Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cricket commentators: your vocab is going to pieces

The language used by cricket commentators is incestuous. Hold on. Let me explain.
These brethren behind the mikes spend weeks on the road with each other and, over matches, meals and beverages, have so many discussions together that they soon start sounding like each other. Almost as if they exhibit their unique personalities and vocabularies at first and then mutely descend into a set of words acceptable to the whole cult.
That's my theory and having given you that, let me offer a few explanations too.
Four years ago, an Australian commentator joined the ESPN Star Sports team (can't remember who that was). He used the word "boundary" in the appropriate way. He termed both a 4 and a 6 "boundaries". Bravo. But the existing crew members were convinced that a boundary was a 4. A 6 was called a 6. And if IPL season was on, it was called a Yes Bank Maximum.
Two matches later, this new commentator had "adapted". He too started making a distinction between a boundary and a 6!

This is just one instance that registered in my brain. Fellow cricket enthusiasts will, I'm sure, have their own observations on how our collective cricket vocabulary is getting homogenous.

And the word that brings this reality home is PIECE. Sample the usage of this word in the following phrases:
Piece of timing
Piece of shot
Piece of batting
Piece of bowling
Piece of swinging
Piece of fielding
Piece of innovation

I can go on. I have a question for our audio stalwarts: what exactly do you mean when you say "that was a great piece of timing"? Seriously. My ignorant mind conjures up the image of a timepiece when I hear that phrase. And why have ALL of you have decided to make the same linguistic errors?
Granted, we live in an era where a rich vocabulary is considered a sign of haughtiness or, worse, the lack of communication skills. I read my share of Salman Rushdie. But I also read Hemmingway and he had as much aversion for adjectives as you do for good grammar. The difference is that he did not create a subculture of idiotic idioms and cliched catch phrases.

We - and here I take the liberty of including millions of cricket fans - are aching for fresh sound bytes in a cricket match. We will celebrate a guy or a gal who actually brings us a fresh set of words, idioms, imageries etc. It will be nice if somebody says "torpedo" or "Kargil bullet" instead of "tracer bullet". We will rejoice if "something's gotta give" is replaced by "are we about to witness a turning point?" The only guy who is attempting freshness is Danny Morrison who spells out OUT and he is as annoying as a kindergarten teacher.
It sure will be awesome if humans continue to speak during a cricket match. Because if the current situation continues, a computer might be asked to interpret the scorecard and offer the standard phrase for the occasion. You will then be out of a job and we will be robbed of your delectable company.
Think about it.


  1. Oh Yes caught it right in this marvelous literary PIECE....also I see many times opportunities for indulging in delectable humor slips away unnoticed...sugar coated bitter truth hard to swallow.....hilareously, bitterly true is what rich vocabulary means in this era....incidentally I was reading what William Penn has written- Humility and knowledge in poor clothes excel pride and ignorance in costly attire...Thankyou for this fantastic cricket and language combo...truly enjoyable read..this article needs to reach many more followers of this

  2. Nice, Esh. Im glad you think Danny is both fresh and execrable. He does sometimes surprise you with a turn of phrase. I think commentary is already obsolete. Experts do sometimes make useful observations, in their trite vocabularies. One wishes there was an option of no commentary. It's not the same as putting it on mute. As I write this the godawful Anjum Chopra is on. Sighhhhh!!!!

    1. Oh, Danny boy is an epitome of loud nothingness, Pat. "Tomorrow, the double Ds take on the double Rs." Maybe he was chastised for his spellings as a schoolboy. How many times can you find spelling out "OUT" novel?
      It's sad to see Arun Lal, Harsha Bhogle also succumb to the cult vocab movement. I wonder if the latter listens to his innovative language from the 90s.
      You make a good point about the "no commentary" option. Maybe Star Sports will offer a new HD channel with that option. Perhaps people will pay to listen to the rousing crowd without having to endure the barbaric barbs emanating from behind the microphones :)