Bangalore: Sports commentary on TV has become a high-profile job. Aplethora of former cricketers have now taken up jobs as commentatorswith primary cricket channels such as Star TV, ESPN, Channel 9 and SkySports that cover most of the international matches. There are otherchannels too that feed on the cricket craze of the public in the sub-continent.
On the home front, the television rights are exclusively withDoordarshan. The national television network also ties up with theproducer to give the Indian viewers a dose of commentary fromcricketers-turned-commentators. Even the Hindi commentary team includesformer cricketers Yashpal Sharma and Maninder Singh. Syed Kirmani toohad a stint.
The comments from these high-profile personalities leave a lot ofimpression on the millions of viewers of the game. While EnglishmanGeoff Boycott is particularly known for his dry wit on issues outside of cricket and on incidents happening in the stands, most othercommentators have their own special effects for the viewers.
So much so that even Harsha Bhogle and Charu Sharma, two who anchor thecricket shows, have become as popular as the commentators and arethronged for autographs by cricket fans.
Given the wide fan following for the game, almost all channels coveringthe game in every country try to give their coverage the star effect byutilising the services of former cricketers.
From within the precincts of the boundary these players have becomestars in their own right beyond the boundary. Some of these commentators also write for various publications and websites.
Sunil Manohar Gavaskar: His off-the-field exploits as commentator match his on-field status. The record holder of the maximum number of Test centuries and second highest Test run-getter, Gavaskar likes to get into a dialogue with fellow commentators, especially if it is Geoffery Boycott. Gavaskar also keeps recalling anecdotes from his playing career. Can keep the audiences spellbound in technical conversations.
Ravi Shankar Shastri: He comes through as a thoroughbred professional commentator. Crisp in his comments, Shastri brings his vast knowledge to match the best in the profession. Shastri"s pitch reports at the start of the day"s play are especially worth waiting for. His commentary is in fact a notch better than his game used to be (though he did win the Audi for Best Player during the 1985 Word Series Cricket at Australia). Commentary comes naturally to this former all-rounder.
Yashpal Sharma: Gritty player and a key member of Kapil"s "Devils" who won the World Cup for India in 1983, the voice of Yashpal Sharma may be less heard than that of the other stars. He offers commentary in Hindi, which can be fairly more complicated than batting or fielding in close-catching positions. Sharma, however, thoroughly enjoys his role and quite popular.
Maninder Singh: The Sardar now partners Yashpal Sharma on the Hindi version. He brings his analytical mind as a former leftarm spinner to his new profession. He too is popular and readily obliges fans" requests for autographs. He gives commentary in English occasionally.
Syed Mujtaba Hussain Kirmani: Made his debut as commentator during the 1996 World Cup in India. With the television channels requiring a host of commentators to cater to the vast needs of the sub-continent, a lot of former players took to the mike. The shaven-headed former wicketkeeper made a quite a mark with his "stumping" comments.
Sanjay Manjrekar: A star who did not realise his true potential, Sanjay Manjrekar now is a regular on the commentary team. Immaculately dressed Sanjay is quite a draw. His comments, like his batting, are solid in defence.
Syed Saba Karim: In and out of the Indian cricket team, Karim has now decided to accept the stint behind the mike instead of staying behind the stumps. With many illustrious peers from India to help him out, Karim may perhaps fare better in his new venture.
Arun Lal: This former opener from Bengal is also among the Hindicommentators. Apart from regular commentary, he initiates a lot ofdiscussions on pre-match and post-match situations. A good analyst, hecan start a nice debate among fellow commentators.
Kirti Azad: A cricketer in the true mould of a pinch hitter, Azad is a multi-faceted cricketer. A cricketers-turned-politician, he has done the job behind the mike as well.
Navjot Singh Siddhu: One of the few specialist batsmen that India has produced, Siddhu has a deep knowledge of the game. Siddhu was a dogged fighter and can bring his staying powers to the commentator"s job. Shows a keen sense of the game while discussing it on the "idiot box".
Ian Chappel: Perhaps the best among the Australian commentators, this former national skipper tends to get over-excited on occasions. Frank and outspoken, he does not spare even the umpires. Ian Chappel, like Ravi Shastri, is very popular and fans look forward for his interviews during the toss, at the end of the day"s play and during prize distribution ceremonies.
Richie Benaud: This Australian commentator is not very popular among the Indian viewers. He, however, holds his own in Australia. Belonging to a different era of the game, Benaud brings a very welcome contrast in the "box". Richie Benaud was in India during the World Cup 1996. He has a sharp sense of assessing players, situations and pitches.
Michael Holding: A typical West Indian, who is clear-cut in his views. His commentary is as smooth as his bowling run-up. After Tony Cozier, he became the most popular West Indian commentator. Known as the "whispering death" for his impeccable bowling action, Holding is the common man"s delight as he clearly speaks his mind on the game.
Tony Greig: A South African-born Englishman, Tony Greig was a big success with the Packer circus. A towering personality, who would be quite a contrast to the Indian "Little Masters" Sunil Gavaskar andGundappa Vishwanath. A man who backs natural talent, Greig was one ofthe few who raised their voices to defend Sri Lankan off -spinnerMuthiah Muralidharan during the chucking controversy. As a commentator,he readily mixes with the rest of the media.
Barry Richards: Cricket fans would have loved to watch this South African bat. But, Richards blossomed in the apartheid era when South Africa were shunned by the rest of the cricketing world. Richer for the experience, Richards has gelled with the rest of the star cast behindthe mike.
David Hookes: This Australian may not have been a "great hooker". But he knows the nuances of commentating and the game. Combined with hisinternational exposure, it provides him with an ideal platform tocommunicate from off the field.
Ian Healy: This former Australian wicketkeeper is one of the newentrants into the field. He made it straight to the "box" on hisretirement from the game. His comments are as solid as he was behind the wicket to the Australian quickies as well as the one and only ShaneWarne.
Mark Taylor: This Taylor has made a new mark among the high profile commentators. Taylor, who meticulously built up the Australian team after Allan Border and Kim Hughes struggled, would be looking forward to making as successful career as a commentator. It would be interesting to see two former Australian stars (Taylor and Healy) wielding the mike.
Allan Robert Border: A prolific run scorer, Border was plagued with a team that was staring defeat to frequently in the eye. His fighting spirit on the field could be a great value addition off it too. As the highest run scorer in Test cricket — Border surpassed Gavaskar"s record by scoring - will now be looking at Australian cricket in a different light. His unenviable record stands at 11,174 runs from 156 Test matches with a healthy average of 50.56.
Tony Cozier: One of the earliest West Indian commentators to hit the scene, Cozier is a very well known name in India. His typical WestIndian commentary endeared him to many cricket lovers. He was one of the earliest commentators to have digressed from the typical ball-to-ball radio-type commentating.
Rameez Raja: One of the few successful commentators, Raja is known for his light-hearted banter with fellow commentators. A staunchnationalist, his heart always goes out to the Pakistan team. In a career spread over 14 years, Raja played 57 Tests and 198 Limited OversInternationals. He has two Test centuries and 22 Test half centuries tohis credit.
Asif Iqbal: Is not much seen in the "box" these days. But, had his share of the stint after retiring from the game. Perhaps his venture at Sharjah is keeping him otherwise tied up. Born in Hyderabad India, Asif has played 58 Tests and only 10 LOIs. Perhaps that is the reason that he has actively taken up promoting the shorter version at the desert city of Sharjah.
Wasim Akram: Is among the latest players behind the "box". The left-arm medium-pacer appears to be making way for a smooth transition. Having shouldered Pakistan"s responsibilities as opening bowler, all-rounder and captain, Akram will be looking forward to translating his vast depth of knowledge and situations to analyse others performances.
Henry Blofeld: Is undoubtedly the grand old man of the commentary team at the age of 71. He definitely belongs to a different generation, but never suffered a generation gap. Though, he did not represent England in international cricket, he was a wicketkeeper batsmen for Cambridge University. Ever associated to the game of cricket, he was a loyal fan and critic. He was very interested in happenings off the field during a match and used to drawl about the ear rings and nose rings of women especially among the Indian and Pakistani audiences in the sub-continent and Sharjah.
Geoff Boycott: A no nonsense commentator adds a lot of punch to his commentary skills. He reacts much quicker than his batting ways from behind the mike. Makes the job interesting for himself and the viewers by quite often indulging in off the cuff remarks. He is another of the pitch experts, who will call a spade by no other name than a spade.
David Gower: The stylish left-handed English batsmen with eternal boyish looks is following in the foot steps of his more illustrious senior Geoffery Boycott. Gower will try to retain his style and grace in his commentary punches too.
David Lloyd: This former England coach is a lesser-known lights among the English commentators. But, being a hardcore professional, he will continue to do his job with clinical precision. After shorts stint of nine Tests and nine LOIs, Lloyd took up coaching the England team. He is one of the few player-turned-commentators who perhaps has the experience of the coaching stint too.
Pat Symcox: This South African off-spinner took an instant liking to the visual medium. Symcox was one of the few players who straightaway went to the commentators box. He was a fairly good bat and had on occasions donned the role of the pinch hitter. Symcox"s height was rather unorthodox for an off-spinner. But, he can spin a web for the viewers with his comments.
Crowned by the British Queen for his once world record, this former New Zealander bowler now easily fits the bill behind the mike. Not much a popular figure for Indian viewers his rich repertoire is based on the hard work he had to do for a team which never came anywhere near to being called world beaters.
Gaven Larsen: Another New Zealander to have followed in the footsteps of Richard Hadlee. He was more of a one-day specialist and earned the name of "postman" for he always delivered his captain"s diktat. Having played in three consecutive World Cups, Larsen had an enviable record of 3.46 runs per over. This "postman" will definitely deliver behind the mike inside the "box".
Harsha Bhogle: From compere on ESPN to a full-time commentator has been a major jump for this non-cricketer in the "box". Crisp commentary and compering are a part of his job. Bhogle in fact hobnobs with the big league of commentators and makes a good match.