Imagine the Rumble in the Bumble if Messrs Dibbly Dobbly Wibbly Wobbly (with combined ODI count of 465 matches) took exception to being called dibbly-dobbly-wibbly-wobbly by David Lloyd of 8 ODI-fame. In Indian cricket though, the proverbial cookie (or khakhara) crumbled when Mr 74 ODIs said he didn’t much like Mr 152 ODIs as a ‘bits-and-pieces’ player. But there was more to TV commentary at the World Cup than this twitter storm in the Earl Grey tea-cup. The Indian Express caught snatches of some.
VVS not your run-of the-Miller fan
VVS Laxman is usually at his polite best in the booth, championing the harmless (if a little boring) brand of commentary. But perhaps it was the more relaxed setting of the ‘Dugout’, where former players often overlook the action unfolding in favour of mutual platitudes and anecdotes, which led to Laxman essentially discrediting David Miller’s prowess with the bat. With South Africa reeling at 89 for 5 after the Bumrah-Chahal onslaught in India’s first match of the tournament, former Kiwi all-rounder Scott Styris asked Windies great Brian Lara and Laxman to predict where the Proteas would finish; the former wrote 230, the latter 165.
Styris tried to sway Laxman’s prediction by pointing out that Miller was at the crease, when the Indian ruled out a Miller special. “I don’t think David Miller is going to do anything much,” said Laxman, prompting a cackle from Styris, who made a save with “Come on, he’s a talented batsman.” Pat came the reply: “Trust me, I have seen enough of David Miller.” “Wow. Guess we won’t be seeing David Miller at Sunrisers next year,” summed up Styris, alluding to Laxman’s role of ‘mentor’ with the IPL franchise. For academic purposes, Miller scored a 40-ball 31, pushing South Africa to 227, three shy of Lara’s uncanny prediction.
The Gangooglies: Jefra, Joffrey.Jofra
Shekhar Dhawan. Kedar Yadav. Ocean Thomas. No, these aren’t player names from an unsanctioned cricket video game, changed just enough to avoid any copyright issues. The modified names are Sourav Ganguly’s biggest contribution to the meme lexicon, all coined during the World Cup.
But Ganguly’s worst was reserved for Jofra Archer, as the England pacer received a double-whammy of Jefra and Joffrey. After one such transgression, former England player Graeme Fowler tweeted: “I love how Ganguly calls Jofra, Joffrey Archer. Don’t think Jofra has been found guilty of perjury and perverting the course of justice like Jeffrey Archer.” Others have deduced Ganguly to be a huge Game of Thrones, especially Joffrey Baratheon, fan. To his credit, Ganguly made notes and started correcting himself on air. “Kedar Yadav… Jadhav, to be precise.” No. Jadhav, to be correct, Saurabh.
Wee bit greatest Ian Smith
“Just a wee bit.” A typical Kiwi phrase, which emphasises the understated tone of almost everything about that country. And nobody says it better than Ian David Stockley Smith.
In an era when hyperbole and cheer-leading pass off as commentary, the former New Zealand wicketkeeper stands a class apart. Solid in build, he is also a giant of the commentary world, even though he doesn’t venture too much out of his home country. He has the uncanny knack of conveying the mood of the match, without hardly ever raising his decibel level. And one can never accuse him of talking up New Zealand without justification, even though he played with distinction for them for more than a decade.
And his insight is not restricted to cricket. Kevin Pietersen, for one, can’t have enough of the genial Kiwi.
“Ian Smith is a WONDERFUL commentator! Both cricket & rugby…,”
“Ian Smith on commentary – LEGEND! …” he has tweeted on separate occasions.
In this World Cup, Smith’s insights have been on view not just during New Zealand’s matches, but on other fixtures too, such as Saturday’s classic Australia-South Africa clash. And he will, no doubt, be on air for the India-New Zealand semifinal on Tuesday. However, one can be sure he will know when to let the pictures speak for themselves.
And he has fans in the commentary box itself. On Saturday, as he passed on the mic to Michael Slater and Mark Nicholas, saying viewers could look forward to some “high-quality commentary,” the latter’s first words on taking over were: “But the greatest one just left the building.”
A Little Birdie pecks WC clean
It has been a “clean” World Cup so far, declared Curtly Ambrose on BBC Test Match Special (TMS). The ECB has taken cricket out of terrestrial TV. But thankfully radio has been spared, allowing the TMS to remain an integral part of the English summer.
As the group phase of the World Cup concluded, BBC cricket correspondent and TMS presenter Jonathan Agnew – he was a former England fast bowler who played three Tests and as many ODIs – asked Ambrose, the ‘Little Bird’ from West Indies, about the tournament being played in good spirit and no sledging.
“I haven’t seen anything other than the really good spirit between the players and the teams, and I haven’t seen sort of; there have been no hotspots and fallouts, which is good news,” Agnew said. “Certainly it’s good news, because in the heat of battle, things can be said. But it has been a clean World Cup so far. There has been no sledging, no ill feeling, no bad temper; anything like that. So, it’s quite nice to see. But you know it’s a good World Cup. Competitive… Some very, very good, close games, but nothing out of the ordinary. That’s good,” Ambrose replied. “I wonder why?” Agnew sounded a little amused.
Discussion then moved to pitches. “Are we happy with the ways the pitches are being?” Agnew asked. Ambrose gave the nod. “I think generally there have been good cricket pitches in my opinion. Many of us including myself came here thinking that it’s going to be a high-scoring World Cup. Because the way ODIs are going in recent times; it’s tailor-made for batsmen. So I’m quite happy to see the batsmen have to work much harder to score runs and there’s a little bit for the bowlers.”
Five words epitomise the TMS on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra – as good as it gets. This is the medium that once thrived on the oratory and commentary skills of the likes of John Arlott and Brian Johnston. It is where comparisons are made between Pakistan medium pacer Hasan Ali and ex-England left-arm spinner Norman Gifford, and also between “the kangaroos in the crowd and elephant in the room”.
The TMS induces fans to paraphrase Freddie Mercury: Radio, a lot of them still love you.
Not quite blown by Gayle
When the camera panned, quite randomly, on Chris Gayle, the commentary box took the hint. And it happened at the opportune moment, for Michael Holding and Nasser Hussain, two of the game’s greatest conversationalists had charge of the microphone. The day was June 27, and India was playing the West Indies – a day after Gayle used the pre-match press conference to reverse his decision to retire from international cricket. Surely, praises were in order for the ‘Universe Boss,’ but for the ‘Whispering Death,’ Gayle was jumping the gun.
“It was a long time back, but I did play some (ODI) matches,” he said during commentary. “And if I remember correctly, it’s the selectors who pick the squad. Not really Chris Gayle.”
Hussain, took the cue, and was ready with an episode he recalled of the legendary Geoff Hurst taking for granted his spot on the England national football team.
“Hurst told the coach Alf Ramsey, ‘I’ll see you at the next match,’ and Ramsey said ‘if selected Geoff, if selected,’” Hussain recited. “Imagine, the World Cup winner who scored a hat-trick in the final wasn’t sure of a spot in the team.”
A day later, legendary West Indies bowler Ambrose expressed his anger over Gayle wanting to play a final Test. “Gayle hasn’t played a Test match in five years. What kind of message are you sending to youngsters? Bringing him back for one Test, I think, is a step backward,” Ambrose was quoted. In another West Indies match, Gayle dived to stop the ball while fielding. And then he rose with both arms in the air, soaking in the applause. Again, there wasn’t much coming from the commentary box. “For any other fielder, that’s an average stop,” Hussain said. “For Gayle, that needed the extra effort, and the applause.”
This was the ‘curse of the commentator’ of a different kind.
Because it’s Dada’s b’day.
There’s never a dull moment when former India skipper Sourav Ganguly is in the vicinity, or in the commentary box. As was the case during India’s warm up game against Bangladesh in Cardiff. The 47-year-old left-hander reunited with his former manager and “dear friend” John Wright. Ganguly welcomed the New Zealander, who coached the national team from 2000 to ‘05, and the first question Wright threw at him was: “Who is in charge here?” Ganguly, known for his wit, tried to play it cool and said: “It was always you, wasn’t it? When I was captain, John Wright was making all the decisions and I followed like an obedient student.” “My memory must have failed then because I think you were in charge and I used to just potter around in the background,” came back Wright. Wright 1 – Ganguly 0.
House (of) Cricket (Wasim is Coming)
Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram has had his share of faux pas during his stints in the ongoing World Cup. During the Pakistan vs West Indies match at Trent Bridge, he accidentally referred to West Indies all-rounder Andre Russell as Russel Arnold.
Ian Ward, his co-commentator, tried to salvage the situation with his cheeky intervention: “You mean Andre Russell right? The other Russel is a former Sri Lankan batsman.” Funnily enough, Akram remained oblivious to the slip-up and continued with his rant. This was not a one-off instance though. During a pre-match show for the Pakistan vs Bangladesh World Cup match, Akram came on air in his true inimitable style to deliver: “Welcome to Lord’s, the House of Cricket.” Despite these howlers, Akram was well at home behind the mic, enthralling audiences with his candour.