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They’re only words

  • Published at 06:38 pm September 23rd, 2018
A frustrating job
A frustrating job Photo: BIGSTOCK

Commentary is challenging but improvements need to be made


I’ll be honest, I love doing cricket commentary. It has been a dream of mine to be doing cricket commentary since I was a kid, and the aspiration has always been to be a representative for Bangladesh cricket in international commentary. 

In hopes of doing that, I first started off as a radio show host in Radio Shadhin in 2013, and by 2014, the opportunity to do commentary was finally there. But it came at a cost.

Commercials. 

Not that I absolutely hate them but the pressure of having to keep blurting out sponsors’ names after every over is not something that I believe adds much for the listeners, or for the ones trying to convey what’s happening on the field.

But obviously, everything comes at a cost, and commentators need to make a living. But I firmly believe that there can be a better balance between the amount of commercials being given and the amount of airtime the sport gets.

Have you never been bothered by too many ads being played? The complaints are there. So when a sponsor is trying to market their product, why don’t they keep this in mind?

Similarly, when a media house is taking those ads, why don’t they keep in mind how many ads there will be, and how they can strike a nice balance? 

We cannot constantly test the intelligence of the listeners. Then there are the commentators, whom I have immense respect for. It is not easy doing play-by-play commentary, even more so when you have the pressure of ads and endorsements on radio. But the criticism they have come across is justified.

It’s not the commentators’ fault entirely if the media houses are picking them, despite their glaring lack of knowledge on certain aspects of the game. It is also not their fault if that is what people are hearing and catching on to, to the point of mimicking. 

There are also issues with how many commentators can actually make a living out of doing commentary, and the number is very, very low. Everyone has other jobs, with commentary taking a backseat -- there are not enough matches and the pay itself may be inadequate.

A few more problems need to be pointed out. The lack of training commentators may be getting -- TV commentary and radio commentary are not the same. Similarly, trying to make up terms in English does not help matters either. There is no such thing as “center-of-the-hole” or “bat-cutting” in football or cricket, just to give an example.

Another recent trend that has really started to irk me is how there is a requirement for all sports show hosts during live cricket games to be female, regardless of how unfamiliar the individual may be with it.

Again, I feel we are blatantly disrespecting the viewers out there who might be interested in hearing and seeing a more insightful and passionate conversation on the sport, instead of nervous laughs and generic questions.

I started off with all the negatives because I want to end on a positive note. Sure, there are issues, but as I said previously, there are a lot of challenges involved in play-by-play radio commentary. You have to be really fast and precise with what you say, and that’s not an easy task. 

There are commentator hunts and courses on commentary being done now -- young commentators are increasing in number, and some of them are seriously good. I’m sure they will soon get their due recognition too. 

Most importantly, a platform is there on radio, and even on television to do commentary. Radio Shadhin is leading the charge, and as someone working there for the last half decade, I can say that they have tried their best to bring in new commentators and acquaint them with the more well-known voices. 

The next step now would be to increase the amount of international commentators we have by giving them a platform. 

Shahnoor Rabbani is a sports commentator working in the Dhaka Tribune.