There are many things in our life whose presence we do not appreciate. Things which disappear in the chaos like sugar in milk, but they never fail to add a fragrance to our lives. Commentary in sports has been that incognito presence for a very long time, but people in the last couple of decades have begun to understand what value it adds.
The incredible visuals captured by men behind advanced video cameras help us watch the sport no matter where we are. Blending with their solid effort is the art of describing the action as it goes on, which doesn’t just make us watch, but live the action. It takes us through a ride not so normal, yet the art remains pretty underappreciated.
The cricketing fraternity has been blessed to have some iconic voices, many of whom are still active and running. Moments turned memories, incidents turned tales with these voices playing in the background. Not on many occasions, we take time to appreciate the genius they are, but here’s a small tribute to the ten most iconic personalities behind the mike.
Here are top 10 commentators of all-time:
10. Michael Holding
Michael Holding. (Photo Source: Twitter)
“The whispering death” as he was called, Michael Holding was a nightmare for many batsmen of his generation. After retirement, the iconic Windies cricketer turned to the commentary box, just the way many did in the last four or five decades. It took some time for him to settle in, but the Caribbean flavour in his voice attracted a lot of listeners.
The great man doesn’t just have a unique, flattering voice, but is also quite straight forward with his opinions. He barely cares what the world might think and will try to the best of his abilities to speak what is good for the game, even if that comes at a price. His harsh rant against the umpiring standards during this World Cup was a classic example of what he represents.
He worked with various reputed media houses like Sky Sports, Supersport, Star Sports and other local radio mediums in his home country of Jamaica. The 65-year-old still has some good years left in him and will continue to engage with the TV audience with the same charisma.
9. Mpumelelo Mbangwa
Mpumelelo Mbangwa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Another fast bowler-turned commentator in the list Zimbabwean cricketer Mpumelelo Mbangwa, AKA, Pommie Mbangwa. His days as a cricketer for Zimbabwe were not very memorable, but ever since he came into the broadcasting field, he made his presence felt.
His career as a cricket commentator began in 2001. He had a very beautiful accent backed by a stupendous command over the language which made his views widely accepted and appreciated. Since the first season of the Indian Premier League, he has been a very integral part of the tournament.
He usually travelled with the South African team on their tours for commentary stints. He has been part of ICC events like the World Cup, World T20 and Champions Trophy. He still has power and time to add and could provide many more iconic spells in the coming years.
8. Ian Bishop
Ian Bishop. (Photo Source: Twitter)
How can we ever not “Remember the name?”, especially after listening to these words from a certain Ian Bishop. One of the most underrated legends of commentary, Bishop’s highly energetic voice backed by an amazing ability to churn out poetic lines in between made him a hot property in the world of commentators.
He once said in an interview with ICC that he never intended to be a commentator. We all are definitely thankful for the moments he immortalized with his presence in the press box. His analysis of the game is often under-appreciated, but for those who listen to him carefully will know how brilliantly he observes intricate details in the game.
He has had many memorable stints in that press box, but no one can ever forget “Carlos Brathwaite! Remember the name”. His co-commentator David Lloyd insisted him to take over after Brathwaite hit the third six in that ICC World T20 Final at the Eden Gardens. What eventually turned out to be the winning moment for the Windies, was also a moment of a lifetime for this man.
7. Ravi Shastri
Ravi Shastri. (Photo by Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)
A name that sends chills down the spines of many Indian cricket lovers, Ravi Shastri has described perhaps most of the iconic moments in Indian cricket in the 21st century. From describing the famous Venkatesh Prasad – Aamir Sohail tussle in 1996 to “Dhoni finishes off in style”, he got paid to describe some unforgettable moments.
Another facet which drew a lot of attention towards him was his child-like enthusiasm when there’s something dramatic happening, classic example being Yuvraj Singh smacking Stuart Broad for 6 Sixes in Durban. He wasn’t just a highly-spirited presence in the commentary box, but also had a great viewpoint which was appreciated by millions.
From the time he got involved with the Indian cricket team as the Director then the Head Coach, he is not doing a lot of commentary and the cricketing world is definitely missing his pyrotechnics. It remains unlikely that he will return any time soon with the BCCI extending his contract as the head coach till 2021.
6. Tony Cozier
Tony Cozier. (Photo by Neal Simpson – PA Images via Getty Images)
Rated as the voice of West Indian cricket, Tony Cozier was without a doubt the finest commentator to have emerged from the Caribbean Islands. Known for his astute knowledge and undying love for the game’s rich history, he is one of the few top-notch commentators who never played cricket at a recognized level.
Beginning his career at the Barbados Daily as a writer in 1961, he worked with the legendary Sir Everton Weekes. He started doing commentary in 1965 in the Australia-West Indies series for a radio channel and almost instantly became a prominent voice in the Island nations. When Kerry Packer was recruiting all elite personnel for his World Series cricket, Tony Cozier got a special invitation to be a part of his project. He later commentated in various ICC tournaments.
He also collaborated with Clive Lloyd and Michael Holding to complete their respective biographies. For his amazing contribution to the game, he was awarded the MCC lifetime membership. Cozier passed away on 11th May 2016, leaving a huge void in the West Indian broadcasting sector.
5. David Lloyd
David Lloyd. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
With a quintessential British accent and sensational ability to mix wit with his analysis made David Lloyd one of the most respected commentators of all time. Age has been catching up a little with the legendary commentator but is continuing to give his best to the game in the ongoing Ashes. He is widely recognized for his stint with Sky Sports.
While Ian Bishop described the winning moment in the 2016 World T20 final, David Lloyd was commentating with equal passion and charisma for the first three deliveries in that final over. He was specially invited for a few weeks by Star Sports to add more value to the Indian Premier League as well.
He is also termed the voice of T20 cricket, having commentated a lot of its action in the early days of 2003. One of the best parts of his spell in that box is his canny references to some old English classic songs, which brings about a smile on our faces instantly.
4. Mark Nicholas
Mark Nicholas. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
“This is Mark Nicholas and with me here, is Richie Benaud,” if you fail to recognize Mark Nicholas, close your eyes, remember the days when you played EA Cricket 07 and try recollecting the introductory lines before the game begins. A voice so endearing and encapsulating, Nicholas is one of the fan favourites in this sector.
His career goes way beyond his involvement with cricket’s most iconic PC game. He is remembered for his long-term connection with the legendary broadcasting house, Channel 9. He also freelanced for a while for his home country’s most prolific channel, the Sky Sports, but decided to go along with the Australian.
He was part of the world feed commentary team for both the 2007 Cricket World Cup in the West Indies, and the 2011 World Cup in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, 2015 Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and also the 2019 World Cup in England and Wales. The 61-year-old will continue to remain as one of the most loved and respected commentators of all time.
3. Harsha Bhogle
Harsha Bhogle. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Harsha Bhogle is an ocean of cricket, so vast that you can take an eternity to study but would still miss out on a lot. Arguably the most respected and revered broadcaster in Indian cricket history, Harsha Bhogle is right up there among the greatest sporting broadcasters of all time.
He was a part of the ESPN Star Sports network since 1995, working with various other iconic commentators like Alan Wilkins, Ian Chappell and Ravi Shastri. One of his most memorable spells came in the 2013 Champions Trophy final, where he got a chance to describe India’s winning moment.
Bhogle expanded his online presence with a Youtube show named “Out of the box”. He was also rated the favourite TV cricket commentator by Cricinfo users based on a worldwide poll. The veteran broadcaster connected with a mass audience thanks to his rich command on English and Hindi.
2. Richie Benaud
Richie Benaud. (Photo Source: Twitter)
One of the first names that come to picture when we talk about Australian broadcasting community is legendary Richie Benaud. A former Australian captain from 1958 to 1964, he was a master of leg-spin during his era and even the spin wizard Shane Warne himself took a lot of tips from the commentary legend.
Sri Lankan cricket writer Harold de Andrado wrote: “Richie Benaud possibly next to Sir Don Bradman has been one of the greatest cricketing personalities as a player, researcher, writer, critic, author, organizer, adviser and student of the game.” This sums up how valuable he was to this game. In his illustrious career in the press box, he commentated in over 500 Test matches.
Some of the finest moments of his commentary career include Shane Warne’s ball of the century, Andrew Symonds tackling a streaker, the immortal Ian Botham performance in the 1981 Ashes and not to forget, the controversial under-arm incident in 1981. At the age of 84, Benaud took his final breath on 10 April 2015.
1. Tony Greig
Tony Greig. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Is it just a coincidence or poetic justice that cricket’s two greatest commentators shared a common birth date. Richie Benaud was born on 6th October 1930 whilst Greig was born on the same day in 1946. Without any debates, Tony Greig was cricket’s most charismatic, enthusiastic and unforgettable voice.
He formed a great bond with Kerry Packer shortly after retiring from international cricket and he slowly became a very integral part of the Channel 9 set up. He went on to describe some breathtaking cricketing action with a mark of his own, most of which included Australian games.
None can forget Sachin Tendulkar‘s carnage against Australia in Sharjah (1998) and that moment wouldn’t have been as special without this man’s voice in the background. He also was at the heart of things in cricket’s greatest ever ODI game which was played between Australia and South Africa in 2006, which saw more than 870 runs flow.
Greig passed away on 29th December 2012 succumbing to the lung cancer which kept him away from the game a few months prior to his demise.
Honourable mentions – Alan Wilkins, Ian Chappell, Nasser Hussain, Michael Atherton, Athar Ali Khan, Mark Taylor
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