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Media Monitor: Holding forth forever; will WASA main leak Badree please shut up!

“In the air… and out!”

That’s Richie Benaud, the Voice of Cricket, describing a dismissal. Yeah, describing. 

Five words. More than enough. He is, you see, on television.

Photo: Late Australian cricket analyst Richie Benaud was once referred to as the ‘Voice of Cricket’.

The name Jimmy Magee probably does not ring too many bells. But he outdid Benaud. 

That came during Diego Maradona’s magical half-the-field-run-and-score in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final against England,

“Enrique to Maradona,” he says, his tone neutral, as we see the midfielder feed his captain inside his own half. Dieguito takes possession, turns and races forward, giving three Englishmen the slip.

“Different class,” comments Magee, matter-of-factly.

Eventually, we see arguably football’s best-known left foot release the ball that had been glued to it during the 50-yard run, sending Peter Shilton the wrong way and knocking it into the unguarded net. 

“Different class!” Magee exclaims excitedly. 

Photo: Argentina legend Diego Maradona (centre) is about to drag the ball past England goalkeeper Peter Shilton (right) while defenders Terry Butcher (far left) and Terry Fenwick (second from left) look on during the 1986 World Cup.
(Copyright AFP 2014)

Four words. For the World Cup’s greatest ever goal.

It is not in dispute: on television, less is more effective. 

But Samuel Badree hasn’t got the memo. 

Or he hasn’t troubled to read it. Or to learn from experience.

I mean, what obvious communication lesson do we learn from the existence of asap, BFF, BRB, Lol, NNTR, Plz, ROTFL, SYS, Thx, TTYT, etc. and dozens of different emojis? Isn’t it that nowadays, in the Age of Social Media and E-literacy, less is more effective?

And that development—regression?—really only came three or four decades after Marshall McLuhan told the world in the 1960s that the medium is the message.

What did he mean? Simply put, it’s not what you say that matters so much as where you say it.

Photo: Iconic West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding has been at least as successful as a cricket commentator.

Michael Holding, who earlier this month won the Sports Journalists’ Association Award for Best Pundit in 2020, gets it. When doing TV commentary, he said after receiving his award, he puts the focus squarely on ‘supporting the image’.

But regardless of the eloquence of the picture on the screen, Badree has something to say.

Not to add, mind you. Merely to say. 

Some people, i95.5FM repeatedly reminds us, speak because they have something to say; Badrees because they have to say something.

Following McLuhan, that may well work elsewhere. For instance, in voice media, where ‘dead air’ is anathema. Badree would be a perfect fit.

But not in vision.

He abhors silence. He simply will have none of it. 

Photo: Then West Indies spinner Samuel Badree appeals for a wicket.

So Holding, the pacer, is Whispering Death; Badree, the spinner, is Blathering Death. 

“For God’s sake, an exasperated ex-TTT friend texted me during yesterday’s second day’s play, “can’t someone tape Badree’s lips shut?”

The former leg-spinner reminds me of a WASA main leak. With similar prospects for rapid repair.

You see, it’s not as if is he’s treating us to new, useful insights about what is happening on the field. 

Or offering the sort of finely nuanced clarification heard on television during the mid-March Newcastle vs WBA game.

Responding to a statement by the former-footballer-turned-commentator now de rigueur on every commentary team, the professional broadcaster demurred.

He did not feel, he said, that both sides had had their chances.

Photo: Newcastle United manager Steve Bruce pictures a nice, quiet place.

“I think there have been opportunities,” he finessed, “without their quite rising to the level of chances.”

Would that Messrs Badree, Ian Bishop and Daren Ganga might one day be capable of such a nicety in an on-air cricketing exchange. 

Or a genuinely witty line like Benaud’s: “Captaincy is 90% luck and 10% skill—but don’t try it without that ten per cent.” 

Dare we hope for something that even approaches this inspired Tony Cozier description of a 2005 Brian Lara dismissal?

“The left index finger was raised slowly, but more hesitantly than usual, in answer to the familiar war dance the Australians describe as an appeal.”

And are the threesome aware that all that glitters is not ‘brilliant’?

Photo: Former West Indies fast bowler and cricket analyst Ian Bishop.

Would that one of them be detained for a moment by a thesaurus, seeking synonyms of that hugely overworked and now vastly depreciated adjective.

Are the threesome aware of the Tony Harford devaluation debacle? Having ritually described pretty ordinary stuff as ‘excellent’ early in the his broadcasting career, later in his professional life, the more mature radio and television announcer ritually resorted to ‘very excellent’. Faute de mieux.

Do the threesome remember that during the 2019 World Cup, Whispering Death had insisted on ‘holding cricket (…) to a higher standard’, objecting to the authorities trying ‘to protect the umpires even when they do a bad job’? 

“Commentators are being more and more compromised by controlling organisations to the point of censorship,” Holding is reported to have responded to an official letter knocking him for criticising the umpiring. “I do not intend to go down that road.”

Neither directly nor indirectly, Badree has made no such grand declaration. His stock fare is just quieticidal stuffing.

Photo: Legendary West Indies fast bowler kicks the stumps in frustration after a decision for caught behind was turned down in the 1st Test against New Zealand at Carisbrook, Dunedin in 1980.
(Copyright Getty Images)

We also find Holding’s name in an oft-cited quote attributed to Brian ‘Johnners’ Johnston, who left us in 1994 after a long and distinguished radio and TV career. 

“The bowler’s Holding, the batsman’s Willey,” he is reputed to have said during a 1976 Kennington Oval Test match, “the keeper’s Knott.”

All three men played in that unforgettable match when Viv Richards made 291 and Holding collected a record 14 scalps. But some say Johnston never uttered the phrase during commentary. 

No matter. That we believe him to have been capable of minting it on the spur of the moment attests to his perceived gift of the gab. 

But don’t confuse Johnston with Martin Johnson, who transitioned only last week. 

Referring to Mike Gatting’s 1986-87 side, he once said this: “There are three things wrong with this England team: They can’t bowl, they can’t bat and they can’t field.”

Photo: England captain Mike Gatting is led off the field at Sabina Park after having his nose broken by a bouncer from West Indies pacer Malcolm Marshall during the 1985/86 tour of the Caribbean.
(Copyright Getty Images)

Last week too, a Wired868 column expressed strong disapproval of the media’s ‘crude responses’ to certain cricketing situations.

Truth be told, I’d take the crude responses any day ahead of the non-stop twaddle spewed by our albeit articulate commentator. 

His inexhaustible repertoire features no humour.

And he completely ignores the immense value of silence.

WRITER’S NOTE: For the two videos with which this column begins. I am indebted to a dear old friend, who is currently in the market for a ‘natural sound only’ app for his devices.

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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3 comments

  1. Great read Mr. Best, as always!

  2. I thought Mr Best was a little hard on Mr Badree. I agree with the suggestion that over-speaks — but compared with other current cricket commentators this is a relatively minor offence that can be fixed. People like Mr Best can have a coaching chat with him.

    My bigger takeaway from Mr Best’s article was the question that it raised in my mind: who selects those commentators? What do they look for in their cricket commentators? What are their selection criteria? I cannot be the only one who bemoans the general decline in the quality of our cricket commentators. Is a decent level of fluency and vocabulary one of these criteria? If not, should it be? We can’t expect perfection and some of the commentators can be “worked on”, especially where there is evident cricketing competence and the manifest potential to be a good commentator.

    For example, Ganga has manifest potential — but can someone talk to him about pronouncing “th”, so that we can stop hearing about “too much wit outside the off-stump? How does Walsh make the cut? More so Ambrose, (with his unsightly and unbecoming hair style)? How does the likeable Alex Jordan find her way into the commentary booth? And so on? Have our standards truly all but disappeared, in this and other aspects of life?

    And by the way, if Badree talks too much, (I think he does), what about Ian Bishop with his lecturing, school masterish tones?

    Generally then, we need to introduce/re-introduce standards/minimum criteria into our selection of cricket commentary, (if I am to cease watching the cricket on mute). And I suggest that fluency in the English language and skills in basic communication should be among the criteria for selection.

    So to conclude: who selects our cricket commentators, and what are their criteria?

  3. This was a great read!
    A “very excellent” read. Ha Ha!

    Best is the best. Great writer! Great memories! Great insight!