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Dhaka Tribune

The blind commentator!

Update : 28 Apr 2013, 06:02 PM

Dean Du Plessis of Zimbabwe is the world’s only internationally acclaimed blind commentator. The former Digital Media Manager at Zimbabwe Cricket, Dean uses his acute sense of hearing and deep knowledge of game to commentate on live cricket matches for the national radio, TV or South African Radio. He was born blind, with tumors on both retinas, and expected to only live for 3-5 months. Now, he is 35 not out – and his innings looks a long way from being done.

When the ball hits the bat, the commentator might accurately exclaim “its sailing far.”  Dean’s eavesdropping on other commentators helped him overcome his visual handicap, and his delivery is so polished, that most listeners never suspect that he cannot see the action he describes so well.

"I had to ensure that I am totally accurate," said Dean. "I'm generally spot on or very close. I think I have a pretty big hard drive in my head."

How does a blind man commentate on live cricket and write reports of matches?

"I have given up commentating for ever as I realised that, after 11 years of trying, it was never going to happen.

"The challenge I faced throughout my career as a commentator was the fact that I never played international cricket.

"Everybody was always keen to get a story about how I commentate which always left me thinking that I may just be approached by a radio or television station but it never came to pass.

"However, I will still do the odd bit of question and answer. But that is about as far as it goes," he said.

In 2001, he got his first chance to mix with international journalists. "It was Zimbabwe's first ever triangular series involving India and the West Indies. Cricinfo had a media team doing online updates, and a guy called Neil Manthorp said I had a good voice."

He made his television debut in 2003 when West Indies toured Zimbabwe, getting involved in the second ODI at Bulawayo, alongside the likes of Tony Cozier, Pommie Mbangwa, Bruce Yardley and Jimmy Adams. "It was obviously very nice," he said. "TV is different from radio but I adapted quickly, fortunately."

Dean used his sense of hearing and could tell what kind of shot had been played by the sound of bat-hitting-ball. He could also identify bowlers by the sound they made as their feet his the deck.

"For example, the way Dwayne Bravo drags his feet, you can make him out, and Shane Warne sounds like he is constipated."

The technique applies to the batsmen, too: "When a batsman hits through the off side, the ball makes a sharp cracking sound. When he plays leg it's a bit muffled because he is playing off his pads. I can tell when a bowler bowls a yorker from the way the batsman jams down the wicket."

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