Time has come to try out non-player commentators
Every sport is more enjoyable when it is shipped with an excellent commentary, and cricket is no different. It makes the game more interesting to watch. It helps us to remember the match as a story and some oneliners stay in our mind. A good commentator is a good storyteller as well.
Sadly, the current generation of cricket lacks good commentators. It may be because more and more players join the commentary box right after their retirement. Many of them are great players but poor commentators. These players have cricketing knowledge but lack the other skills to succeed at the commentary box such as an attractive voice and a stellar storytelling ability.
Harsha Bhogle who is arguably the best commentator in the world hasn’t played any international cricket or Ranji Trophy games. He played only university-level cricket matches.
However, he has mastered the art of commentary and his one-liners are second to none. For example, when Sachin played a straight drive, he said, “Open textbook, turn to page No. 32”. He could have easily said it was a beautiful straight drive but he always tries to come up with poetic and witty lines.
Currently, broadcasters are not willing to try non-player commentators. They rely more on the credibility of a player than commentating skill. Had the broadcasters followed the same approach, we could have missed a genius like Harsha.
Why should broadcasters change their approach?
There are many player-turned successful commentators, Sanjay Manjrekar, Ravi Shastri and Aakash Chopra to name a few. If a player is a good storyteller, he will deliver a better commentary than a non-player on any given day.
However, the unwillingness of broadcasters to try out non-player commentator is not a good practice. It is as if one can’t write a review on a mobile gadget if he hasn’t built one or one cannot criticise an actor who has delivered a bad performance if he is not a professional actor. In that regard, there wouldn’t have many journalists and our media would have been very poor.
Commentary is an art. It becomes beautiful when words are used properly. It requires a good command over language and knowledge of the game.
There are plenty of excellent non-player writers. Some of their columns are better than the player-turned writers. They might not have played cricket at the international level but they are good at analyzing the game. Their analytical skills coupled with the command over language make them good writers.
Like these writers, there are many aspiring commentators. They know they can perform well and what they need is a chance to prove their worth.
It is not a bad move to try out them. Agree that they might lack a cricketing knowledge compared to an international player but that can be rectified by giving proper training and guidance.
If commentators are made in that way, I’m sure cricket will be better to watch. We deserve more than the cliches like “That went like a tracer bullet” or “If India have to win this they have to play well”.