Iconic moments in sports are ascribed to the players involved in it, and rightly so. But the commentators also play a major role in defining the glory of the player. Tony Greig to Sachin Tendulkar, Ravi Shastri to Indian cricket or Ray Hudson to Lionel Messi- the commentator tattoos the moment in the heart of the fans. The memorabilia of the historic jiffies are incomplete without a competent person calling the action.
Being a commentator is a tough job. The insights, the choice of words, the timing of the words, all through the chaos of live sport make it a challenging profession. Just like all professionals in the world, commentators also make mistakes. Some of the mistakes can be let go, but not all. There have been incidences of commentators making unacceptable comments on-air and having been severely reprimanded for it- sometimes even axed from their jobs.
Here we look at 5 cricket commentators who were dropped because of their on-air comments
1. Mark Nicholas
Mark Nicholas is a renowned English cricket commentator who captained Hampshire from 1985 to 1995. Nicholas may have not played international cricket, but he has been in the broadcasting field for over 20 years. He also replaced the great Richie Benaud as Channel Nine’s ‘face of cricket’.
But he faced a lull in his illustrious commentating career in 2005. Channel Nine left out Nicholas from a “pretty full” commentary box. Graeme Koos, the executive producer of Nine’s cricket coverage gave a vaguely worded statement about the exclusion of Nicholas, “We just felt we’ve got a pretty full commentary roster, and to bring Mark in meant someone else gets pushed out and that’s a difficult thing. Still, these things can change,” Koos told Sydney Morning Herald.
He was reinstated soon and has been covering most of England’s cricket. In November 2016 he published an autobiography, A Beautiful Game: My Love Affair with Cricket. He also co-wrote Shane Warne’s autobiography, No Spin.
2. Dean Jones
Commentators can sometimes get excessively critical of the players based on their on-field activity. But Dean Jones made a disgraceful comment on the South African batsman Hashim Amla. He remarked Amla as a terrorist! In the Test match between Sri Lanka and South Africa in 2006, Hashim Amla took a catch at point to dismiss Kumar Sangakkara.
After the wicket, Jones was heard saying, “The terrorist has got another wicket”. Hashim Amla is born to a Muslim Ansari family originally from India, which might have provoked Jones’ despicable comment towards the South African.
Not only it is abominable for a commentator, but even as an individual it is contemptible to say anything of that sort. Consequently, the former Australian batsman was sacked by the broadcaster, Ten Sports. Later Jones owned to his blunder, “It was a silly and completely insensitive thing to say and, obviously, it was never supposed to be heard over the air. I am truly sorry to have caused offence to anybody and the last thing I intended was to be disrespectful.”
Amla is a devout Muslim who keeps the beard for religious reasons. He has also negotiated a deal with South Africa’s sponsor to not wear the Castle Lager logo on his playing and practice gear. Meanwhile, to which a portion of his match fees gets deducted. Jones returned to the commentary box. He has also coached Islamabad United in PSL 2016 and in 2017 was assigned as the interim head coach of the Afghanistan national cricket team.
3. Harsha Bhogle
Cricket fans united on social media to trend #BringBackHarsha after the commentator Harsha Bhogle was sacked from IPL 2016. The narrative initiated after India-Bangladesh game in the T20 World Cup. The saga involved Indian Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan and former skipper MS Dhoni.
Bachchan criticized Indian commentators on Twitter for speaking less about Indian players. “T 2184 – With all due respects, it would be really worthy of an Indian commentator to speak more about our players than others all the time”, tweeted the Bollywood celebrity. Dhoni, who follows Bachchan on Twitter retweeted it quoting, “Nothing to add”.
In response to that, Bhogle posted a reply on Facebook saying as a commentator they aren’t supposed to be biased. Although this might not have been the entire reason for Bhogle’s axing. Some sources believed that a few former cricketers also had a part to play in it. According to some reports, Bhogle had a heated exchange with a Vidharbha Cricket Association in the 2016 T20 World Cup opener.
A few days later, speaking to the Sunday Express, Bhogle said, “No one told me anything. I have not been formally told of the reason even now.” Harsha is adored not only by Indian fans but by fellow commentators around the world. This sacking enraged the netizens, who came out in his support in large numbers. Soon Bhogle made a comeback in the commentary box and continues to be the ‘voice of cricket’.
4. Navjot Singh Sidhu
Navjot Singh Sidhu needs no introduction as the cricketer turned commentator is well-known for his over the top commentary and Sher-O-Shayaris (poetries). While it might be amusingly enjoyable, but many believed it has no space in the commentary box. Sidhu has faced plenty of issues for his verbose character in his commentating career.
He was once banned for using an expletive on air. It was reported that the garrulous commentator was banned by ESPN-Star. However, ESPN-Star denied it. Sidhu was also banned by ICC for making harsh statements and for doing exaggerated criticism of Bangladeshi players.
The former India international received flak as he lambasted the Indian team in the 2003 World Cup after losing a group match to Australia. He was also involved in a court case for breaching Star’s contract in the IPL 2014. Star accused him of not committing minimum working days and also for working with rival broadcasters.
After getting sacked from the commentary team from the IPL, Sidhu appeared in ‘The Kapil Sharma Show’. Last year the show terminated his contract owing to the backlash he received from the fans for his political statements.
5. Sanjay Manjrekar
After playing international cricket for nine years, Sanjay Manjrekar picked up the microphone and has been successful in the commentary box. Manjrekar is an astute analyst and has excelled in both English and Hindi commentary. But of late he has been in the news, for all wrong reasons regarding his statements in the box and opinions on twitter.
Amongst the latest news, Manjrekar has been dropped from the commentary panel for the IPL 2020 season, according to a report in the Mumbai Mirror. In fact, Manjrekar was also not present for the first ODI between India and South Africa in Dharamsala, which was washed out.
The report also stated that the authorities were not happy with his work. “Maybe he will be left out from the IPL panel too. At this stage, it is not on top of our minds. But the fact is they are not happy with his work,” a source was quoted as saying by Mumbai Mirror.
Earlier in the India-Bangladesh day-night Test match at the Eden Gardens, Manjrekar had a spat with Harsha Bhogle in the commentary box as he questioned the latter’s qualifications for not playing any international cricket. Manjrekar later admitted of being unprofessional and apologized to the producer. “Of course. It was wrong and I say that because it was unprofessional and the first thing that I did was I had apologized to the producer that I was working for that it was wrong,” Manjrekar had said on an ESPNcricinfo’s talk show.
Last year, the former cricketer termed Ravindra Jadeja a ‘bits and pieces’ player to which Jadeja responded on Twitter and with a gesture in the World Cup semi-final. Even Kieron Pollard lashed him on Twitter for his ‘verbal diarrhea’ as Manjrekar said, “Pollard does not have the brains to play early in the innings,” on-air in the IPL. Fans have also accused him of being biased towards Mumbai cricketers and for his excessive eulogizing of players from Mumbai.
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