Commentating involves a good amount of homework. STAR TV is particularly focussed on cricket stars playing in the IPL. They like to go into a lot of details—batting technicalities, the emotional part of playing cricket, players’ families etc—so that viewers are kept informed all through while watching matches live. What makes commentary fun for me is that I can talk fluently about cricket as I have played the game for so many years. My homework starts as soon as IPL teams are announced after the auction. Then, I sit down to get details on the players. One also has to learn the correct pronunciation for such a variety of names. Names of certain players from other countries can be difficult to pronounce, a predicament I well understand from my days as a player: no Australian or Englishman has ever pronounced my name correctly. They always call me ‘Arfan’ instead of Irfan. (Irfan Pathan's IPL Diary Part 1: Gujarati Slog Sweep And Hyderabad Mein Hungame)
The thing about commentating is that no matter how much homework you do, you always have to be spontaneous on live TV. You have to be on guard to assess the game that is changing in front of you. You have to think about questions like what would happen in the next few overs, what can be done, what should have been done etc. But since I have played cricket for long, it comes to me naturally.
Constructive Parts of the Game
Criticism is a natural part of commentary. Personally, I have always believed in constructive criticism. Every cricketer these days understands that criticism is part and parcel of the game. I have played with a lot of cricketers currently playing in the IPL and I’m still playing with some of them in domestic tournaments. If someone doesn’t execute a shot well, I as a commentator have to explain that to viewers. He could be Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Robin Uthuppa, who is a very good friend of mine, or Piyush Chawla. It’s a professional thing. I also appreciate that players already have a lot of pressure on them, so the criticism should not be just for the heck of it. It should be constructive, and that is actually good for players.
Irfan Pathan of the Sunrisers Hyderabad talks to his brother Yusuf Pathan of the Kolkata Knight Riders during an IPL match in 2014. (BCCI Photo)
ROFLing With Kaif
Commentary is not always serious stuff, it’s fun as well. An in-studio incident from last year’s IPL really cracked me. I was doing a stint with former teammate Mohammed Kaif. He was standing next to me, but I couldn’t see him because I was looking straight into the eyes of the anchor in front of me. Kaif was narrating an old story from Lucknow. I was hearing it all this while, and when I turned to look at him, I see he’s sitting on the floor and describing the details of the incident in typical Lucknowi dialect. It was so funny, the way he narrated it, that I was in splits on the show. Incidents like these keep happening during commentary. So, it’s not an out and out a serious vocation at all.