Veteran commentator Narottam Puri on the importance of descriptions in radio commentary

His was the most identifiable voice on radio in the 1980s. Clear and crisp with a fair degree of comments, Dr. Narottam Puri suffered no fools. He was among the early ones to carve out his own niche as non-cricketer commentator. Here is shares his thoughts on the transformation of commentary.

Do you agree the standard of cricket commentary, on radio and television, has declined?

I don't think the standards have declined. As in the past there are some who are excellent, some passable and some rotten. Overall commentating in cricket has changed as have the years, seasons and in fact the game. The game has become fast, instant and with so many advertisements on TV, there is a general feeling of hurry. Radio commentary has, in my opinion, suffered a major blow in terms of quality.

What could be the reasons for the degeneration of cricket commentary?

Changes in the game. T20, IPL. Fast pace giving no pauses on TV; but the most crucial is that mostly radio is taking a big hit. Its popularity has dwindled and the standards have declined.

Is description of the game less important than technical analysis ?

On radio, the description of the game is of vital importance. Through one’s words the commentator has to conjure a picture in the minds of the listener and make sure the listener does not miss a ball,

hence the term coined by BBC, ball by ball commentary. On TV as the visual is in front of you, technical analysis is of greater importance but it should not be at the cost of a ball or balls being missed.

We see so many cricketers as commentators. Are they really good?

Common sense would lead one to believe that this should be so. Sadly this is not always true. When one says cricketer, I would agree, but when one labels it Test cricketer/ODI cricketer the problem comes. I would prefer if a cricketer, maybe just Ranji Trophy or university level with good communication skills and good command over the language than a Test player who has poor communication and language skills. A Test great like Richie Benaud remains unparalleled as a TV commentator but I can name quite a few Test players who have cut a sorry figure. If this criterion of having played Test cricket had been in vogue we would not have heard a John Arlott, an Alan Mcgilvray or a Brian Johnston.

What are the essential qualities to be a good cricket commentator?

Knowledge of the game, ability to communicate and broadcasting sense. Some can be learnt. A way with words and a sense of humour is always a plus. Language skills are essential and whilst they can be clubbed under communication skills I would like to make a special mention as many otherwise gifted don’t have command of the language and create a bad impression.