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How to be a cricket commentator

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Commentary_Commentator_CricketSo you’re tired of your dead end job and just want to sit around all day watching cricket, do you? Maybe you even have a touch of wanderlust and want to see the world. Throw in the opportunity to wear tailor made suits, rub shoulders with the game’s best players and share some after hour drinks with legends of yesteryear and we might have the perfect career for you.

But being a cricket commentator isn’t easy. There are a myriad trusted phrases and clichés that you need to pull out of the bag at the drop of a hat.

To get you on your way, we’ve compiled a definitive list for you to use whenever you’re on shift during the final session of a dull Test at an empty ground. To think like a pundit, you need to speak like a pundit and with this guide by your side, even you can cement your place in the pantheon of great commentators.

•    All Rounder – Can always contribute with bat or ball. If they have a poor game with both, ask why they’re in the side. South Africans are compared to Kallis; Englishmen are compared to Botham; all are compared to Sobers.
•    America – The untapped market, the sleeping giant of world cricket, the 2059 World Cup Champions. Ponder why they still embrace baseball as a superior sport. Reference baseball whenever a lower order batsman mows one out to cow corner.
•    Australia – Play “in your face” cricket at oversized grounds. Dominated the game for two decades and still somehow win world cups without being all that good. Rowdy fans, aggressive batsmen and biased commentators define this proud nation.
•    Bangladesh – Ask when they are going to live up to their potential. Question their worth as a tier 1 Test nation and then state categorically that world cricket “needs a strong Bangladesh”.
•    Bats – Look at the size of them! You only need a dozen to build a house. Their edges are as big as dining room tables but they miraculously weigh as much as a box of matches. Gush whenever a Dave Warner edge flies over the third man boundary and into orbit.
•    Big 3 – India, England and Australia. Shower them with praise. They are the reason you’re getting paid to travel the world and speak about cricket. Don’t ever share your true feelings; they have eyes and ears everywhere.
•    Captaincy – Great players don’t always make great captains and great captains don’t need to do anything of note on the field. They’re like generals. Real leaders of men. A debate on who’s the best will fill a drinks session.
•    Coaches – No one can teach Sachin Tendulkar how to play a cover drive, so mention abstract qualities like “mental toughness” and “psychological wellbeing” as the reason why head coaches of international cricket teams exist. He may not be able to teach a forward defence or a slower ball, but Russell Domingo has feelings and is not afraid to have a heart-to-heart with his players.
•    Crowd Catches – To be commented on with more vigour and excitement than anything else that happens out in the middle. If a catch has been dropped by a player, call to get the talented spectator a job as fielding coach.
•    Death Bowling – A highly pressurised task where bowlers aim to hit a line and length that makes it difficult for batsmen to score. Do not ask why these lines and lengths are not the standard target throughout the match.
•    Dropped Catches – No one does this on purpose. Tough and half chances are expected to be taken. As the old adage goes, “catches win matches”. When grassed, the ground may wish to swallow the perpetrator up whole.
•    DRS – Commend the umpire for doing his job right; give him a break when he gets it wrong. He’s only human after all. For added flair, go off on a tangent about your fears that robots will one day replace human players. Mind you, a T-1000 would make a hell of a fast bowler.
•    Duck – When a batsman is dismissed without scoring a run. Special points for mentioning he left ‘without troubling the scorers’ despite the fact that the scorers still had to go through the trouble and register his failure to collect a run.
•    Duckworth/Lewis – Astoundingly still the best way to determine who wins a rain-affected match. You don’t have to understand how this works. All you need to know is that it’s not fair and one team inevitably feels aggrieved.
•    England – Invented the game. Everyone’s least favourite team. Any player who turns his arm over and averages above 25 with the bat must be compared to Sir Ian Botham (see all-rounders). When playing a Test match, harken back to the glorious Ashes of 2005. Refer to it as “the most important event of the 21st century”.
•    Fast Bowling – Snorting bouncers unleashed at a blistering pace by lithe bodies that were made to bowl the ball fast; this is why you became a cricket commentator. It takes a brave man to stand up to this sort of onslaught. Note how the dandy lions of today’s game need helmets and arm guards. Back in the glory days, a thin layer of duct tape was enough for Don Bradman and Graeme Pollock.
•    Giving Your Wicket Away - You can give away your house, your wife or your life, but you can never, EVER give away your wicket. If Geoffrey Boycott is with you in the commentary box just wind him up and watch him spin for hours on the subject.
•    Heavy ball – bowled by burly men with wide shoulders and paunchy midriffs. These deliveries often “rush the batsman”.
•    India – Always mention the BCCI and how money has ruined the game. The fact that a billion Indian fans keep the game afloat should not deter you from heaping scorn on the team. Alternate your love and hate for Virat Kohli. If your team loses over there, blame the pitches and not the batsmen’s inability to face spin bowling.
•    IPL – Cricket’s Marmite. You either love it or you wish it would die a slow death at the bottom of the Ganges. It is glitz and glamour with sparkly things and loud music. It may be ruining the game but it’s objectively the most exciting product on offer. Speak in a much higher voice when commentating on the spectacle.
•    Left Handed Batsmen – Always look better than their right handed compatriots.
•    Lord’s – The home of cricket. The fact that there are much better grounds all around the world that possess better atmospheres and pitches should not prevent you from declaring this the game’s capital.
•    Muttiah Muralitharan – The highest wicket taker of all time. His record will never be broken. A better spinner than Shane Warne (See Shane Warne).
•    New Zealand – Plucky, likable, gutsy; these adjectives best describe everyone’s second favourite team. Mention how they regularly “punch above their weight” against better sides.
•    ODI cricket – Try not to treat it like the middle child that it is. Use the “middle overs” to work on your rapport with the audience as slow bowlers restrict play to singles down to long off. Remind people of the ‘438 game’ during boring matches.
•    Opening Batting – The hardest job in the game and not anyone can do it. These guys know where their off stump is and are not afraid to wear one.
•    Pakistan – Despite being terribly inconsistent can beat anyone on their day. Possess the launch codes for reverse swing.
•    Pitch – Is a living thing. Can be anything from a road to a lively one with demons in it. Australia and South Africa make bouncy green ones. India and Sri Lanka make dusty dry ones. Touch it with your hand and point to cracks; fans love it when you do that.
•    Reverse Swing – Just like the batsmen who face it, you’re not too sure how this works, but that should not stop you from waxing lyrical about this supernatural phenomenon. “The ball swings this way at the start, but then, it swings an entirely different way later on.” Only four people are able to do it and they meet once a year on a secret mountaintop in the Himalayas.
•    Running between the wickets – Always remember, the first must be run hard and that ones can, and should, be turned into twos. Run-outs, despite being a part of the game, should be treated like the passing of Halley’s Comet.
•    Shane Warne – Bowled the “Ball of the Century” and once went out for 99. Call him the “bad boy” of Australian cricket and wonder what sort of captain he would have made. Don’t bring up his hair, face or love life. A better spinner than Muttiah Muralitharan (See Muttiah Muralitharan).
•    Slip Fielding – Just as specialised as opening the batting or piloting a nuclear submarine. You have to want to field there otherwise you’ll never catch it. These guys hover like vultures and have hands as safe as houses.
•    South Africa – “Choke” in world tournaments and trounce everyone the rest of the time. Unless you’re from South Africa, the transformation debate is best avoided. Will never produce a world class spinner.
•    Spin Bowling – A dark art performed by miserly mystics that gather around pentagrams and chant in strange tongues. Bravery, guile and control are all needed. Often the worst fielder in the side.
•    Sri Lanka – The “Island nation”. Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene’s crab restaurant is one of the Meccas of the sport alongside Lord’s and Eden Gardens.
•    T20 cricket – The shortest format of the game that brings teams closer together where anyone on their day can win. Don’t be too enthusiastic about the format lest someone call you a Philistine. Frequently call sixes “maximums” and describe dot balls as “gold dust”.  
•    Tail Enders – Some can hold a bat. Others even know where the right side of one is. All runs from these no-hopers are to be treated like a Ricky Ponting pull or a Brian Lara drive. Laugh when they look terrified.
•    Tea Break – The most important part of the game. It is in this brief window of the match around 3 o’clock that the game’s true meaning is revealed.
•    Test cricket – The purists’ format. The true yardstick of a player’s ability. Compare to chess, opera or any other high minded cultural pastime. Be sure to speak about its slow death and dwindling numbers but immediately follow that up with how it remains the greatest sports event on the planet. Grumblingly wonder why no one came to watch a five day draw. Never make fun of the fact that players break for tea.
•    The Ashes – The crown jewel of cricket. The reason why the sun rises and sets. It doesn’t matter who the President of the United States is or if we’re on the brink of global catastrophe, all that matters is who England is taking as their back up seamer and if Australia will ever produce another quality spinner.
•    The Spirit of the Game – A throwback to the way things started where winnings was less important than maintaining Corinthian ideals. Any time a bowler sledges the batsman, wonder what happened to the game we all love. Secretly yearn for a physical altercation.
•    Weather – Controlled by “the gods”. You can’t do anything about it.
•    West Indies – Limited overs specialists but a warning to the rest of the sport that even the best Test teams can become rubbish. Bemoan the fact that their pitches used to strike fear in the opposition but are now either T20 roads or spin friendly dust bowls. Sprinkle the phrases “Calypso cricket” or “Caribbean Flair” whenever their limited overs batsmen clear the boundary. When winning, state how they play with freedom. When losing, launch a tirade against their inept board.
•    Wicket Keeping – “Glove men”, as you like to call them, perform a highly specialised task that seemingly most modern players can execute with some degree of success. Adam Gilchrist changed the way we view the position and must be referenced whenever a ‘keeper scores more than 30.
•    World Cups – The pinnacle of limited overs cricket. So much so that these rare events are the only time anyone cares about limited overs events.

 

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Daniel is a freelance sports journalist from Johannesburg who would always rather be watching Test ...

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