5 of cricket's most articulate personalities

Atherton Hussain
Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain have been two of the best commentators to have graced the game
Kislaya Srivastava

The sport of cricket brings with itself a rewarding and fulfilling, and yet a short career for all of its practitioners. With the average age of retirement for international cricketers being about 35 years, one-half of a cricketer’s life, on an average, is essentially spent not being attached to the game. While the domestic T20 leagues have given them a new avenue, as far as earning a livelihood while playing the game is concerned, for the players who retired before the advent of the shortest format of the game even this is not an option.

However, apart from the skills shown on the field, there have been some gifted men and women, with proven soft skills and a knack for engaging the audience through their voice and style of presenting the action on the field. Several former cricketers have gone on to become some of the most articulate commentators, and even those who haven’t forayed into commentary have had the opportunity to showcase the gift of the gab that they have been bestowed with.

Here, in this piece, we bring to you five of cricket’s most articulate personalities.

#5 Kumar Sangakkara (Sri Lanka)

Lord's Sanga
Kumar Sangakkara has been one of the greatest practitioners of the game of cricket

Sri Lanka’s top run-getter in Tests and arguably one of the best wicket-keeper batsmen in the world, Kumar Sangakkara, has left behind a legacy that can be matched by only a few. With 12400 Test runs at an average of 57.40 and 14234 ODI runs at 41.98, the 38-year-old Sri Lankan is rated amongst the best to have played the game and also amongst the some of the best men to have displayed their skills behind the stumps.

However, Sangakkara, who is still active in first-class cricket and also plays various T20 leagues around the world, has also been gifted with a style of speech that panders to the listeners. With a natural accent and a good command over the language, Sanga, as he was famously referred to by his teammates, has the gift of the gab that has endeared many.

It was due to this soft skill that the Asian cricketer was invited deliver the 2011 MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture at the Lord’s Cricket Ground, in London. Sangakkara has also served short stints in the commentary box since his retirement in August 2015, and had it not been for his involvement with Sri Lanka Cricket as an administrator, we may have seen him delivering his opinions from the commentary box as well.

#4 Rahul Dravid (India)

Dravid articulate
Rahul Dravid had a short burst in the commentary box after he retired from the game in 2012

The epitome of excellence and consistency, Rahul Dravid, throughout the span of his 16-year-long career, had established himself a batsman that his team could depend upon in any situation. The testimony to this is his run tally across formats – 13288 in Tests at 52.31 and 10889 in ODIs at 39.16.

Apart from his run-scoring prowess, Dravid proved out to be an excellent captain of the team as well, as he led India to away Test series victories in the West Indies and England in 2006 and 2007 during his captaincy stint that lasted for more than two years, from 2005-2007. After retirement, the Karnataka cricketer took the onus of preparing the next generation of Indian cricketers, as he volunteered for the role of the head coach of India ‘A’ and as well as India Under-19.

However, it isn’t just to the field that his skills have been limited to. Dravid, for one, is an excellent orator as well, the testimony to which has been his role as a commentator that he performed for a short span of time before taking up the mantle as the head coach of the junior teams. Dravid became the first non-Australian to be invited for delivering the Sir Donald Bradman Oration Lecture, 2011 (its 10th edition) in Canberra. He also delivered the MAK Pataudi Lecture for the session 2015-16 in December last year.

Just like Sangakkara, Dravid too got involved as a cricket administrator post his playing days. Had it not been for his current role, we would have had the privilege to listen to Dravid’s voice while watching India play a cricket match.

#3 Michael Holding (West Indies)

Michael Holding
Michael Holding, with his subtle Caribbean accent, has carved out a niche for himself

Being nicknamed as ‘whispering death’ during his playing days, West Indies fast-bowling legend, Michael Holding, has created a legacy of his own. 249 wickets from 60 Tests at 23.68 and 142 wickets from 102 ODI matches at 21.36 signify the threat that he used to pose for the batsmen during the 1970s and the 1980s.

“Pace can make batsmen do strange things,” are the words that he uses to describe the necessity of pace that every fast bowler needs to have on the ball. That he can use such an appropriate combination of words to emphasize on such a crucial aspect of fast bowling depicts the gift that he possesses when it comes to delivering fireballs through his words.

Holding has been a part of the famous commentary team that has been put in place by the broadcast media giant Sky Sports and has lent his voice to an innumerable number of events that have transpired on the field. His typical Caribbean accent sets him apart from the rest and the knack that he has for bringing out the technicalities of the game with his distinctly distinguishable voice and the natural accent makes him a brilliant orator.

#2 Nasser Hussain (England)

Nasser Hussain
Nasser Hussain has been the voice that has covered many of England’s most memorable victories

The voice that has been the testimony to several of England’s famous victories, both at home and away, has become something that springs to one’s mind while thinking about England’s home season. Nasser Hussain, the former England captain, who is remembered as much for winning the toss and bowling first on the opening day of the 2002-03 Ashes in Australia as for any of his other achievements, has made plenty of amends to that horrific decision, by presenting to the world the tale of some of England’s famous Ashes victories.

5764 runs from 96 Tests at 37.18 and 2332 ODI runs from 88 ODIs at 30.28 speak of a decent career, as far as the skills on the field are concerned. However, Hussain’s greater achievement, if one thinks about it, has come off the field, and behind the microphone, to be precise, as he has refurbished the Sky commentary box with his analytical style of storytelling and the beautiful intonation that he possesses to cover the highs and lows of the teams.

Alongside Michael Atherton, another England captain, best remembered for his on-field feud with Allan Donald at Trent Bridge, Nottingham in 1998, Hussain has been a part of Sky Sports’ formidable commentary team that has been rated as one of the best presenters of the game worldwide.

#1 Richie Benaud (Australia)

Richie Benaud
Former Australian cricketer Richie Benaud was one of the most renowned voices in cricket for a very long time

The legendary Australian leg-spinner, commentator and TV anchor, Richie Benaud, needs no formal introduction. 248 Test wickets from 63 matches at 27.03 and 2201 runs from those games at 24.45 prove that he wasn’t just the mentor for the likes of Shane Warne – who went on to become the greatest leg-spinner of all time – but he was also a capable batsman.

After the conclusion of his cricketing career, Benaud took up broadcasting as his new avenue and excelled there as well, as his well-documented career in radio, broadcast as well as print media elucidates. He was a part of Channel Nine’s commentary team for a long time and also performed the role of a TV anchor for them.

One of the most controversial moments of his second innings came in the aftermath of an ODI game between Australia and New Zealand in 1981, wherein the then Australian captain, Greg Chappell, instructed his brother Trevor to bowl an underarm delivery in order to prevent the Kiwis from hitting a six off the last ball, when there were 7 runs needed for the win.

Clearly disgusted with such an act of poor sportsmanship, Benaud said this on national television: “I think it was a disgraceful performance by a captain who got his sums wrong today, and I think it should never be permitted to happen on the field again. We keep reading and hearing that the players are under a lot of pressure, they’re tired, they’re jaded, and perhaps their judgment and skill is blunted... Well, perhaps they might advance that as an excuse for what happened out there today. Not with me, they don’t!”“I think it was very poor performance. One of the worst things I’ve ever seen on a cricket field.

Benaud was a fearless, no-nonsense person who loved the game with every ounce of his being and that made him not just one of the best leg-spinners of all time, but also one of the most articulate personalities in world cricket.

Edited by Staff Editor


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