SPONTANEOUS SIMPLICITY

By A. Thirugnanasambandamoorthy
(ats@thehindu.co.in)

The preliminary league match between Argentina and Nigeria in the World Cup football championship in the U.S. in1994. Argentina had earned a free kick. As Maradona saw Cannigia run into open space he feathered a pass to him. This is how a journalist had described the free kick. Incidentally Argentina won the match 2-1. Renowned football critic Brian Glanville wrote in 1986 (Mexico World Cup): "Maradona's equaliser against Italy (in a group match) was a joy." Describing keith Arthurton's effort in stopping the ball from going over the rope in a match between West Indies and a representative combination in India, in 1994, Henry Blofeld (doing commentary for TV) said, "Arthurton goes all the way for four but the ball does not."

Whether one is covering sports or games for a paper or radio or television, this is the kind of spontaneous simplicity that warms the heart of the reader or listener or the viewer.

How does one acquire this spontaneity? Involvement in the discipline one specialises in, thorough knowledge of the nuances and laws of the particular game, deep familiarity with the participants and the commitment to present the reader, or the listener or the viewer with a truthful narration of what happens or how it happened.

Of these three media -- newspaper, radio and TV -- the last named is the most difficult to do commentary for. In a sense it is naive even to explain why. The viewer sees it all on TV. So one should not and cannot describe what is obvious like it is a stupendous save in football or a glorious cover drive in cricket. After the cheers for something extraordinary stop, the commentator must explain crisply why a particular save or shot is worth savouring with clinical precision. Even more important is that the commentator should vividly describe any new law or change in law at the earliest opportunity. When tie-breaker was introduced in tennis, it was not clear to many tennis fans and later viewers. In the grand prix tennis championship held in Calcutta in 1975 the former Indian Davis Cupper Premjit Lal was associated with radio coverage of the event. When there was a break he clearly explained how after 6 all the tie is broken by playing for best of 12 points and how it should go on till one of the two contestants manage a lead of two points. (John McEnroe won the fourth set tie-break against Borg in the finals of 1980 Wimbledon by 18-16).

Whatever one says must complement the visual. Any appropriate anecdote, unknown details about the participants will enrich the knowledge of the viewers.

In a test India played against Australia away from home just over a month before the 1992 world cup cricket (Australia and New Zealand co-hosted) Sachin Tendulkar was facing a paceman and Greg Chappell was doing the description for Channel Nine. Once even before the ball pitched on the middle and off stumps rose higher than he expected it to, he had to hurriedly go on his backfoot and jab the ball down. The very next ball was almost similar. But this time Sachin was prepared. He had not moved until the last possible moment. Then he stood on his toes and whacked it through the midwicket boundary.

Greg Chappell had both balls replayed and remarked what a quick learner the little fella was.

If you want to be a good writer or commentator, acquire thorough knowledge of the game you cover, know the personalities involved as intimately as possible and write or talk through your heart whose spontaneity will be delightful to hear and a lesson to the young aspirants.

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