10 greatest cricket commentators of all time
- A look at 10 cricket commentators who have enthralled audiences over the years.
- Some of them graduated to commentary after successful cricket careers. Others did it for their love for the game.
By nature, human beings like hearing stories. A few people are gifted with the talent of story-telling more than others. But while the characters make a story, the role of story-tellers isn’t that insignificant.
Take the case of Sanjaya from the ancient epic Mahabharata, probably the first known commentator to humankind. The part that he played in narrating the happenings on the battlefield of Kurushetra to Dhritrashtra could be weighed in gold if looked at from the perspective of the blind king.
Story-tellers or commentators add their unique charm, making it further interesting for the listeners/viewers. Like in other aspects of life, commentators have been entertaining the followers of cricket as well.
Back in the age of radios, they had the vital responsibility of painting the picture of the action on a cricket field in the minds of listeners. With the advent of television, their role changed, but they still have an essential part to play. We, the cricket lovers, love the sound of the willow or the shattering of stumps, but the commentators add to this music.
Since Test cricket began in 1877, there have been many commentators whose voices have been an integral part of the game. Some of these men have been great cricketers themselves, while others have just been followers of this great game. Both these categories of commentators bring a fresh perspective and enrich the overall viewing/listening experience.
Here, we take a look at 10 of the most celebrated cricket commentators who have enthralled the fans of this beautiful game. Note that the number against their respective names is not a ranking.
1. John Arlott
John Arlott, the Englishman from Basingstoke, Hampshire, started his cricket broadcasting career in 1946. By the time he retired in 1980, Arlott was a regular feature in the commentary box for England’s home season. He was known for the Test Match Special (TMS) on BBC. Wisden described him as a poet at heart.
“He played a cut so late as to be positively posthumous.”
“The umpire signals a bye with the air of a weary stalk.”
“Like an old lady poking her umbrella at a wasp’s nest.”
2. Ravi Chaturvedi
Ravi Chaturvedi was one of India’s first Hindi cricket commentator. Chaturvedi, a retired professor in Zoology, taught at Delhi University before joining All India Radio (AIR) in the 1960s. Since then he has covered more than a century of Tests, and ODIs.
When India famously chased down 403 runs against West Indies at Port of Spain in 1976, Chaturvedi was on the air. His last radio stint for AIR was during the 2011 World Cup. Belonging to the era when people had radio sets stuck to their ears, he isn’t too pleased with the treatment meted out to radio commentators.
In an interview with Mid-Day Sports Editor Clayton Murzello, he said, “Radio helped to spread the game and take it to the interiors. What is happening now is most unfortunate and unbelievable.”
3. Anant Setalvad
Like Ravi Chaturvedi, people of today’s generation may not have heard the name of Anant Setalvad. So, to put things into perspective, about Setalvad, the much-loved commentator Harsha Bhogle wrote, “As a young man, I imagined I was Anant Setalvad, and I would try to copy his style but could never get the lilt and authority that his unique voice produced. He was always the commentator I wanted to be. The brightest light in the finest era of radio broadcasting in India.”
Setalvad was a club cricketer who possessed a sound knowledge of the game. He was a famous voice from the 1960s till the 1980s. The mic was his canvas, and with his vivid descriptions, he would inform the listeners about the happenings across the 22-yards.
4. Richie Benaud
Richie Benaud is dubbed as the voice of cricket by many and was synonymous with Channel Nine’s coverage of the Australian cricket summer. His signature comment, “Marvellous” was used in a series of television advertisements for Australian Tourism Commission.
Benaud's fan club, ‘Richies’, would often dress up in his trademark cream jacket, and wear wigs at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) as a mark of salute to the former great cricketer turned commentator.
Known for his pauses while doing commentary, he once said to Sunil Gavaskar when a batsman had completed a century, “Let the viewers sink at that moment. Let them applaud the batsman in their way.”
“Captaincy is 90 per cent luck and 10 per cent skill, but don’t try it without that 10 per cent.”
“Gatting has absolutely no idea what has happened to it. He still doesn’t know.” - On Shane Warne’s ball of the century to Mike Gatting.
“Two for Two hundred and twenty two” - Benaud had a unique way of telling the score at 222/2.
5. Tony Grieg
Tony Greig was one of the most enthusiastic commentators who would catch the attention of listeners, with his voice modulations. The South African born former England Captain could bring in excitement during the most dull phases of a game. Using a car key or pen, he had a unique way to give pitch reports.
While his commentary for Channel Nine in the Australian cricket summer was legendary, but that wasn’t all. Utter the words Desert Storm to any Indian fan. After Sachin Tendulkar’s batting, the next thing that people would likely remember is Tony Greig’s commentary.
Greig was a global citizen who was loved all around the cricketing world. Interestingly, both Benaud and Greig were born on October 6th, albeit 16 years apart. The ICC could consider naming 6th October as an ‘International Commentators Day’.
“They are dancing in the aisles in Sharjah.” – On Indian fans in Sharjah during Sachin Tendulkar’s century against Australia in 1998.
“The little man has hit the big fella for six! He’s half his size.” – When Sachin Tendulkar hit Tom Moody for a straight six in Sharjah, 1998.
“Oh boy, doesn’t she look gorgeous!” – When the camera pointed towards an attractive female spectator.
"India have won in dramatic style! The whole of Bengal are on their feet!" -On India's historic win over Australia in Kolkata 2001.
6. Bill Lawry
Along with Richie Benaud and Tony Grieg, Bill Lawry formed a formidable team in the Channel Nine commentary box. Like Benaud, post his successful career as a cricketer, Lawry was invited by Kerry Packer for the World Series Cricket in 1977-78.
Over four decades, the former Australian captain lent his voice to many memorable moments in Australian cricket.
“Very Good Morning to all our viewers wherever you are.”
“It’s all happening here at the MCG.”
“Got him, he’s gone!!!!”
7. Geoffrey Boycott
The former English skipper, Geoffrey Boycott, made a name for himself in the commentary box with his typical Yorkshire accent and wit.
He has been one commentator who isn’t afraid to criticise the players. Much like in his playing days, he has attracted controversies with his commentary as well. Nevertheless, his comments are often insightful, and adds a bit of spice in the commentary box.
“I reckon my mum could have caught that in her pinny.” – On a dropped catch.
“Get a single down the other end .and watch someone else play him” – The best way to handle Glenn McGrath.
“He is the Prince of Calcoota.” – The name he gave to Sourav Ganguly.
8. Sunil Gavaskar
Sunil Gavaskar’s love for technique, something that he was known for during his playing days, is evident even today when he has a mic in his hands. Listening to his in-depth knowledge of the game is an education for any cricket fan. But everything is not serious when he is in the commentary box. His one-liners and humour are as classy as his straight drives were.
He is one of the few commentators who isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade, even if it attracts controversy.
“When I die, the last thing I want to see is the six that Dhoni hit in the 2011 World Cup Final.”
“Srikkanth is a vegetarian. If he swallows a fly, he will be in trouble."
“Pakistan without Ajmal is like a car without its engine.”
9. Harsha Bhogle
Harsha Bhogle's popularity as a commentator can be gauged from the fact that a few years back there was a TV programme called ‘Harsha ki Khoj’ (Hunt for Harsha). Like many other Indian commentators, he too started his career with the All India Radio (AIR).
One of the few non-cricketers to have made it big in cricket commentary, Bhogle is a Chemical Engineer and an MBA grad from the prestigious Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad.
“This innings by Tendulkar has been a beautiful garden, the last shot being the most beautiful flower.” – On Tendulkar’s straight drive of the bowling of Brett Lee.
“If decibel level was a factor in winning a match, India won’t lose a single one ever.”
“Eruption of joy at the fall of an Indian wicket can mean only one thing/” – When Sachin Tendulkar walks out to bat.
“Ask him to walk on water, and he’ll ask, How many kilometres?” – When Rahul Dravid was in his prime.
10. Tony Cozier
Also known as the voice of West Indies cricket, Tony Cozier, starting out in 1965, did cricket commentary for almost 50 years. Born in Bridgetown, Barbados, he was a club cricketer, but his knowledge of the game was less than none.
He was very vocal about the decline of cricket in the Caribbean islands. Cozier has been on BBC’s Test Match Special (TMS), World Series Cricket, and many other such programmes.
"The left index finger was raised slowly, but more hesitantly than usual, in answer to the familiar war dance the Australians describe as an appeal.." On the controversial dismissal of Brian Lara in the second innings of the second Test at Hobart, 2005.
"The Queen's Park Oval, exactly as its name suggests—absolutely round."Published 16 Apr 2020, 20:27 IST