Cricket lovers of the yesteryear can never get over their nostalgic attachment to the radio broadcast of the test matches. The fact that those words from the commentators created the essential visuals that were happening on the ground, somehow impacted the minds of those cricket lovers in the most immaculate manner. The radio commentators enjoyed the unique fan following which stemmed from a mystic appreciation of their listeners. There were many of that time who voice and words became their definitive identity and they became celebrities in their own right. Among them, the one whose commentary influenced me the most was Suresh Purushottamdas Saraiya, who was born on June 20, 1936, in Mumbai. With an unmistakable baritone, smooth delivery and astute choices of words, he earned the name of ‘The Golden Voice of Indian Cricket’. His knowledge of the game, compounded with his undying love for it, made his commentary almost as organic as it can get. He was the one who paved the ways for Harsha Bhogle, Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri as the future flag bearers of cricket commentary. Blending the nuances of the game with a sense of pure romantic affection of a young follower he took commentary to a different level. Saraiya's style of commentary was characterised by his calm and measured tone, which conveyed a sense of authority and credibility. He was also known for his ability to distill complex information into easily understandable nuggets, making his broadcasts accessible to a wide audience.
As an avid fan of his commentary, I particularly remember two of his trademark statements.
1. The ball struck onto his forward pad and ballooned down to forward short leg where Gus Logie is the fielder and there is no possibility of a run.
2. Not only Jimmy Amarnath showed the world how to play genuine fast bowling, but also his application was brilliant which brought a thoroughly deserved century.
Suresh Saraiya commentated in over 100 test matches in a career which spanned over four decades making his debut at the Brabourne Stadium in Cricket Club of India( CCI ) against Bill Lawry's Australians in 1969 on All India Radio against an equally apt Indian team captained by MAK Pataudi. I used to listen to him very attentively as if I will give an examination on it, the following day. His contemporaries were Balu Alaganan, Anant Setalvad, JP Narayanan and Shivaji Dasgupta. Saraiya's contemporary hindi commentators on All India Radio( AIR ) were Sushil Doshi, Murli Manohar Manjul, Ravi Chaturvedi & Scant Gupt. The gifted and talented Gujrati, Saraiya's cricket commentary invoked nostalgia. I first heard him on All India Radio in 1983, when India toured by the West Indies after the Prudential World Cup triumph in the Jamaica test at Kingston, Sabina Park. I kept listening to the radio commentary the whole night and in fact I took over from my late father who started listening to it from the evening before venturing out in the night shift at Route Relay Interlocking South Cabin at Sealdah, Eastern Railway. One single incident I could recollect from Saraiya’s memory locker was that of his first test match commentary.
Prasanna, the world's finest off spinner foxed Ian Chappel, one of the finest player's in the Australian team, with a beauty of a delivery. Chappel was beaten both in flight and of the pitch and Prasanna had the last laugh at Ian Chappel.
Cricket commentary has changed a lot, reacting the change in its formats and the demands of the audience. And yet Saraiya’s touch to find humour in his depictions, to rise over nationalistic comments and most importantly remaining true to the spirit of the game, will remain forever as a thing to preserve, revere and celebrate.
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