Playing off the field

The turnout at Lucknow for the Hockey India League match between Kalinga Lancers and Uttar Pradesh Wizards wasn't exactly encouraging. The Hindi commentary on Star Sports 3 by the seasoned duo of Prem Kumar and Jugraj Singh certainly was.

Singh, tipped by no less than Pakistan's legendary drag flicker Sohail Abbas to become the best in the business, had his career cut short by a 2003 motor accident that damaged his extraordinary abilities. That couldn’t stop him though from getting behind the microphone to give invaluable insights into the action unfolding in the arena.

The above-mentioned game exuded extreme energy and Prem rose to the challenge with assurance. In the pulsating contest, where a dozen goals were scored, the activity in the ‘D’ could get pretty blurred. Attackers dovetailed by defenders and frequent overlapping by players can make identifying them not just difficult but error-prone. That he had done his homework well became evident from the accuracy of his account, even in high-pressure situations.

Prem’s narrative came like a breath of fresh air, quite refreshing in that he wasn’t repetitive, despite the recurrence of patterns in the play. In a one-sided game the clichés can come thick and fast, but the depth of description more than ensured the language wasn't hackneyed.

“There is a mistaken notion, especially in cricket, that only former international players can do justice to commentary. I don’t subscribe to that theory because often they can’t express themselves effectively,” says the former Army Captain, who can be quite engaging even in casual conversation.

Apart from a 15-year corporate career, some of it overseas, Prem has come a long way since his early days in All India Radio as a casual announcer. His first break into sports commentary came during the 1999 World cup match at Jamshedpur between Pakistan and West Indies. Not surprisingly, he was given the mic for more games during the cricket showpiece.

The game of white flannels saw him globetrot quite a bit, taking him to the exotic islands of the West Indies and the gloomy weather of Old Blighty. Soon he was working on different channels such as Ten Sports, Zee Sports, Mobile ESPN and Star Sports. So did he branch out beyond cricket to football, badminton, table tennis and most recently hockey.

Prem’s biggest strengths lie perhaps in how fluent he is in both English and Hindi and how he retains poise under pressure.

Unlike some who scream when the excitement mounts, he keeps his cool, the modulation in his voice adequate to reach out to his audience with the sense of balance intact.

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Printable version | Jul 1, 2022 5:54:35 pm |