“Cricket brings the drama through its narrators’ soothing tones, trenchant observations, eloquence and opinions.” 

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An avid sports buff since his formative days, Krishna Kumar Subramaniam, popularly known as KK is a well-known radio cricket commentator, sports anchor and Anchor & Host for Conferences and Award Shows.

He is on the panel of All India Radio Cricket Commentators and invited regularly on FM channels across radio networks. With vast experience in cricket commentary, he has covered many interesting tournaments including the 2011 World Cup.

He is also Vice President (Business Development, India, Middle East and Africa) at Glenmark Pharmaceuticals.

In a free-wheeling chat with A.Radhakrishnan, KK speaks about the pleasures of cricket commentating.

Can you briefly describe yourself?

I am a passionate human being who believes in walking the path of excellence. Passionate not only about the happiness of my family, but also as a professional, about sports, my predominant hobby; and about my radio cricket commentary, sports anchoring, seminars and award shows.

Define a radio cricket commentator?

A radio cricket commentator is the life of the game. Painting the entire picture of what’s happening on the field, he creates the requisite excitement for the listener to visualise and cement his focus on the commentary and be glued in
anticipated excitement.

What are the attributes required by a radio cricket commentator?

Specialisation and an innate knowledge of the game are mandatory. To be a successful and respected radio cricket commentator, apart from being a great fan and follower of the game, one needs to have an excellent grip of every nuance of the game.

What happens out there in live commentary is completely different from what you might have in mind. Some thoughts you have, some episodes / phrases you have preprepared, etc. …none may be relevant when the live game begins.

Often a different run of play happens and that’s where the relevant impressive alacrity comes to the fore to describe the scene with competence and class.
Good energy levels, good eloquence, a mellifluous voice, good diction, good English and good vocabulary are winning attributes that can distinguish a particular radio cricket commentator as ‘Very Special’, but one cannot flounder on the game per se.

When did radio commentary make its debut in India? And what has been the role of All India Radio?

To the best of my knowledge, radio cricket commentary made its debut in India more than 75 years back through All India Radio. AIR, with its huge and widespread nationwide network, has taken cricket to every household in the far nook and corner.
Today in addition to its conventional channels, AIR relays cricket commentary through its popular FM Channels as well e.g., FM Rainbow. People listening to live cricket commentary in cars and over their cell phones is the order of the day and one needs to profusely thank AIR for the same.

How has radio commentary evolved world over? Has TV commentating taken the lead?

Radio still remains a very popular medium for live cricket commentary. Cricket is a way of life in India and the logical sequel to that is listening to radio cricket commentary.
Radio commentary has also evolved over time. Earlier we used to have one commentator per session doing a 15 to 20 minute’s stint. That’s now changed to dialogue commentary with two commentators together and many a time with an expert added in.
There are also many live interviews with former cricketers, administrators etc., which help make the whole broadcast very interesting. Lots of perspectives come in, newer thoughts emerge and all this adds significantly to listener involvement and interest.
Though television is a mega popular medium and digital channels are increasingly in vogue, in the modern fast paced world, the constraint people face is viewing TV or digital media continuously due their own professional, scholastic and occupational commitments.
As avid and crazy followers of the game, they wish to be tuned in all the time and radio is the answer. AIR is at the
forefront for cricket commentary and we are also seeing the emergence of digital audio channels.

In an arena dominated by ex-cricketers, does the next common man who loves cricket, trained in media journalism have a chance?

Of course there is scope for a common man who loves the game to become a good radio cricket commentator, provided he develops the mandatory essentials and produces a good energetic and enthusiastic interesting flow in describing the game, to create listener interest.
One way of becoming a world class radio cricket commentator is to relentlessly keep asking yourself the dispassionate question Will the listener be tempted to keep glued in to my commentary or will he shut off? If at any time you get the answer Shut Off, that’s a development goal for you!! Irrespective of your name and fame, keep asking yourself this question!!
That’s the path to excellence and towards becoming an All Time Great. I keep asking myself this question even now after every game.

Why have you preferred radio commentary?

As far as I am concerned , I started with All India Radio with a small, but interesting 10 minute weekly sports round up programme titled Sports Here and There, which led to the opportunity of doing a half hourly programme Sports Magazine.
Fortunate to receive high quality listeners’ feedback, I was then asked to record commentary for a Ranji Trophy match. Positive response to this paved the way for my first live commentary match between Mumbai and Gujarat.
In a few years I was doing ODIs, Test Matches and after its advent, T20s as well. I will always be grateful to AIR for the opportunities and trust reposed in me.
It was also a pleasure to do commentary over Cricket Radio, a Dubai-based channel for the 2011 World Cup.
A commentator must always bear in mind the fact that the listener is the CORE of his commentary and the listener is the ultimate BOSS!
Live commentary is the pinnacle and it is as exciting and satisfying as it is challenging. It’s indeed gratifying when listeners and fans offer an excellent feedback! I am eternally grateful to them for inspiring and motivating me.

Five greatest cricket radio commentators of all time, whose distinctive style is ripe for impersonation but also impossible to replicate?

I adore Tony Cozier, Christopher Martin Jenkins, Brian Johnson, and our own Harsha Bhogle, Ananth Setalvad and Suresh Saraiya. All of them are giants in their own way with their own special, unique and arresting style.

How do you prepare for matches? Is it spontaneous?

Preparation always helps! As I said earlier, live commentary is spontaneous but that alacrity and spontaneity comes through in a more effortless manner and with better impact with better preparation.
It gives you the necessary grip, all possible information on both the teams, past, present, future ; similarly players on both sides; CTF of the players, high points and conversely lean trots; the context of the game, its importance, its impact.

Does the hectic schedule take a toll on you? Has your style changed over years? Or do you go home every day and play the recording and see and say “Oh, I should have said this there, and that over there”?

I have always believed that one should brace oneself to hectic schedules and learn to enjoy them, rather than crib. Regards replays, these days you always have a television monitor and a fruit feed in the ComBox.
A lot of issues and attributes of players like killer instinct will to win, concentration, psychological issues, patience, perseverance, tolerance, cool and composed or aggression, intimidating approach, sledging, etc., are discussions that happen as a part of routine commentary. In a sense they are the embellishments of commentary.

Which language is best suited for radio commentary? English, Hindi or Tamil?

My personal opinion is there is a place and good audience for every language in cricket commentary so long as the quality is really very good. We need to cater to them.

On cricketer retirements?

Retirements of cricketers is a moment of reflection for all, more so for us commentators. If it happens to be an all-time great then the first thought is wherein one feels the game is going to be bereft without that player. A lot of thoughts flood one’s mind of the great and happy moments that the player gave fans across the world. From the time I started commentary, I have seen many retirements and many of them greats of the game.
Retirements to me are moments to celebrate greatness, moments to applaud determination, dedication and effort. And tell oneself silently “I was fortunate to see them”. And in my case, I was fortunate to describe many a great moment, many a great effort.

What kind of rapport did you share with fellow commentators?

I have had a very good chemistry with all my commentator colleagues. Among the legendary celebrity experts I enjoyed sharing the mike with, to just mention a few, are Ravi Shastri, Clive Lloyd and Kapil Dev, and I wish to place on record that every session with them made me much richer.
My rapport and learning from my relationship with the legendary Sunil Gavaskar is something that I cherish and feel privileged about.
My interactions with several other leading cricketers like Milind Rege, Lalchand Rajput and others have continuously made me much wiser and I have always looked forward to meeting all these personalities.

Any favourite memories to share?

There are many. Difficult to pen down just a few. But there is one abiding memory which was a lifetime lesson.
This was during that famous tied India – England encounter at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru during 2011 World Cup. Just before the match started, a couple of us went down to the ground level from the commentators’ box to pick up something.
On the way back as we approached the elevator we saw the legendary Rahul Dravid also coming from the opposite side. We greeted each other warmly. Rahul is so sweet and gentlemanly that he always greets you with a winning smile and a few gracious and kind words. We waited for him to enter the elevator first, since we believed we needed to accord him that respect.
But guess what happened. Rahul held the elevator door for us saying “No, no you first. You are in Bengaluru and I am the host here. You are my welcome guests, please enter first.” If this is not the ultimate lesson in humility, what else is?
You learn a lot in your profession and in my case I have through cricket commentary. Professional success is great to achieve but combining it with humility raises the bar manifold! It remains etched in mind for posterity.


A. Radhakrishnan

A. Radhakrishnan is a Pune based freelance writer, poet and short story writer.

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