Words behind the game

With an increase in television and radio stations, there has been a significant growth in the number of cricket commentators, during the matches of international and local tournaments. Ahmed Shatil Alam writes about the trend

Photo-courtesy

001It was the last over of the final match for Bangladesh Premier League’s third session, held last year. Comilla Victorians were playing against Barisal Bulls.
Shuvagata was run out at first ball after taking two runs. Nuwan Kulasekara ran a bye off the second ball before Kapali struck two more boundaries to reduce the gap between the winning score to just three runs from the last two deliveries. As Kapali scored a boundary on the third ball, the commentators from a radio channel said in Bengali ‘Ball chole gelo mather baire…comilla joyer khub kachhakachhi…(ball crossed the boundary…and with that, Comilla Victorians are very close to victory)’.
A group of young people, mostly university students, were listening to this radio commentary while huddled up near a radio by the Dhanmondi lake. The group of friends could not watch the final at the stadium. They also could not watch it from the beginning on TV. The radio was the last resort for them. While some of them were cheering for Comilla, those supporting the Barisal Bulls were visibly discontented.

Syed Abid Hussain Sami, right, and Nafis Ahmed at commentary box

Syed Abid Hussain Sami, right, and Nafis Ahmed at commentary box

Among these cricket-lovers was Shadman, a student of a private university, who later shares with New Age Xtra, ‘As we were not watching the game, the commentators of the radio stations were our bridge to the final on the field. They manage to express the excitement on the field, among those playing and the spectators.’
Thousands of people like Shadman who cannot watch the cricket matches on television or by going to the stadium due to work and other daily engagements, are relying on an increasing number of commentators. Besides the commentators on television, an increasing number of FM radio channels are also leading to a growing number of radio commentators.
Most of these commentators have their own unique style of ball by ball commentary, during the domestic and international cricket matches.

New style of commentary

SOURAV LASKAR

SOURAV LASKAR

On TV stations and Bangladesh Betar, commentary, deemed as a tool for ‘spicing up’ a match, has been alleviated to a glorified status by the likes of veteran commentators and former cricketers like Shamim Chowdhury, Chowdhury Jafar Ullah Sharafat, Athar Ali Khan, and some others.
Radio commentator Syed Abid Hussain Sami points out that Peoples Radio was the first ever private radio station that hired former cricketers and cricket enthusiasts during the 2013 Indian Premier League. ‘Although Peoples Radio did not continue the practice, other stations like Bhumi, Swadhin etc. picked up on the move and now most radio stations feature commentary of local and international cricket matches,’ he says. Sami currently hosts a programme on Jamuna Television.
Commentators Amitavo Chowdhury and Shathira Jahir Jesy call this commentary: ‘new form of commentary’. ‘We like to believe that we brought along this change in radio commentary,’ says Amitavo.
Former national cricketer for the women’s team Shathira Jahir Jesy feels that a major qualitative change was required in radio. ‘We do commentary in a casual manner, like as if we are talking with our friends and any acquaintances while on the radio,’ she says. ‘Thus while updating the listener with game information, we are also entertaining them through the match,’ she shares.
According to Amitavo and Sami, this style works well with the listeners. ‘Most of the audience members are university students and young professionals. Most members of this segment of the audience are tired of the conventional style in commentary by local commentators of Bangladesh Betar. Our style seems to have clicked with the audience,’ says Amitavo, who besides being a cricket enthusiast, is also a naval architect.
Sami says, ‘We cannot provide visuals on the radio. So we have to paint a picture closer to the truth for our listeners through our commentary.’

Mixed reactions

Amitavo Chowdhury, right, with his fellow commentator

Amitavo Chowdhury, right, with his fellow commentator

Veteran commentators, however, have mixed reactions about this new style of commentary. Chowdhury Jafar Ullah Sharafat says, the new generation of commentators lack quality. But international commentator Athar Ali Khan was optimistic about the new group of commentators while talking with New Age Xtra.
Sharafat continues, ‘Commentary is an art. To become successful at this, one needs to have a good command on language, pronunciations and knowledge on the overall game.’ Sharafat has been a part of numerous historic moments during the cricket history of our nation.
‘Unfortunately, a few of the new generation radio commentators have such qualities,’ he says. ‘As most of them were never involved with cricket as players, sometimes they struggle to maintain the ideal practices of commentary…in fact some of them do not even follow the media ethics,’ he shares.
Athar Ali Khan says, the commentators have been improving. ‘I respect them for doing commentary on a professional basis and in a good manner,’ he says. He, however, suggests commentators who were never involved in cricket on the field to ‘follow cricket intensively’ and ‘do their homework properly about the game’.
Bangladeshi national team player Mehrab Hossain, who is also known as Mehrab Hossain Junior, feels that most newcomers are doing ‘absolutely fine’.  ‘But sometimes it becomes awkward when we see a person from a non-cricketing background and without any significant experience in the game, criticise national team players like Mushfiq, Shakib, Mashrafee and others,’ he says while referring to an incident during the recent BPL, when a model turned-commentator criticised Mushfiq on television screen for his decision during a game.
Mehrab became a cricket commentator during the recent Zimbawe tour of Bangladesh in November 2015. Despite becoming a commentator, he still aims to be a part of the national team in the future.
‘Actually, it happened all of sudden, when an official from the production team that broadcasted the matches asked me to do commentary,’ he shares with New Age Xtra.

Still not a profession
Although the journey of commentary started many years ago in Bangladesh, new and veteran commentators feel that the sector is yet to be established as a proper profession. Sharafat informs that although the remuneration for international commentary and English commentary is good, Bengali commentary does not entail similar pay cheques.
‘Besides, although it is an art that brings life to a game, Bangladesh there are no motivational programmes like giving awards to commentators,’ he says. Amitavo agrees with the notion while adding that most people in Bangladesh does not think that commentating is a prestigious profession.
Amitavo adds that most listeners have the misconception that private radio commentators are doing promotional campaigns on behalf of companies during sports commentary. ‘But this is due to the radio authority and not entirely in the hands of the commentator,’ he says when asked by New Age Xtra about the criticism that commentary in private radio stations is becoming increasingly commercial.

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