Watching live games on the ground is a helluva experience for a few, but for the unfortunate rest, the only savior is the television stacked in the corner of the room. But for them, blessing comes in disguise as they are not just able to view the happenings in the middle, but also listen to the thoughts of some of the best people who have been involved with the game. I didn't use the phrase who have played the game at the highest level, since there are some brilliant exceptions. I've been thinking on posting this since quite a while and it was long due. So here's my list of whom I really love listening to, the guys who can turn even some of the most boring games into pretty entertainers.. here are a few wise men -
1. Mark Nicholas - "By Heaven" doesn't sound even close to being blasphemous when he says that. For me, he's just the best in the business whether it comes to expressing elation or regret. The fact that he's the only commentator in the Channel 9 team who's not played international cricket pays a testimony to the respect he gathers in that pretty exclusive group. Watching Lee bowl to Sach with MN behind the mic is an absolute treat. Sorry for you fellas who see the game live at the grounds..
2. Richie Benaud - Well, I'm sure most of you would put him on the top spot, but for me he comes at a close second, just a little behind Mark Nicholas. The absolute pundit of the game, who ones famously said, "Captaincy is ninety per cent luck and ten per cent skill, but don't try it without that ten per cent". Without a doubt, the most respected cricket commentator, few would argue his credibility on passing any judgement. He's been one of the best Aussie skippers and been there, seen all..
3. Tony Cozier - No one probably knows Caribbean cricket better than him. I still believe he could have been the best of 'em all had he been involved with say, the Australian cricket. The decline in West Indian cricket, both in quality and interest probably attributes more than anything else in him dropping to the third place. I loved his comment, "Even God would have found it difficult to play that", when Malinga nailed Vettori with an absolute toe crusher.
4. Tony Greig - Needless to say, one of the most animated commentators around, he can even inject excitement into a Aussies-Kenya encounter! Not many would forget him during the Sach twin blows in Sharjah against the Aussies. It was at times difficult to comprehend whether TG himself was hitting them all over the park. The one who was was offered the 'job for life' by Kerry Packer as a commentator for Nine's cricket coverage, he's really carved a place for himself as one of the best ever.
5. Michael Holding - A quite man with an extremely good insight into the game, he's more different than anyone else in the above lot. Doesn't crack too many jokes and with the least of animations, its just a pleasure listening to him, since you know that he just won't make any blunders behind the mic. To the point and often accurate, he still stays true to his 'quite stealthy' run-up before delivering the knockout punch.
6. Geoffrey Boycott - Controversy's the name of this man, and some of the stuff that he says might seem outrageous to a few and humorous to the rest. Yorkshire's accent has never been this famous before. His 'momma' still takes most of the catches and hits most of the runs and we often see a 'poof' of dust when she's playing. Some characters are made for this game. He might have been one of the dullest around with the bat in his hand, but he's an absolute rock star with the microphone now.
7. Ian Chappell - If Michael Hussey's the Mr. Cricket on the field, he's the same off the field. As his twin, he craves for perfection, but balances it just about perfectly with humor. Probably one of those people who know the game as good as anyone else, he doesn't shy away from hitting the nail on the head when it comes to passing his comments. I've never found him going over the top and he really forms one of the core pillars of the Channel 9 club.
8. Bill Lawry - I'd include him just for the energy.. just for the its all happening here and bang and Its a ripper.. If excitement's the sole criterion, he'd rank on top of my list with Tony Greig a close second. There are times, when I find him really going over the top, at times pro Aussie, but whatever, Bill still goes for the kill..
9. Barry Richards - No list can be complete with the great Barry Richards. He falls into the same category as Ian Chappell - perfectionist. The best thing about him is that I've never found him biased in his comments about the game. Indian Protean encounters for some reason lack a bit of fizz in the commentary box, but for Barry Richards, who makes you sit up and listen to him.
10. Ravi Shastri - Well, some might argue that Sunny Gavaskar should have been there, but my pick would be RS. The way he's becoming increasingly good at his job as a broadcaster is commendable. The fact that he's so close to the Indian players help him immensely in passing judgements sitting in that air conditioned box and with his accent and control over the language, he's bound to appeal to the english speaking audience sooner than later. Brilliantly humorous, I'm sure he'll rise up the ranks in the years to come.
Sadly, I decided to limit my list to just ten of them. There were a few others who really were very close to being included but then, it had to be just 10. Harsha Bhogle, Mike Haysman, David Lloyd and Mark Taylor were some of them. Bhogle for his sincerity as a broadcaster and his trivia about this game, Haysman for the Bill Lawrish excitement, Lloyd for his humor and Mark Taylor 'tubby' for analysis. Well, this is it.. These gentlemen behind the microphones are as much as a treat to listen to as watching one of those Warnie rippers or Sach's maximums!
Share your list, and in the meanwhile, here's what Bill Lawry's has to say on an absolute ripper of a catch..