@TheKingsTweets 3 minute read
From the pithy and poignant to the deliveries that should not have been bowled – Alex Bowden pens down the best and worst commentary lines in Issue 23 of Wisden Cricket Monthly.
You could pick any one of a thousand lines from Benaud, who remains the benchmark for dry, insightful, non-invasive TV commentary. We’ve a particular soft spot for, “And Glenn McGrath dismissed for two, just 98 runs short of his century,” as a typically pithy example, while “There was a slight interruption there for athletics,” is a flawless way to acknowledge a streaker. But Richie’s greatest line of all was surely his trademark, “Morning, everyone”. That simple two-word phrase brought the promise of any number of witticisms such as these, all set within the context of another glorious day of Test match cricket. Bliss.
“Jones…Bowden…Kasprowicz the man to go!”
Never. Gets. Old.
— Wisden (@WisdenCricket) May 10, 2020
If Test Match Special has a weakness, it’s that it can at times be at risk of becoming overly chummy and a little too family-friendly. The occasional bit of mischief is a necessary way of keeping this from happening and one of the finest examples was delivered by Alan Gibson in 1969. Referring to New Zealand seamer Bob Cunis, he mused: “This is Cunis at the Vauxhall End. Cunis: a funny sort of name; neither one thing nor the other.”
If great commentary is about not just capturing the moment but also putting it into context, then it’s hard to improve on Arlott’s words after Don Bradman was dismissed for the final time. As the world pondered the magnitude of the moment, while also wondering how it could possibly have come about, he said: “Bradman…bowled Hollies… nought. Bowled Hollies, nought. And… what do you say under those circumstances? I wonder if you see a ball very clearly in your last Test in England, on a ground where you’ve played out some of the biggest cricket of your life and where the opposing team have just stood round you and given you three cheers and where the crowd has clapped you all the way to the wicket… I wonder if you really see the ball at all.”
Even Morrison himself would surely admit that he is a bit of an acquired taste. “Put your brain into gear and if you can add to what’s on the screen then do it – otherwise shut up,” was Benaud’s advice on the art of commentary. But the former Kiwi seamer’s modus operandi in T20 franchise cricket runs entirely counter to this. Morrison knows that his job in this format is primarily to mention the sponsors and to generally rev things up. In the 2010 IPL, Delhi Daredevils’ Dinesh Karthik was fantastically stumped by Mumbai Indians’ Aditya Tare off a wide. Tare went down the leg-side and flicked it behind him to hit the stumps. How best to acknowledge this brilliant piece of work? Morrison went with: “Another Citi Moment of Success! Here! On a Wednesday!”
Hussain is a brilliant, insightful commentator, which is what made his commentary on Ben Stokes’ incredible diving backhand catch against South Africa at the start of the 2019 World Cup so jarring. A magnificent moment and memorable commentary – he certainly conveyed the excitement – but why exactly did Nasser suddenly start talking like a 13-year-old American schoolboy when reacting to the catch? “Oh! No way! No, no way! You cannot do that Ben Stokes. That is remarkable. That is one of the greatest catches of all-time. You cannot do that.”
Fox Cricket commentator Kerry O’Keeffe claimed to have “spent months researching and analysing” India’s players before their tour of Australia earlier this year. Despite this preparation, he frequently struggled to pronounce the names of Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja. O’Keeffe was eventually reduced to an excruciating bout of ‘silly foreign names are hard to say’ banter, asking: “Why would you call your kid Cheteshwar Jadeja?” to cackles from his colleagues. He also saw fit to take a poke at the standard of Indian first-class cricket, saying of Mayank Agarwal: “Apparently he got his triple-century against Jalandhar Railways Canteen Staff,” before adding: “Who opened the bowling for them that day? The chef. First change? The kitchen hand. And they’ve got the spinner as well: the casual uni student.”
First published in Issue 23 of Wisden Cricket Monthly.