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IN SPITE OF THE inconsistent performance of the West Indies cricket teams, fans still like to follow them, whether in the Caribbean or overseas.
One of the best ways over the years has been via radio. Listening can be just as good as seeing, especially if there is a good commentator. The same is true of many other sports, be it boxing, track and field or horse racing.
Barbadians who grew up in the 60s and early 70s when live televised sports coverage was not commonplace had to follow radio commentary to get an appreciation of what was happening.
The late Leslie “Shell” Harris was a delight to listen to with his coverage of boxing from the YMCA. Simply by following him, the listener, even if not a fan, got to understand the boxing style of the two fighters in the ring, whether one was a southpaw or if they could stand for 10 rounds.
Long after Harris, Mike Goddard and Dave Barnard brought a lot of excitement to the coverage of horse racing. While the money and the side attractions may have helped with drawing thousands to the Garrison Savannah, particularly for the Gold Cup race, it was the scintillating seconds they described as the horses sped around the track which caught the attention and stirred the emotion.
In was in the 60s that John Arlott took many Caribbean people, excited about the exploits of our team in England, to the grounds around that country. He, along with others like E. W. Swanton, painted a picture of what it was like at Lord’s or even Edgbaston. Listeners were glued to Rediffusion or Radio Barbados to follow the performance of Sobers, Hunte, Hall and the others. The audience across the Caribbean followed and understood.
Of course our own legend, Tony Cozier, added to this brilliant coverage. He pointed out to the world the qualities of our players on the field and had the statistics to back up many of his points. Little wonder he gained worldwide respect.
Things never remain the same, and this is true of sports commentary on radio, television and the evolving online streaming services. The growth of sports rights globally has raised the profile of sports broadcasters even further.
The aim is to get even the casual observers turned on and tuned in.
Cricket still attracts major public interest in Barbados and the Caribbean, so the public wants the very best. But, alas, listeners haven’t been getting it.
What our commentators need to do is appreciate that the audience is far more discerning these days. The type of commentary required for the T20 version of the game is not applicable for the 50-over and there must certainly be a different style for the longer format.
One of the most annoying things about some of the cricket commentators is to hear them spend excessive time talking about what someone had for lunch or how good the hotel rooms are where they’re staying followed by a lot of other irrelevant petty talk. Some of it is nothing but advertising for their sponsors. Please, focus on the cricket as was the case previously.
Our commentators need to master the English language, be experts in the game, and have the stats at their fingertips, or certainly at the push of a keystroke on their laptops or iPads. They must be able to compare and contrast cricketers and explain why. Failure to do these things will continue to take our cricket commentary along the same path as the actual game in the region; more down than up.
Clearly there is a need for review of performance at the end of every match and every series if the commentary is to get better.