While Test cricket may be a physically demanding sport, it is defined by its mental battles. Cricketers must be physically fit and muscular, but they must also be innovative and confident thinkers. Cricket is a game for people who like to think. Whether it is the T20, or five-day Test cricket, it is a game for those who want to think.
An excellent storyteller uses dramatic storytelling to convey events. A cricket commentator should first convey the major match events before connecting them to the underlying strategy or mental turmoil. That is, the commentator informs the audience of the captain’s, batsman’s, bowler’s, or fielder’s goal or difficulty. The audience is then told what to expect in the forthcoming play.
Ian Bishop, a former West Indies cricketer who had an interview on Betway Insider, remembered making an exuberant statement during his commentary following the West Indies’ victory over England in the 2016 T20 World Cup final.
Bishop says he introduced Carlos Brathwaite’s name in a business function the day before the final when asked about the West Indies players to watch.
“So, the West Indies team had been through a lot. I felt from being around the team. There was a sort of a fire burning in them. When that moment came, and Carlos did, because I thought they were behind in the game, and Carlos did what he did. It was just the passion that came out,” Bishop said.
“I have always said that, I didn’t want the moment. David Lloyd was on call. I did not want it. He handed it over to me, and I was scared when he did that. All of a sudden, I was thrust into that position. It was just the emotion coming out. I sort of subconsciously remembered what I had said about Carlos the day before, when I told the businessman to look out for this fella, and I was kind of speaking to them, ‘remember the name’” he added.
The key to making cricket commentary more fascinating is for it to express the mental aspect of the game, as well as the captains’ tactics and conflicts, in a dramatic manner. Commentators can help by employing narrative tactics that focus on the strategic and psychological aspects of play. To spoon-feed sloppy descriptions of the action, explain the repercussions of these acts, and tell him what emotions to feel is a bad approach to portray a tale unfolding live before a viewer’s eyes. The focus of such commentary is on the reporter rather than the game and the viewer’s heart and thoughts.
Cricket: The Great Mental Game
Even if today’s cricket commentary incorporates both excellent and bad approaches, let’s define what makes terrible cricket commentary. Today’s Test commentary seems overly concerned with the physical aspect of the game. Any cricket pundit may scream and celebrate a slip fielder’s frantic dive, a batsman’s violence after being beaned by a delivery, or a six over the fence. Commentary often devolves to presenters reciting war stories, providing superficial explanations of the game that the audience are watching, focusing on the inessential or trivial, and screaming passion and partiality.
Here’s an example from the second day of the first Test of the 2015 Ashes series in England. Human interest tales, sledding, and local fishing were the emphasis of the TV commentators. An English print writer, on the other hand, was praising English skipper Alistair Cook’s well-executed “aggressive suffocation tactic” against Australia’s batsmen. The first is nonsense, whereas the second is in-depth cricket analysis.
Creating Suspense with Alfred Hitchcock
As Alfred Hitchcock, the maestro of suspense, explains to director Peter Bogdanovich, giving a TV cricket audience chosen information to produce a strong reaction is analogous to producing suspense in a cinema audience:
“’We come to our old analogy of the bomb. You and I sit here talking. We’re having a very innocuous conversation about nothing. Boring. Doesn’t mean a thing. Suddenly, boom! A bomb goes off and the audience is shocked — for 15 seconds. Now you change it. Play the same scene, show that a bomb has been placed there, establish that it’s going to go off at 1 P.M. – it’s now a quarter of one, ten of one — show a clock on the wall, back to the same scene. Now our conversation becomes very vital, by its sheer nonsense. Look under the table! You fool! Now the audience is working for 10 minutes, instead of being surprised for 15 seconds.’”
The theatrical notion of suspense over shock is also supported by Hitchcock’s principle.
Creating Drama by Seeing the Big Picture
During a live cricket broadcast, an expert must convey the big picture, major concepts, and long-term conflicts connected to goals, strategy, and psychology in order to create a dramatic backdrop similar to how it is done in a tale. Although some pundits do so now, they might devote greater attention to mental health concerns. A TV pundit, for example, may emphasize long-term themes such as: Will English cricket regain leadership and confidence to win the T20 World Cup? Will the Australians’ mental fitness suffer as a result of their continual travelling during the series? Will the Bangladeshis be psychologically exhausted when they face the world’s best? Have the Indians played enough practice games in Dubai before the World Cup to adapt their thoughts and methods to the Dubai conditions?
An expert now has a topic to connect his analysis together and make it more valuable and fascinating to his audience during any given game commentary.