Monday, May 19, 2008

Cricket Commentary on the IPL

IPL TV cricket broadcast on Mute

While some of the on-ground performances and the kind of strokes played (called innovation these days) has not been anything to write home about, the off the field stuff i.e commentary at the IPL, has been deplorable and possibly the worst one has heard in the last two decades.

Terrible anchors, shockingly (un)fashionable ‘on the ground’ correspondent with minimal knowledge of the game and commentators with nothing more than clichéd description of the game - If the T20 has been a Tamaasha for the traditionalists, listening to the broadcast has been truly miserable to those who grew up listening to Alan McGilvery, Norman O’Neil, Brian Johnston, CMJ, John Arlott, Fred Trueman and Trevor Bailey and in the last couple of decades and more to Richie Benaud and co.

Taking the game to the Youth
There has been enough written about taking the game to the youth, especially to the women population in the country. That might seem a fair objective to have(at least that might take one set of audence from mega serials to sport). Having half clad women, in the name of professional dancers, is another so called innovation that has been brought in at the T20 in an effort to draw the youth to the ground.

Almost 15 years ago, Michael Holding, who had just got into cricket commentary,
(early on Holding was an expert on the radio for Carribean Broadcasting Corporation) spoke about the difficulty of being a TV commentator. He summarized it quite nicely at that time: "Unlike radio, TV commentary required a different kind of skill. As a TV commentator, describing a shot was not as important as analyzing the stroke/ball/ situation of the game and providing insights on the game and the match scenario."

Clichéd stuff
Unfortunately, the Asian commentators seem to have not understood the basics of TV commentary. A six is always a ‘huge six’ (even if it has managed to just cross the line), a boundary is always a great shot (even if it goes to third man off the edge), a win for Mumbai Indians always means great captaincy by Sachin. Fantastic and magnificent has to figure every alternate ball. Adjectives, the IPL commentators seem to believe, are everything is in ‘cricket commentary’.

Thankfully Robin Jackman and Greg Chappell have proved to be an exception and to a lesser extent L. Sivaramakrishnan. Surprisingly, even Tony Cozier and Ravi Shastri sounded more ‘Noise’ than knowledge. Every time at the toss/ presentation, Ravi seemed to raise his voice and sound forceful than be knowledgeable.

And why would one have Krishnamachari Srikkanth at every Super Kings match as the so called expert, trying to provide insights and inside information into his home team. While, like always, he has been 'straight off the bat' or 'Straight from the heart',some of his comments have been comical to say the least. "....gummaa vaa.......chennai super kings na summaa vaa".

When a 35+ year old hits a six or takes a wicket, it is always experience. When a 20 year does something negative, it is always inexperience!!!!

A few of these left me truly shocked:

“ The Boundary Line reporter asking the Umpire as to who he thought will win the match when there were still 5+ overs left in the game”

“ The same one asking Anil Kumble, in the first 10 days of the IPL, as to what his team had to do that week given that the finalists would be decided by the end of that week- Left Anil Kumble stunned as well….”

Arun Lal’s repeated comments (his first comment on this came 2 balls after the event happened) that the batsmen should not have taken a run of the no ball so the inform bat would have remained on strike and that taking the run of the no ball was the turning point of the match.

Aamir Sohail’s one word/two word questions during his interviews- ‘Great match?’, ‘Great pitch?’, ‘Great crowd?’!!!!!

‘What do you think of the crowd’ seemed another clichéd question during every interview

One wonders as to why these greatly paid commentators, (almost all of them have been international cricketers themselves) would not take the trouble of doing a little bit of home work on players and the game, so as to be able to offer more insights than mere description of the game.

TMS and Sky Sports- A different league
Those who watched /heard the commentary on the England V New Zealand first test at Lords would have seen a startling difference in the standards of broadcast. The IPL TV team would do well to take a tape of the commentary provided by the Sky Sports team comprising Michael Atherton, David Lloyd, Michael Holding, David Gower, Nasser Hussain and team or the one provided by Jonathan Agnew, CMJ, Brian Woddell, Henry Blofeld, Geoffery Boycott and Jeremy Coney of the TMS team.

It was insightful analysis every single ball on different aspects of the game. They truly have set a very high standard in TV broadcast and raised the bar, originally set by Channel 9, to another level. Time and again, the IPL TV commentators have ended up with clichéd cricketing terminologies and if they desire to hold on to their audience, they will need to do a lot of catching up. Till such time, it is best that true cricket followers watch the match on ‘mute’.

3 comments:

Ramesh said...

Prabhu,

Nicely written.

I completely agree that most of our commentators go overboard when speaking. In India, it is a mistaken notion, that good cricketers have to be be good commentators. People like Tony Cozier, Henry Blofeld, Harsha Bhogle were never great cricketers...still they excelled in their profession...

Great batsmen need not be good captains, and good coaches need not be great cricketers

Also Sunil Gavaskar needs to be included in the bandwagon of "unprofessional commentators". He only has two agendas when taking the mike;

1. Have a swipe at Englishmen or Australians for all wrongs in cricket

2. Create an aura that only mumbaites and Sachin can play Cricket.

Something more funny is commentators generally saying " Sachin is a keen learner and wants to be always involved in the game". This, when he would have done nothing or would have been relaying the ball to the bowler from the wicketkeeper.

Less said about Srikaanth, the better...he thinks there is no difference between his batting and speaking. He surely has the problem of "Verbal Diaorreha". I remember having read somewhere that Henry Blofeld refused to do TV commentary if the other person holding the mike was Srikkanth. And this was because he repeatedly interrupted Henry while he was speaking.

PRabhu S said...

Ramesh,

Hi! Thanks for reading and the comments.

In India, there is no communication training for cricketers and captains on what and how they should speak, unlike in Australia and other countries where this is also part of the 'growing up' for captains/prospective captains.

Same with commentators. End of playing career automatically means a career in the TV box, irrespective of the skill levels required to be a commentator.

Srikkanth obviously seems to have value for he is an expert analyst for one of the TV channels as well as being the home expert at the IPL for Chennai's matches- Guess he provides the entertainment value.

Many of the commentators have I think become stale with their comments including Gavaskar. One can almost predict what they are likely to say about every player.

With someone like Greg Chappell, you can see a palpable difference..his insights, the indepth analysis of game situations...

I think among the Indian Commentators, Sanjay Manjrekar stands out for his knowledge of the game. Unfortunately being on Ten Sports and covering games in B'desh, Pak and Sri Lanka, he doesnt seem to get the big matches.

Prabhu

Raghu said...

I also think its more than an IPL issue - the deterioration in television commentary has been on for quite a few years on - we really should feel lucky when we get good commentators these days. And lots i think is this notion that ex-cricketers make great commentators. And esp seeing many of these ex's commenting on mistakes being made on field these days - you wonder what were they upto during their playing days - if they had used even half of what they say on air now, India would have been a much much better team. Less said...the better.