The golden days of radio commentary may be long over in India, but All India Radio (AIR) has come up with an initiative that could bring back some of the charms of the good old way of following live sport.
The final of the Durand Cup football tournament, to be played between Mohun Bagan and Gokulam Kerala at Kolkata on Saturday, will have live commentary in regional languages, besides English and Hindi. Two commentators from Kerala are being flown in for commentary in Malayalam.
“The Durand Cup final will also have commentary in Bengali,” says N. Vasudev, programme executive (sports), AIR, Thiruvananthapuram. “There have been plans to rope in Konkani and Marathi commentators, because Goa and Maharashtra also have a lot of following football, like Kerala and Bengal,” he says.
He adds the AIR would be covering more sports events like this from now on. “AIR plans to send commentators for events across the country from regions where that particular sports is popular,” he says.
V.A. Jose, who would be commentating on the Durand Cup in Malayalam from Kolkata, says this initiative from AIR was a short in the arm for sports on radio in the country. “I have seen from close quarters the radio commentary losing its sheen over the years,” says the Kozhikode-based commentator whose 100th match on air would be the Durand Cup final.
“When I had begun my career as a broadcaster in 1990, radio commentary used to be very popular and still the only one for many people to follow the live action,” he adds.
That was the time when India did not have a dedicated sports channel. Doordarshan used to broadcast important sports events live, but radio still enjoyed a great reputation among sports lovers.
One recalls the radio commentators from abroad, such as Brian Johnston, Don Mosey, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, Tony Cozier, Alan McGilvray and Jim Maxwell, thanks to the ball-by-ball cricket commentaries on the BBC and Radio Australia, having fan-following across the country.
Indian commentators such as Suresh Saraiya, J.P. Narayan, Anant Setalvad, Sushil Doshi, Jasdev Singh and Manish Deb too were familiar voices.
Regional languages too had popular commentators like Jose P. George, Nagavally R.S. Kurup and Satheesh Chandran. “We used to broadcast live all the important events in Kerala,” says Mr. Vasudev. “The commentary on the Durand Cup final will be carried by all the stations in Kerala. This, we hope, will revive people’s interest in radio commentary,” he says.―The Hindu