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HYDERABAD: Have you ever tried watching a Telugu movie dubbed in Hindi or a Kannada movie dubbed in Marathi? Doesn’t it sound ridiculous? If there is anything that one can sync within any language, it is cricket commentary. Notwithstanding their language of delineation, they provoke us to laugh, trigger tension and make us sit on the edge of our seats, play with our adrenaline hormones and of course unfold riveting trivia of the game and its history.
They explain, explicate and elucidate the match enhancing the fun of the sport. Donning the hat of a commentator is the man, who put Hyderabad on the global map, who inspired youngsters from the city to pursue their dreams of cricket. Venkatapathi Raju is now winning it in the commentary box for the Telugu audience narrating the chronicles of this season’s VIVO IPL matches in regional language, reaching out to larger audience in both urban and rural areas through Star MAA.
Excerpts from the interview:
Straight from the commentary box:
Initially, we were struggling with words because cricketing words are different when it comes to English, Hindi and Telugu. We usually make fun of our own guys. Since, what we are doing is live, we have to be really good at what we are talking. There is no chance for us to just blabber. The funny thing is that we don’t have much time to talk as T20 is fast paced. We just end up cracking some spontaneous jokes. There are a few lighter moments like when somebody asked me what I would do if I were playing in at that situation. I said just pray to God. The way they are hitting it is not that easy.
Appealing to the audience:
People from districts and villages are able to watch and understand without having to struggle with English or Hindi commentary. This is the first time that we are doing live matches and there is a good review from the smaller places.
From pitch to the box:
Initially it was a little difficult. I have been in the box for some time now and I try to keep it as simple as possible. Whenever these big words come, we are fortunate that we can use English words. We learnt the nuances at commentary workshops.
Why commentary and not coaching:
Coaching needs a lot of patience and here you can talk. I have been with Asian Cricket Council as development officer where I got to travel around the world and develop cricket in Asian countries other than the test playing countries. We used to conduct courses for them. Commentary is something where you can be in a place and discuss about what others are doing. You are giving the audience what they require. We have travelled so much during our cricketing days, now we can sit in a place and give inputs
Then and now:
Cricket was a team game and there was hardly any money or any sponsors. With television coming in, so did sponsors. India started doing well after winning the 1983 world cup. Stars were born and cricket became a religion. People were watching a match almost every second day from all over the world. Finance wise, it was all about getting a job before. Cricketers would get jobs in banks, government offices and corporates. Then in the 90s, due to BCCI’s marketing, their pay increased. The current players deserve what they are getting.
They are entertainers, much like footballers. They have tattoos and hairstyles, and their style goes a long way. One of the reasons I say they deserve how much they are getting is because they are playing a lot of cricket. T20 looks very easy, but is actually quite tough. We should thank BCCI here again for giving one-time benefit for ex cricketers and pension every month for cricketers and umpires.
Friends from fraternity:
Hirwani was my good friend. We toured together in Australia for the U-19 world cup. Coming from a small place, we shared a room for a long time. Coming to tests, it was W Raman. We also used to share rooms. Back then, we all had to share rooms unlike today where cricketers are given their own rooms. Brian McMillan has been my best friend. He was the one who nicknamed me “Muscles”. I was so thin he just held me and said that I am full of muscles. We still keep in touch.
Moments to cherish:
My first tour to New Zealand after getting into the Indian team and sitting in the dressing room with a few great personalities around was a moment to cherish. When I saw Kapil Dev, the 1983 world cup winning captain walk in, I was awestruck. I had my own fan boy moment. The picture of Vengasarkar and other prominent cricketers walking into the dressing room is still green in my heart. My first test wicket was the legendary late Martin Crowe. He was one of the greatest batsmen those days. I was a night watchman back then. The first ball I faced in my cricket career will always remain the best moment of my life.
Personal favourite team:
Sunrisers Hyderabad as they have been playing consistently and I am hoping they lift the cup again. Somebody like Kane Williamson is leading the team. He is the only international captain and rest of the franchising captains are Indians. Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni are my current favourites.
My school had all the sports so we never had to travel anywhere for sports. We had a cricket team and matches were conducted every Sunday. They gave us one of the best coaches, Abid Ali sir. He spotted me and trained me. My English lecturer, Shastri motivated me and asked me to continue cricket. He called my parents and told them not to worry about my studies and encouraged me to pursue cricket. My parents readily agreed to it.
Is there anyone in the family who will carry your cricket legacy?
My younger son plays a bit of cricket. Like any other kid in India, he also is one who wants to be a cricketer. I wish he continues but it is hard to come up being a test player’s son and get selected.