World Cup enters Indian hinterland through multilingual commentary

The trend of players commentating on the game was popularised when matches on Channel Nine were beamed from Australia in 1985 and the likes of Richie Benaud, Bill Lawry, Ian Chappell and Tony Greig became household names in India.

Venkatesh Prasad: "What I enjoy more is the commentary (in Kannada) by my colleagues. There is a lot of banter and stories to be shared. Speaking on cricket is not a challenge since most of have been active cricketers for more than a decade at various levels."   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

It is a platform that brings former cricketers together to discuss and debate the nuances of the game and enlighten the viewers.

The trend of players commentating on the game was popularised when matches on Channel Nine were beamed from Australia in 1985 and the likes of Richie Benaud, Bill Lawry, Ian Chappell and Tony Greig became household names in India.

Their critical assessment made them immensely popular and there was a surge in former players wanting to stay in touch with the game by taking to commentary.

Sunil Gavaskar is a shining example of players making a career in the commentator's box after retirement. Ravi Shastri took little time to learn the finer points of commentating, having grown up listening to greats like Alan McGilvray, John Arlott, Tony Cozier.

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A horde of players have now found a new career in cricket commentating across various languages and there is actually healthy competition to be counted among the best.

The move by Star Sports to promote commentary in regional languages has attracted a new genre of viewership with focus on anecdotal narrative. Said an official with the broadcaster, “We have had a good response to commentary in Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, Malayalam and Marathi (in IPL).” As Hemang Badani, one of the most articulate cricketers in the panel noted, “It is great fun to be able to speak in your mother tongue and I am told it has caught on with fans who are not very comfortable with understanding English and Hindi.”

Badani's multilingual skills have made him a sought after commentator.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

Badani's multilingual skills have made him a sought after commentator. Fluent in English, he is at home in Tamil too. “I have grown up in Chennai,” he points out. “When the offer first came to me I was not sure if I would be able to deliver. My family persuaded me and I went through the process by attending the workshops. It wasn't difficult because I described the game as I saw it and support from fellow colleagues helped a lot.”

Badani is adept in Hindi too. “I opted for Hindi as a second language in school and enjoyed the learning. It felt nice to be able to converse with cricketers from other zones. I could go beyond hellos and good mornings. I am so happy it has helped me to qualify as a Hindi commentator also. I think it is an advantage to know different languages.”

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Badani's list does not stop with English, Hindi and Tamil. “If they launch a Gujarati channel tomorrow, I will qualify there too. It is my mother tongue,” he smiles. Add French to the list of languages that Badani can converse in. “I don't think we are going to have commentary in French,” he has a hearty laugh.

He stands out for his ability to call a spade a spade. “I don't criticise or praise for the heck of it. You have to be objective. I believe in doing an honest job and if it means I need to point out certain mistakes made by even my favourite cricketer I don't stop myself,” says Badani.

For Venkatesh Prasad, taking to the mike is a way of connecting with the game. “It allows me a stage to express my opinion. Being an expert means a responsible job and I like it. What I enjoy more is the commentary (in Kannada) by my colleagues. There is a lot of banter and stories to be shared. Speaking on cricket is not a challenge since most of have been active cricketers for more than a decade at various levels. It is a nice idea to have commentary in regional languages because of the comfort level. To able to express well is an important aspect of being a commentator and this is an area that comes from practice and observation.”

Deep Dasgupta is another cricketer who excels in three languages – English, Hindi and Bengali.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

 

Deep Dasgupta is another cricketer who excels in three languages – English, Hindi and Bengali. “I always wanted to become a commentator after retirement. Having played the game gives us the advantage to analyse. The insights that come from cricketers can help the viewer follow the game better. It is also a fact that we have to prepare hard for this job by reading as much as possible and also learning from the seniors.”

The Star Sports Studios is a conclave that accommodates close to 100 cricketers on a match day during the ongoing World Cup as experts and commentators. “It is like a cricket mela where we meet old friends,” says Badani. Cricketers from Kerala, Maharashtra, Gujarat now eagerly await a dedicated channel for them to showcase their commentating skills.