Out of the box!

Ravi Chaturvedi on his long association with cricket commentary

Updated - October 18, 2016 12:46 pm IST

Published - January 29, 2012 08:59 pm IST

Chaturvedi sharing the mike with West Indies cricket legend Gary Sobers. Photo: Special Arrangement

Chaturvedi sharing the mike with West Indies cricket legend Gary Sobers. Photo: Special Arrangement

He gave his trial in English but became a renowned Hindi commentator. It was a tricky situation that led him to it. “The Government (in 1960) had decided to have Hindi coverage of all national and international sports events. The producer (Madhu Malti) and the All India Radio assistant director (R.N. Das) had none to do the commentary and I was assured a long run if I took up the responsibility. It was tough but quite rewarding,” reflects Ravi Chaturvedi, who is in the list of this year's list of Padma Shri recipients.

Author of 20 books on cricket, 15 in English, this Zoology lecturer at Delhi University's Zakir Husain College and radio/TV commentator for more than four decades is fondly called ‘Panditji' by Sunil Gavaskar. . Regarded as a pioneer in his field, he began his career on a pleasant February day in 1962 with the Ranji Trophy semi final between Delhi and Bombay at the Ferozeshah Kotla and the long journey has come to a significant milestone with Panditji being bestowed with the Padma Shri.

What was his strong point? “I evolved appropriate language, phraseology and terminology for the Hindi cricket coverage. It was a big challenge to provide credibility to Hindi cricket commentary. I experimented on the usage of words, cricket terms, innovations like Test match number and weather conditions were conveyed to the listeners.”

Noted cricket writer K.V. Gopalaratnam encouraged Chaturvedi on his debut assignment and there was no looking back. Stalwarts like Berry Sarbadhikari, Pearson Surita, Anand Rao, Devraj Puri and V. N. Chakrapani welcomed the young Hindi commentator who went on to describe the proceedings for 102 Tests and 215 ODIs.

Chaturvedi, now 74, has a strong Caribbean connection. “It was established in 1976 when I went for commentary with Suresh (Saraiya). India winning the Test at Port of Spain by chasing 400-plus remains the most memorable moment of my life.” When he returned, there was appreciation for his work from the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. A long conversation with Don Bradman at Adelaide left a huge impression on Chaturvedi. “He was so humble.” Over the years, Chaturvedi came to forge friendship with stars like Garry Sobers, Wesley Hall, Glenn Turner, Clive Lloyd and Alvin Kallicharan.

His first stint behind the mike was from a wooden box. “We did not have a scorer or statistician to assist. You had to do your own homework. Since I had played the game (at college) it helped me immensely.”

Chaturvedi, however, laments the deterioration in the quality of Hindi commentary. “The language is poor and the description faulty many times. It happens because the commentators lack basic knowledge of the game. They don't discuss the finer points of the game. Their knowledge of history too is not up to the mark.” What would he recommend? “To begin with, I must say that Hindi commentary has not lost its importance at all. Despite the step-motherly treatment it gets radio continues to appeal to the masses. It pains me when radio is neglected in favour of electronic media.”

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