Commentary is an integral but often underrated aspect of cricket, which can keep the viewers hooked irrespective of the nature of the match.

“Dhoni finishes off in style. A magnificent strike into the crowd! India lift the World Cup after 28 years.” “He’s got it. England have won the World Cup by the barest of margins.” If you are an Indian or England cricket fan, these lines are bound to reverberate in your ears every time a mention of the 2011 and 2019 World Cup finals is made. Ravi Shastri described MSD’s six in unforgettable fashion during the 2011 summit clash against Sri Lanka at the Wankhede Stadium. On the other hand, the 2019 World Cup final between England and New Zealand at Lord’s would not have sounded as exciting without Ian Smith’s now-legendary antics behind the mic.

Commentary is an integral but often underrated aspect of cricket, which can keep the viewers hooked irrespective of the nature of the match. A great commentator can make a drab game exciting, while a poor analyst can kill even the most thrilling moments of a pulsating encounter. On that note, let’s look at seven of the finest men on the mic at present.

7. Danny Morrison: Former New Zealand pacer Danny Morrison was a highly accomplished bowler of his time. He claimed 160 scalps in 48 Tests and 126 in 96 ODIs. However, he was never quite a popular figure in world cricket. That has changed since he joined the commentary box. With the mic in hand, Danny is entertaining and joyful. His wisecracks have won him plenty of admirers, especially during the IPL. His presence in the commentary box these days is more or less entertainment guaranteed.

6. Ian Bishop: The former West Indies fast bowler is opposite of Morrison. He is a serious thinker of the game and an equally serious speaker. What makes Ian Bishop’s presence as an analyst valuable is his incisive views on various intricate aspects of the game, and not just West Indies cricket. He reads the game in a manner few others can, and while he might not be as entertaining as some of the others, his thoughtful outlook provides balance to any commentary panel.

5. Kumar Sangakkara: The Sri Lankan legend has only recently joined the commentary box. However, Kumar Sangakkara is already beginning to make his presence felt, just like he did on the cricket ground, be it as a class batter or a smart wicketkeeper. Apart from his cricketing skills, Sangakkara was also known for his one-liners and shrewd banters with opposition cricketers. The cheeky element is visible even when he has the mic in hand. He might not say a lot, but it’s often enough to prove a point in his inimitable manner.

4. Ravi Shastri: “He’s hit that like a tracer bullet.” “That’s exactly what the doctor ordered.” There might be more than a hint of monotony in Ravi Shastri’s commentary, but never a lack of energy. The former Indian all-rounder’s antics with the mic keep you hooked and ensure you feel as if you are a part of the game, up close and personal. Without Shastri’s enthusiasm, when he was coaching the Indian team, the commentary box, was a slightly less mad place. You need some amount of madness in the commentary.

3. Harsha Bhogle: Harsha Bhogle’s is the rarest of rare cases. He is among the few analysts who haven’t played cricket at the highest level yet describes the game better than most who have played on the big stage for years. Bhogle brings a wealth of experience to the commentary, having covered the game since the 1990s. He has numerous anecdotes to share. And significantly, like great batters, he gets his timing right more often than not. An IIM Ahmedabad Alumnus, Bhogle enjoys a great rapport with most fellow commentators. He has amazing communication skills and engages his co-panelists in worthy discussions on the game, and he does so without making the conversation boring. His vibrant commentary has been hampered to an extent recently by his conscious albeit somewhat forced effort to try and bring in additional excitement into his stints. However, when in form, Bhogle is still the ultimate role model for any budding cricket commentator, especially in India.

2. Sunil Gavaskar: The Little Master is as good with the mic as he was on the pitch for a decade and a half for India. As a batter, Sunil Gavaskar won a lot of plaudits for walking away from the game when he could definitely have played on for a couple of more years. A few Indian legends are known for carrying on playing for a number of years past their prime. Coming to Gavaskar’s commentary, it is as sensible as his decision to retire at the right time. His views on the game are frank, refreshing, and, more often than not, succinct. 

Unlike a few others, though, he doesn’t make his commentary stints sound dull. Despite being in his 70s, Gavaskar has retained some childlike enthusiasm, which comes through in his entertaining performances with the mic. He will often crack a joke that would fill the commentary box with laughter. His chemistry with the new generation of commentators is also endearing. He has had his off-days, like every human, but they have been outnumbered by the ‘Sunny Days’, when Gavaskar has timed his words to perfection.

1. Mark Nicholas: With Tony Greig and Richard Benaud having passed away and the iconic Ian Chappell having announced his retirement after 45 years, the post of the finest cricketer commentary at present can perhaps be awarded to Mark Nicholas. Although he had an excellent first-class record, he never managed to play international cricket. As a commentator, though, he has earned accolades of the highest level for his crisp and, at the same time, slick presentation. 

Nicholas’ comprehensive description of a situation takes you as close to the action as perhaps possible. He keeps you hooked to the game. Even though he lacks the flamboyance of Shastri and the wit of Gavaskar, what Nicholas possesses is a sharp mind. Put him among a group of commentators for a debate, and he would often come out on top without having to shout his way. That pretty much described the genius of Mark Nicholas.

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