I guess there are two types of cricket audiences: There is the wannabe expert, who basically laps up every word said by the commentators and regurgitates it as their own. They are confident that they cannot be contradicted as their fall back is that “so and so” who played X amount of international cricket said so!
Then there is the self-professed expert, who basically has his own opinion and all he wants is for someone to relay the passage of play to him and give him the field setting and the weather conditions, and he can decide what is going on. Preferably without any bias towards either side or any disparaging remarks based on what would have happened if that commentator was still playing the game!
For the uninitiated, there actually was a time when cricket commentators were not retired stars. They had either played enough of the game to have a deep understanding or they had studied the game in depth. This was mostly during the reign of the short wave radio commentary and before commentators became stars in their own right.
Yours truly being a member of the latter segment of the cricket watching public, must confess that the days of Alan McGilvray, Chris Martin-Jenkins and Trevor Bailey, just to mention a few, had much more interest than the latter day pundits who deliver commentary and at a much higher cost to the listener as well.
In the old days, if you had a short wave radio, the commentary was yours for free. Now, it is sometimes impossible to listen to some matches live under any circumstances, depending on which part of the world you are in.
Expert commentator was a word coined by the Indian commentators of yesteryear, for the first ex-players who entered the commentary field. It was meant with respect I believe. Now it has an ironic, even sarcastic connotation to it. When one listens to former English captains who have come and gone from the Test cricketing stage in a flash, analysing bowling attacks and calling them “pop gun” attacks, only to have an abject lesson in fast bowling delivered to the English side by those very exponents of the pop guns.
We have unwarranted attacks on leadership skills of captains being delivered by individuals who were kept out of captaining their country deliberately, due to a reform school background during their adolescence.
Do we need any of this? Hasn’t someone lost the plot? These individuals are obviously paid huge sums of money, which in turn the cricket loving public end up paying. Do we need to submit to this?
Wouldn’t it be better to have a free to air live cricket commentary on the radio and to hell with the TV rights and all those expensive sports channels that don’t show you the matches the way you want to see them anyway?