Dear Editor: Whatever happened to our cricket commentary standards?

“[…] Who selects our commentators? What prerequisites should potential commentators have before qualifying as commentators, and being unleashed on the helpless listeners? Is a facility with the English language one of these prerequisites?”

The following Letter to the Editor on the standard of West Indies cricket commentary was submitted to Wired868 by Dancea Lipson:

Photo: Former West Indies cricket legend Sir Curtly Ambrose (left) and Geoff Lemon.
(Copyright Geoff Lemon)

It’s no fun listening to cricket commentary by the new crop of West Indian commentators. If you are a cricket fan your alternatives are to either tolerate the cringing and sustained attack on your sensibilities or watch the cricket on mute.

Just a few linguistic gems that come to mind: 

  • We saw him did that.
  • Fine leg and short leg is up.
  • He is a good debt bowler.
  • Just short of a good lengtt.
  • The bowler gave him too much witt.
  • The feeler was not in the right position.
  • Things have changed since the pandamic.

As if these offences were not grievous enough, we have also had to contend with the voice of a certain Curtly Ambrose, who does not fit the bill. Over in England Darren Sammy has been doing TV commentary on The Hundred (how did he get there?)—and he repeatedly talks about the ‘inning’, instead of innings. Hell, is it a West Indian thing?

KFC Munch Pack
Photo: Former West Indies cricket captain and T20 World Cup winner Darren Sammy.
(Copyright Zee News)

These commentaries are listened to all over the world.

A few questions: who selects our commentators? What prerequisites should potential commentators have before qualifying as commentators, and being unleashed on the helpless listeners? Is a facility with the English language one of these prerequisites? Why do almost all of them seem to be coming from one particular Caribbean country? 

Surely we can do much better, can’t we? I recall listening to commentary on the most recent series involving our women cricketers and being impressed by at least two of the commentators—one of whom, incidentally, happened to be the son of Viv Richards.

And I thought: the cupboard isn’t bare. We can do better, if only we made the effort to seek them out.

The quality of cricket commentary from the West Indies appears to have fallen pari passu with the standard of our cricket. Mediocrity has become the standard. 

Photo: Mali Richards, the son of West Indies cricket legend Sir Vivian Richards, has shown promise as a commentator.
(Copyright Antigua Observer)

As we work to return our cricket to the standards of old, perhaps we can also pay attention to the standard of our cricket commentary? 

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10 comments

  1. I totally agree with you. What about Samuel Badree? He is the worst, He has negative energy whenever he comes on.

  2. I find this article somewhat disrespectful to Sir Curtly Ambrose. He is one of the best bowlers the world has ever seen. Some of us want to hear his thoughts. Regardless of his tone, diction or syntax.

  3. The commentators are paid. Therefore they should be told to brush up on their English. This should be done politely. We don’t want what happened to Sir Garry Sobers to recur.

  4. I agree with the writer and the comments of the readers 100%.

  5. ATM for the WI coverage there’s Ian Bishop and then everybody else!!!
    And that’s not to say Bish doesn’t have his moments but he is still ahead of the other commentators.

  6. Earl Best

    With all due respect, sir, it not not just the standards in cricket commentary that have fallen.

    Media are not immune to the contagion. And sport in general and cricket in particular are not either.

    Look around you. I have no idea how old you are but I am willing to bet that, in many ways, you no longer see the world you grew up in out there anymore.

    Money, profit margins, filthy lucre, bottom–no coincidence that!–lines are calling all the shots.

    And good ting no cheap.

  7. You are absolutely correct. I mute my television when certain commentators are on the commentary

  8. I choose to use the mute button when watching the WI play. Why do Darren Ganga and others think they must fill every second with a comment? Dead air is a relief to hearing them make inane comments.

    • I also mute when some commentators are on. I agree that Ganga should speak far less and allow the cricket to speak more. Many of us non-players and spectators already know the intricacies of the game. He just talks over the game too much.

      Well, the English took Mike Holding long ago and I agree that Ian Bishop is getting there.

      I humbly advise most of our current crop of commentators to watch tapes of Richie Benaud and Tony Cozier doing television coverage. And of the modern crop, Holding is in great company with David Gower and Mike Atherton.

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