket commentator nowadays one must be an ex player as apart from his in-depth knowledge of cricket and his critics which he may never have followed himself in his career, he also delivers some dressing room gossips which interests the audience. If it was only for voice modulation any voice over artist could have been at his best in doing the commentary but its about the heart involved with the game. As a young kid and teenager i wanted to represent my country in cricket. i lived my dream till i was forced to realize that i need to earn my bread through a respectful job.My heart still beats for the game and i want to be associated with it and i still dream to serve cricket, please tell me the routes apart from following the game.

Posted by   on (January 6, 2013, 13:33 GMT)

Why does Cricinfo not run a poll on the best commentator......lets see what kind of results we get...honestly i think every commentator with the exception of Tony Grieg and Ian Chappel are partial while commentating. That includes Harsha too. You never see Harsha being critical of certain players in the Indian team, Ravi Shastri always over-plays the triumphs of Indian teams, Gavaskar rarely appreciates the English and Australian players. Sourav seems to be quite non partisan but is totally unwilling to take a position.......English commentators like Nasser Hussain Ian Botham and others are over critical of the Indian team and Ramiz Raja and Sanjay Manjrekar always bring in the talk of Pakistan and India when its totally out of context.......it just seems as though there is different match going on between the broadcasters themselves.

Posted by   on (January 6, 2013, 8:37 GMT)

As always a pleasure reading your articles. I could not help but comment in the 26 th over while watching 3rd ODI. Can you all as a team focus on cricket and not on the circus of diplomats sitting in the stadium, putting them on screen and talking about them till Dhoni comes to hit a six.

Posted by EdwardTLogan on (January 6, 2013, 4:39 GMT)

Agree totally with ashok16 - Shastri, Gavaskar, LMS are absolutely terrible. I only hope either Fox Sports or the ABC are sending their own commentary teams to India or I'll be watching all four Tests with no sound.

Posted by crick_wizard on (January 6, 2013, 2:18 GMT)

I think we need a combination of both types..we should appreciate the value former cricketers bring, when they share their past experiences, anecdotes etc..also having seen and experienced it all makes a huge difference rather than commenting from outside..especially for test cricket..out of the two or three commentators per slot, one should be lively type while the other can be a subtle type..I think thats what the broadcasters do anyway..it does not matter if the commentator is lively (like a Tony Grieg) or subtle (like a Richie Benaud) as long as their comments are not boring, cliched and redundant (like Shastri, LS)..

Posted by Swampy5 on (January 6, 2013, 0:24 GMT)

The best new writers and commentators on the game are independent bloggers on the internet. Ironically this would be much to the horror of CMJ, an upper-crust man of privilege who was dead against non-establishment approved cricket commentator. Most newspaper reporting, with a couple of exceptions, is bland to awful. The less said about TV commentators the better. I've stopped listening to Channel nine's inane cheerleading cum commentary. It's more enjoyable to mute the TV and listen to the radio even though there's a 5 second delay. At least the radio commentary is still worth listening to.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2013, 21:44 GMT)

The new voices of cricket are making themselves known through blogs, podcasting and webcasting. The great tragedy is CMJ's last days was that in his irrational attack against Test Match Sofa, he failed to recognise that he was part of the institutions that had blocked the next generation of cricket writers and broadcasters who were not ex-players. The new wave is already here; if the major broadcasters and newspapers want to retain any kind of currency, they will need to find a way of bringing those good people in.

Posted by ashok16 on (January 5, 2013, 20:38 GMT)

I keep my TV on mute and just read the cricinfo commentary. Ravi Shastri is not good at all and he is the best of the Indian lot. Ideal is if there are two non cricketer commentators leading the coverage and there is one cricketer who occasionally steps in with insight. Instead we have to deal with the horror of three cricketers looking down on the field of play ("things were so much better then"...). The worst of the lot was L Siva. Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly are degrading themselves by mouthing off opinion on every little cricketing event. God only knows when and how Tendulkar will begin to torture us. They will be better off coaching, umpiring or in administration if they want to stay in cricket.

Posted by msnsrinivas on (January 5, 2013, 20:18 GMT)

I really don't know what the fuss is all about. We have a Sivaramakrishnan, don't we?

Posted by VickGower on (January 5, 2013, 19:55 GMT)

I do not think one needs to have played cricket at the highest level to make a good commentator but I prefer commentary that lays bare the technicalities of the bowl bowled, shot played, and fielding. The problem that I have with commentators who are not from the cricketing world, and, sorry, Harsha comes to mind here, is that they end up straying away from the rich vernacular of cricket. I do not know if they feel obliged to be a little more dramatic or lyrical or what have you, because those are the types of trait they are supposed to bring to the table, but the end result is a lot of small talk with plenty of flourishes and wit, often with little relation to the current action. In fact, back in the days, I seldom recall the sort of elucidation of the cricketing mechanics that makes commentary from the likes of Manjrekar or any one of the NZ commentators so thrilling.

Posted by xrocks on (January 5, 2013, 17:33 GMT)

The standard of commentating in India has gone down drastically in the last 5 years as there are so many people in the commentary box.It's surprising to hear that Ravi Shastri as good...Common guys have you not heard any good ones? Even Harsha's standard too has come down..Also there is no mention of Richie Benaud?

Posted by MrPud on (January 5, 2013, 16:33 GMT)

Most of the great commentators mentioned, cut their teeth on radio. The style required for radio needs to paint a picture in the mind of the listener. Many modern TV presenters are still trying to describe what the viewer can see with their own eyes. This gives the impression that they are treating the viewers like idiots. If there wasn't such a long delay between live play and TV, I would listen to the rado every time. Love Richie and Bill, maybe even Chappelli when he's not too grumpy. Cozier is great as well as Harsha, Aggers and Bumble. Jim Maxwell and Tim Lane were excellent and maybe Michael Slater's unbridled enthusiasm could elevate him into Tony Greig's role.

Posted by doubtingthomas on (January 5, 2013, 15:27 GMT)

None of the commentators apart from those mentioned in the article have developed trademarks. Those that have, are well... there is a long line of jokes on them. Cricket broadcasting, like Cricket itself, it keeping in tune with the market. Some of us like things the old way, but we are a minority. The average 20 yr old cricket fan no longer needs to be hooked to every word the commentator says to derive a complete entertainment experience from a game. They've got scores of other easily accessible options available that are vying for their time and attention. Moreover, some of cricket's administrative bodies should also take the blame for including sponsor's propaganda into cricket commentary. It doesn't sound good at all.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2013, 14:39 GMT)

Well said. The tragedy is that some of the commentators in the box....likeIndia's greatest opener and Pakistan'slong haired batsman....mouth platitudes and not wisdom? Having played the game at the highest level does not necessarily a commentator make. The joy of waking up at 5 in the morning when i was ten years old to listen to Radio Australia is something I can never forget. Sadly that, like much else that is to be cherished, is a thing of the past.

Posted by Noman_Yousuf_Dandore on (January 5, 2013, 14:02 GMT)

I think the major problem in broadcasting started when the boundaries between a color commentator and play-by-play announcer started to fade. CMJ, Arlot, Tony, Harsha and to an extent even Lawry, Gower and Grieg were mainly play-by-play announcers; ably supported by their color commentators. In my humble opinion, Bidding farewell to this distinction is the main reason behind the detoriation in quality of broadcasting nowadays.

Posted by balajeev on (January 5, 2013, 13:29 GMT)

Cricket watching on TV as an experience has been adversely affected by trite commentary. On the rare occasions I catch a cricket game on TV, I can actually anticipate and predicts commentators' next lines. Isn't this a pathetic situation? My enthusiasm for following cricket on radio has grown because of dropping commentary standards on TV.

Posted by KVasavada on (January 5, 2013, 13:05 GMT)

Good article Harsha and good comments too,especially Deepak Odhekar took me down the memory lane.Add to his list Vijay Merchant,Vizzy and staticianAnandji Dosa.Talking of Kishore Kumar during a match...well, I remember Rajoo Bharatan's comment when in seventies there was a suggestion of shifting Gavaskar to the (brittle) middle order which meant Chetan Chauhan and Anshuman Gaekwad would be opening! Bharatan said it would amount to seeing Vishwajeet and Joy Mukherjee simultaneously on screen! ( due respects ) Anything in lighter vein is always good in middle overs.If you get a chance, listen to radio commentary of SA-NZ series.Aslam Khota,Craig and Natalie are doing a great job.

Posted by vatsap on (January 5, 2013, 12:47 GMT)

A good article from Harsha. Except for TMS or BBC, TV commentary overall has become pathetic. The Golden era of Channel 9 is just round the corner, with Ian Chapell and Richie Benaud, the last of the Mohicans. There is practically no difference between the likes of Slater/Healy to the subcontinent gang of Sunny/Ravi/Rameez and the rest, all jingoistic and extremely biased. There is hope with Rahul Dravid joining the commentary team. Like someone mentioned, my TV is on mute when I watch cricket.

Posted by lillie_express on (January 5, 2013, 11:38 GMT)

My best radio commentators: for the ashes in England, the voices of Brian Johnson and Christopher Martin Jenkins were sensational. In Australia, the voices of Neville Oliver and Tim Lane were just brilliant.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2013, 11:05 GMT)

You are right...as far as India is concerned no new notable English commentator is coming up. We had the likes of Devraj Puri, Shradendu Sanyal, Pearson Surite, VM Chakrapani, Shiwaji Dasgupta, Narottam Puri, Anant Setalwad & Dicky Ratnaguramong the best radio commentators while on TV only Ravi shastri & Sanjay manjarekar are good, the rest are pathetic including Sunny who is very biased & has a very limited vocabulary. He is a poor pre or post match speaker. Harsha, after Shastri you are the only world class radio & TV commentator we have at present but who else after you ? the cupboard is empty.....

Posted by   on (January 5, 2013, 9:33 GMT)

Gone are the days of the great commentators.I grow up listening to the likes of Rex Alston,Brian Johnson,John Arlott,Allan McGilvary,Ritchie Benaud,Henry(Reds)Perreira,Tony Cosier.Raffie Knowles,Trever Bailey,Christopher Martin Jenkins and Henry Blofeld.All the commentators are limited edition that can never be replaced.Thier descriptive style of the game was of a high standard tha makes listeners saw the match that was taken place in thier minds.Honestly i would love to see these younger commentators taking a page out of these guys books to keep the commentry alive.

Posted by Paddle_Sweep on (January 5, 2013, 9:19 GMT)

Harsha, I really hope that you read this. The point is are there any good Indian commentator who can inspire people in India to take up commentary. The answer to that question is the answer to this article. And the other point when a cricket match is going on, we want the commentary to focus on cricket 90% of the time. It's still okay , as per me, if the rest 10% of the time is spent on something else say on Bollywood, Hollywood etc. But the issue is when you sit in the commentary box with Rameez or Sanjay or Sunny or Ravi or anybody else, it's 90% of time on something else and only 10% of the time on cricket. You talk about Kishore Kumar etc but listen you could have that conversation with your fellow commentator in your hotel rooms. The audience wants a commentary on Cricket and nothing else and it gets really boring when a two way conversation that's nothing to do with cricket happens between two individuals happens in the commentary box. Pls remember the audience and what they.

Posted by duralsumo on (January 5, 2013, 9:10 GMT)

To Elvis - with digital TV it is now difficult to turn volume down and have the utopian world of ABC commentators and C9 pictures. However the is a new breed of commentators coming through with the likes Slats, Pigeon and Bing making good in roads into learning commentary. Combined with the old school commentators they are progressing well. As long as the game is played a new breed will come through. The old traditional Arlotts, McGilvary (I am old enough to remember how he described the game) and Johnson are gone which is a pity buts lets remember the commentors represent the generation in which they played and game and what they have experienced in the commentary box. So the traditional commentors would probably be lost in this generation as much as I loved them.

Posted by elvis_ on (January 5, 2013, 8:32 GMT)

I am an Australian and when the cricket is on tv, I turn off the sound and listen to the ABC radio commentary. One of the reasons for this is hearing you on radio maybe 8-10 years ago. The radio commentary is insightful, humorous and entertaining -- the tv is pretty much banal (he would like to bat to stumps - that kind of drivel). I am sure the channel nine commentators are nice people but their commentry seems to be directed to the lowset common denominator - neither the true cricket fan, nor the lover of beautiful words painting a great picture.

Posted by SuperKingViv on (January 5, 2013, 8:27 GMT)

Thank god...Harsha did not take the names of Sunny and Ravi. They are two of the most pathetic commentators. They always have their own agenda rather than speaking about what's happened/happening on the ground. They also try to give advice to captains or tell about what they feel, who should be in final XI, batting order, field settings, bowling changes, etc. Of late, Sunny is more inclined in criticizing Sehwag and Gambhir for their failures, but never talked about the failures of Sachin or even Rohit Sharma, who has had umpteen chances to prove himself....oh yeah they are from Mumbai, right? I know that Sehwag and Gambhir should be given a warning to make them perform and make them know what their role is in the team. One more funny thing is that Sunny is nominating Virat Kohli to the position of Test captaincy!!!! What did Virat do in his short test career, though he is a future captaincy material....he still needs time to have his footing in test Cricket.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2013, 7:57 GMT)

To be honest, who cares . The game is not about the commentators. So often nowadays I just mute the commentary and watch the game. Indian commentators need to be more brave in their comments about the Indian team. Tell it like it is. This is more important then the writing of articles about where are the future commentators.

Posted by SumoSumo on (January 5, 2013, 7:39 GMT)

Mr Gavaskar is good on the mic except when he is talking about Mr Tendulkar. If Tendulkar gets out, it' because of the wind and cloud around not because of good bowling or pretty poor batting.

Posted by Sir.Ivor on (January 5, 2013, 7:39 GMT)

CMJ along with Dom Mosey and Henry Blofeld made hearing the Test match special as live as watching the game on the ground. Each one with his own distinct brand of everything. Description of cricket, narration and timing of anecdotes, sense of humour and the ability to remain unfazed in any situation. Christopher Martin Jenkins was as English as the game of cricket is and one could actually visualise his seemingly grim face betray that twinkle in he eye. Not for him the raucous bubbliness of Blofeld or the straight tone of the poor man's Arlott in Dom Mosey. CMJ was his own duplicate on occasions. I thought he was inimitable. RIP CMJ. I enjoyed hearing you on test Match Special.. Thank you for the original dimension you brought to cricket.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2013, 6:44 GMT)

A great player makes a good commentator, I am not sure about that. It has been almost 10 years since Wasim Akram has taken the mic on his own, but yet he has not come out of that 'he's gonna get' and 'we use to' sort of commenting. Don't know why Broadcaster allow Amir Sohail to comment on match days. He is good, certainly far good from Akram. If i have to take few names from Modern Commentators, it has to be Ian Bishop and Michael Slater.

Posted by ygkd on (January 5, 2013, 6:16 GMT)

Shoving a microphone in front of a recently retired and popular player does not a good commentator make. This is because playing the game and commentating are two different skills. Sure, there is a cross-over. When Ian Healy says that Matthew Wade needs to work on his keeping technique, as he has just done on Australia's Channel 9 while I type this, Healy's playing record provides gravitas to his comment. However, a particularly articulate individual could have said the same thing just as well without the cricket background, indeed maybe even better because language skills matter in broadcasting, especially on radio. Coming from outside cricket can also be an advantage in maintaining balance and in understanding a broader audience - an audience that doesn't necessarily play the game themselves. So while knowledge of the game is essential, being an ex-player is hardly vital. Neither is the posession of a suit and tie. A few female commentators wouldn't go amiss. They do play the game.

Posted by SoverBerry2 on (January 5, 2013, 5:44 GMT)

Sourav Ganguly is best commentator in India. All others do the bidding of BCCI by not talking about IPL and DRS!

Posted by SuperKingViv on (January 5, 2013, 5:31 GMT)

contd...This is how Sunny, the so called legend analyzes Cricket...I think Ian Chappell is the best commentator because he played Cricket, has been one of the shrewd thinkers, brings nostalgic touch by explaining about past events, and more importantly analyzes the game very well. Thank god, Harsha did not take the names of Sunny and Ravi.

Posted by Agnihothra on (January 5, 2013, 5:17 GMT)

@ pratn please google the word 'cricketcouch'.. you will find as good a pod cast as any and its exclusively on cricket

Posted by Rakiraghu on (January 5, 2013, 5:05 GMT)

Harsha you r making a piont .sports need a narrator.i remember your spectacled face and bald head with infectious love expressed for cricket in your eyes and alan wilkins calmness when being with players how u were bringing out thoughts from them . i was dreaming to be like u fellows now we see old cricketers just babbling there experiences and techniques .no offence some r good but commentry box need people like u who can portray fans experience awe for game

Posted by Emancipator007 on (January 5, 2013, 4:52 GMT)

Harbhajan will make the most fluid,quirky,witty and insightful Hindi commentator ever if Hindi radio/television cricket broadcasting takes off-so good he is on cricket shows. Ganguly at 26 in 1998 when he was banned for a game against OZ commentated superbly in an ODI with his rich game sense and he proves it now as the best young commentator going around;some more experience with voice modulation, pitch, delivery will pitchfork him to the Chappelli class. Today's best TV comms are Nicholas,Chappelli,Athers,Haysman.Ramiz who started off well has surprisingly gone down.Dravid is average, speaks like his batting.Warney is not bad.Gavaskar might sound boring but for technical elucidation of batting he is the best with Barry Richards/Greg just a whit behind.Taylor for all his captaincy astuteness is quite a dud.Botham is ordinary.

Posted by pratn on (January 5, 2013, 3:51 GMT)

Maybe on Hindi commentary - there were very few former Indian players in the Hindi commentary box.

While radio remains mired in govt regulations, why don't we look forward --- towards podcasts?

I listen to a few podcasts (NPR, 60 minutes, Here's the Thing - Alec Baldwin, Freakonomics etc) but I have hardly seen any good Indian podcasts or good Cricket podcasts let alone an Indian Cricket podcast :)

Surely there is an opportunity there. And who better than you -- Harsha Bhogle -- to curate a weekly podcast with young talent?

Posted by a1234s on (January 5, 2013, 3:31 GMT)

In no other sport, are commentators and analysts expected to have had international experience under their belt. The football people over at Guardian are excellent analysts and really know how to mix in humour. None of them I think have any international football experience and yet manage to make the game insightful and entertaining. Cricket analysts need to stop making it a measuring contest.

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Harsha Bhogle Harsha Bhogle is one of the world's leading cricket commentators. Starting off as a chemical engineer and going on to work in advertising before moving into television, he is also a writer, quiz host, television presenter and talk-show host, and a corporate motivational speaker. He was voted Cricinfo readers' "favourite cricket commentator" in a poll in 2008, and one of his proudest possessions is a photograph of a group of spectators in Pakistan holding a banner that said "Harsha Bhogle Fan Club". He has commentated on nearly 100 Tests and more than 400 ODIs.

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