"That's what cricket is all about!" a broadcaster said in anguish after a catch was dropped during a recent Bangladesh-Zimbabwe match I bulletined. Not long after, as the batsmen scampered the length of the pitch and barely made their destination, the same commentator stated emphatically, "That's what cricket is all about."
"That's a good shot!" said another commentator when the shot we just saw was indeed a good one. "That's another good shot!" he continued, before ending with "That's a grrrreat shot!" for variation.
After briefly interrupting his commentary with common sense, the commentator then declared about the Bangladesh captain, "He has to get the bull with the horns," thereby implying that Habibul Bashar, the Bangladesh captain, currently had a harmless bull on his hands. But the man wasn't done yet. "He has to target his main bowlers," the commentator said of Bashar - who was smiling benignly when the camera cut to him - prompting visions of Bashar doing a Tonya Harding on Mortaza, Enamul and Rafique.
A little later, Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, the man who moves my thumb to the mute button, declared, "It's all happening here." Where, Siva, where? I didn't see anything happen for five days.
Not to be outdone by himself, Siva returned to drive a stake through the heart of good commentary with a cheery "He's enjoying this," followed by silence. I stared at the screen, hoping to catch a glimpse of the enjoyment Siva had seen. I kept staring for a while before it struck me that for Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, commentary was not just about the happenings on-field. It was about creating excitement. Like making a summer blockbuster with a nail clipping as subject.
Not everything needs to be spoken about. Commentary needs the touch of a Wong Kar Wai, not Jerry Bruckheimer, for light and shadow can be as dramatic, and more unexpected than an explosion. The perennial lilt in Siva's voice builds an image of a man who is excited by everything, even a depressingly slow passage of play. It casts on the commentator, sometimes unfairly, a light that shows his detachment from reality, and questions whether he believes his own words. The emotion of excitement is forced onto comments that do not demand that particular emotion. And like with all forced emotions, a niggling suspicion is aroused. Suspicion is not something any commentator needs from his viewers, for he loses credibility. It is a downward spiral.
Silence holds a certain power. It is a crutch to hold on to when words and emotions fail you.
Update: This piece underwent several edits. Sorry if that's not the blog thang to do.