Batting icon speaks to mid-day on completing 25 years as a full-time commentator
Twenty five years ago — at the spiritual home of cricket — Mohammed Azharuddin’s Indians were stretching every sinew in their quest to get past England’s massive 653 for four declared which included a triple century from captain Graham Gooch.
Azharuddin led the way with a strokeful century after Ravi Shastri’s 100 at the top of the order. Up in the Lord’s commentary box, retired batting great Sunil Gavaskar was into only his third day as a ball-by-ball television commentator and who better than to be by his side to calm those nerves than microphone maestro Richie Benaud.
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This is Gavaskar’s silver jubilee year as a full-time television commentator, a job that has taken him to far more places than he had been as a player. By the way, Gavaskar was visiting Lake Como in Italy yesterday.
mid-day caught up with him for a brief chat on completing 25 years as a full-time television commentator.
Did you always want to become a TV commentator post-retirement?
No, I did not want to become a commentator but once I started doing it, I went wholehearted in it like I do with anything I take up.
You did some TV work before the 1990 Lord’s Test but not ball-by-ball. Did you endure some butterflies in the tummy before coming on air 25 Julys ago?
Yes, I was nervous before my first stint.
Who or what helped calm you?
All my co-commentators were helpful then, but it was Richie Benaud, who gave me some incredible tips and guidance.
It’s important to be neutral when one is on air but was there an occasion when you thought you had to bat for India in an issue?
You have to be neutral when on air. Benaud was the one who told me that there is no ‘we us and them’ in TV commentary. So while I have made observations, they have not necessarily been only for the Indian cricket team. I did ruffle a few feathers at the 2008 Sydney Test where it was an attempt to point out the double standards employed then. (When Benaud passed away last April, Gavaskar wrote in a tribute: “He taught me when to speak, when to pause and some of the subtleties of live TV commentary. If all of us could be as detached as Richie was during commentary then none of the home team bias would come through in the commentary.”)
Finally, can you name your five best TV commentators you have worked with?
I have worked with a wonderful bunch of guys and it’s been tremendous fun so picking a few would be unfair to the others.