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     Volume 7 Issue 16 | April 18, 2008 |

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One Off

Commentating on Cricket: The Oops Factor!

Aly Zaker

In our younger days the proverbial “cricket fever” used to be confined between India and Pakistan. But now Sri Lanka and, more recently, Bangladesh has come into the fray. Who knows whether our other neighbours will join the bandwagon soon? Some people despise cricket, I haven't a clue why. The other day a colleague of mine, obviously a cricket hater, announced in a party situation that only people who had nothing to do, like playing or watching cricket. It is a colossal waste of time.

I do not see why any body should describe cricket as a waste of time when a file from one desk in a government office takes more than a week to travel to the next! This argument of mine was once challenged by a friend who said, “it takes more than just the 'time' you have talked about. It takes passing the envelop under the table as well”. Be it as it may, cricket for me is a passion. I had tried to become a cricketer and failed, because my father wouldn't let me be one. He thought I was too fat to be a player of any sort. So I took to commentating on cricket with my little knowledge of the game fortified, of course, by the Wisden year book on cricket. But my commentating used to be confined to the “Dhupkhola math” in Ganderia, our play ground for the most important fourteen years of my life. I used to roll a book to resemble a microphone, and commentate on almost any and every cricket game of 'importance' that was played in that field.

Therefore, lo and behold, some one in the cricket board, about twenty years ago, got me in to the box. And I started to commentate in the telly. Now I know from being an 'experienced' cricket commentator that commentating on something be it cricket or “hadoo do” is easier said than done. I also realise that when one talks more than one really ought to there always is the “oops factor” that one cannot avoid. That is why, I think, it is better to think before one talks than after one has talked. Isn't this why Mahatma Gandhi had once said, 'one thing that you can never take back is the spoken word?'

Yes, the “oops factor”, that's what I started off to write on. And this relates exclusively to commentating on cricket. Thinking in retrospect and now when I watch cricket on t.v. or listen to it in the radio I am reminded of the devastating fact--that. I myself must have made so many blunders and didn't bother to say “oops” in my time. Our experienced radio commentators almost always make hilarious faux passé without the batting of an eyelid. There are some that would make sense to the readers who are aware of the cricketing language and some others which are pretty commonly understood. You should not be surprised if you heard that a batsman hit a wonderful off drive then a long pause and then, oh, he has been bowled out. “Oh what a wonderful sweep to the leg”, and then, “it has gone to the fence through the cover” (quite the other way from the leg). The best I think is that “stumps” in their commentary become “stamps”. Therefore, “the stamps” are uprooted by Shoaib Akhter's ball. Or the batsman is “stamped” by the wicket keeper. To our Bangladeshi commentators, every ball bowled is followed by some sort of unwarranted suspense, as if some thing extraordinary is about to happen. And what follows is either nothing or dismal. Some of the commentators, specially the ones who are used to talking a lot more than they are supposed to, have to swallow their own words ever so often. Many of these over enthusiastic commentators, speaking on radio, forget that poor mortals like us anxiously wait to hear more about the total score, individual score, loss of wickets, run rate et al while they merrily go along describing the blue sky, white cloud, green grass etc. The game in the meanwhile may have gone a long way; unnoticed. They often forget why they have been employed for.

But there is one exception, Mr. Navjot Singh Siddhu, the famous Indian cricket player turned commentator. He is unique. Siddhu does not swallow his words. He defends his faux passé with aplomb. There is no end to his antiques and innovation of the English language. He literally translates the Punjabi jargons and uses them freely in English. No wonder he has now become more of a TV entertainer than a cricket expert. Good for cricket and also for us. Here's wishing cricket commentary an unimpeded and painless journey forward.

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