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Sportspeak

How can you compel millions of countrymen to lend you their ears during a match? By coming up with funny remarks, fascinating facts and with your fluent commentary, reports Vimal Chander Joshi.

education Updated: Jun 20, 2012 13:30 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

At the zenith of his career as a national-level diver, Charu Sharma didn’t for once think that he would spend the rest of his life sitting in commentary boxes in cricket stadiums. On friends’ insistence, he applied for a job in Doordarshan during the Asian Games in 1982.

That marked the beginning of his career as a commentator – 27years is how long he has been at it. “I was at the right place at the right time, which got me this job... and that’s very important for anyone wanting to become a commentator, even if he or she happens to be a national-level player,” says Sharma.

He made a conscious effort to improve his language skills. “I took my profession seriously as it was a full-time job and I am the first full-time commentator in Indian cricket.” Also, says Sharma, it’s important for a commentator to be able to analyse the game and comment or suggest techniques and strategies for the way a game is played. Commentary has an altogether different meaning now – it’s not just about narrating the progression of a match ball by ball in cricket, for example, but also entails giving an insight into the game – an expert’s job. Though one should know everything one can about the game sometimes it’s futile to try and mug up age-old statistics which are of no use in today’s game. “While watching a match in 2009, no viewer would want to know about a test which took place 50 years ago. Mugging up data and figures doesn’t help, unless it is meant to offset a lull,” says Sharma.

Even after more than two decades in this line, he still does mock-commentary mentally and takes his passion very seriously. Even a little goof-up can sabotage the entire show.
He also claims to give each match his best shot – whether a district-level tournament or the World Cup. The number of listeners should be inconsequential to a commentator, he says, adding in the same breath that one of his favourite moments relates to a kabaddi match in the 2006 Asian Games, Doha, as it reportedly bolstered the game’s reputation, thanks to Sharma’s commentary.

He also has a words of advice for those who are drawn to sports commentary only because of the glamour. It’s very serious business meant for experts who can understand, analyse and talk about the game with meticulous perfection.

Though opportunities remain few for rank outsiders to enter this arena as most commentators today are former international cricketers, there are few like Padamjeet Sehrawat you can get inspired by. Though he hasn’t played any international matches he got his break after coming second in the talent hunt show Dream Job - Harsha Ki Khoj in 2004. “Chances are few for non-cricketers to enter this arena but if you are good at what you do – like Harsha Bhogle – then a place can be created for you,” says Sehrawat.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
A sports commentator is an expert who reports a live match on radio and/or television in real time. S/he specialises in reporting or commentating on sporting events

CLOCK WORK
. 8 am: Wake up
. 8.30 am: Read the newspapers
. 11 am: Watch sports news on television
. 2 pm: Lunch
. 2.30 pm: Leave for stadium to do commentary – this depends on match timings and the country it’s played in
. 6 pm: Take a break
. 6.30 pm: Resume the commentary
. 9.30 pm: Give interviews/ participate in talk shows
. 10.30 pm: Call it a day

THE PAYOFF
An average commentator earns anywhere between Rs 5000 to Rs 10,000 a day. But well-known ones command a better sum from Rs 25,000 onwards for a day. Your annual income depends on the number of days in a year you get work

Skills
.
You must love the sport and follow it religiously
. You should have a thorough knowledge of the game and should love it
. Excellent command over the language
. Good voice, which should be exploited for perfect dialogue delivery
. You should have some visual acceptance, especially in case of commentary on television

How do i get there?
There are very few openings for sports commentators in India. Former national players have relatively brighter chances to make it to the commentary box. You can start from All India Radio or Doordarshan which are usually good platforms. You need a rich, long experience in the sports arena to get hired by a sports channel

Institutes & urls
It is not a career, accessible through a classroom. There are no institutes which train people to become sports commentators. But you can do English, personality development and communication skills courses to gain an edge.
. R K Films & Media Academy - New Delhi,
www.rkfma.com
. Dublin Business School, Ireland,
www.dbs.ie

Pros & Cons
.
You are seen/ heard by millions
. The money is good but you might not get assignments regularly. You might not get any work for six months at a stretch
. Sports commentary essentially happens at international matches and mostly former players rule the roost

___________________________________________________________________________________________
Q&A WITH HARSHA BHOGLE: 2010 Commonwealth Games could be your chance

Commentator Harsha Bhogle sheds light on the opportunities and scope in sports commentary

Do you think there will be a demand for sports commentators during the Commonwealth Games 2010?
I would think so, but much would depend on the host broadcaster and their degree of preparation. It should, ordinarily, be a great opportunity for young commentators but they would need to work with very good producers and directors to stand out. The commentator is only the last link in a chain. If intermediate elements are not good, there isn't a lot a commentator can do. So, in short, if the host broadcaster is keen and capable, it'sthe best thing that can happen

In today's time, can a qualified person (doctors, engineers and CAs) hope to become a commentator purely on merit without having played at the international level?
They should be able to if they are good enough. They need to know the game, understand their role, have sensitivity to the game and the language. A lot of very good commentators haven't played at the highest level though it is a trend that is changing. But in India I do not think we are ready for it yet.

Should there be more talent hunt shows like Harsha Ki Khoj to find young and fresh faces in sports commentary?
Yes, they should, provided there are enough outlets for those that come through. The first edition of Harsha Ki Khoj threw up some very high quality talent. But talent like that needs enthusiastic producers to take it ahead.

Millions of young people want to become cricketers. When they don't get a chance they aspire to become commentators. What do you have to say about this?
It is unfortunate because, as far as possible, you should never get into something because you were not good enough somewhere else. That can leave people frustrated and that comes through. The skills required for the two things are different and I hope cricketers who do not make it don't feel this is an easy option. It isn't. It requires the same commitment and understanding that a cricket career does.

Interviewed by Vimal Joshi