Prakash Wakankar - From Maharashtra opening batsman to BBC commentary
Meet Prakash Wakankar, a former Maharashtra under-22 opening batsman, who now holds his own in the BBC commentary box
Prakash Wakankar (right) with former England spinner Graeme Swann at Lord's in England
A shy young cricketer from Pune, who once waited for an entire day outside the Polly Umrigar gate at the Wankhede Stadium to touch the feet of India's batting great from the 70s and 80s - Sunil Gavaskar — later on accompanied Gavaskar in the commentary box during several international matches.
Then Maharashtra's U-22 opening batsman and now an established cricket commentator, Prakash Wakankar is on the verge of completing two decades as a commentator.
Wakankar, who has lent his voice for around 45 Tests so far, is in the city to do live commentary for BBC Radio during the Mumbai Test between India and England at the Wankhede Stadium today.
Former Maharashtra Ranji Trophy cricketer and commentator Bal Pandit, encouraged young Wakankar to take up cricket commentary. Since then, Wakankar has gone about commentating for All India Radio, Cricket Radio and BBC. He has commentated on 85 ODIs and 50 T20s. "I still remember my first match with my idol Sunil Gavaskar. I was tense while doing my stint with him, because I didn't know how to address him.
"That match was between India and Pakistan during the T20 World Cup warm-up sessions at the Oval in 2009. So I asked him: 'Shall I call you Mr Gavaskar?' But he refused and told me to address him as Sunny.
"He never felt that I was a newcomer and he encouraged me while doing commentary with him," Wakankar told mid-day recently.
Wakankar, who has played alongside Sanjay Manjrekar and Milind Gunjal, said he is enjoying his second innings as a commentator.
High praise from Blofeld
"Though I have not scored a double century in Test cricket, I felt that way when Henry Blofeld told me that mine was the best voice he heard from India and gave me his book with an autograph," the 54-year-old recalled.
Wakankar, who used to bowl off-spin, bowled a wrong 'un to former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott during commentary. "While doing commentary Boycott has a habit of saying 'you are going to lose this match', 'my mum would even bat better than this batsman or my mum would bowl better than this fellow'. But he is popular for his running between the wickets issues during his playing days.
"So whenever he spoke in his typical style, I asked him: 'Geoffrey, shall we check how many times you got your partners run out?' and his reply is, 'Rubbish, let's talk about this game,"' Wakankar said.
Though this English team are struggling to cope up in the five-match series, Wakankar feels the same England team will pose a tough challenge to India in the forthcoming ODI and T20 series.
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