A bouncer that gave ‘new life’ to Urdu cricket commentary in Pakistan

Renowned cricket commentator and analyst Tariq Saeed, who is often crowned as the reviver of Urdu commentary in Pakistan, has shared his story behind his remarkable entrance into the world of commentary. When Saeed was hit by a cricket ball just above his right eye, the life of then-college student underwent a remarkable change, he told Al-Jazeera in an interview. “After that incident, I left cricket altogether. I used to get scared of the ball. Every time I’d bat, I would see two of those bowlers running at me,” Saeed said. The report stated that Saeed wanted to play cricket and even dreamt of playing for Pakistan one day but the incident left his life goals flat on the ground. However, his passion for the game remained intact and he continued to remain involved. “Growing up, I loved listening to certain commentators on Pakistan matches – Iftikhar Ahmed, Hasan Jaleel, Omer Kureishi to name a few. Read more: Tariq Saeed denies rumours about doing commentary during T20 World Cup “After I quit playing, a friend of mine took me to an exhibition match at FC College [in Lahore] and made me do some commentary. “There, I got a lot of applause. Later, a national-level flood-lit tournament with top-class national cricketers was also taking place in Lahore. I did some commentary there on the PA system and Abdul Qadir [former Pakistan cricketer] and Imtiaz Sipra [sports writer] came to congratulate me afterwards.” Saeed said that he was brought up in a culture that revolved around sports. “My cousin was very interested in hockey and cricket and I would go and watch him play. My father would tell me stories about Syed Mohammad Jaffer [former India hockey player and Olympian] who was born here so that got me interested in sports too.” Saeed, who is now one of the most popular voices among cricket followers in the country, said that the revival of Urdu commentary was very important for Pakistan’s international matches. "People missed that. The Pakistan Cricket Board introduced Urdu commentary for the Pakistan Super League which is a good thing," he added. He said that no one paid attention to Urdu commentary in Pakistan after the blast on Sri Lankan team bus in 2009. “If you look at India, they have commentary in up to eight languages," he added The report stated that the cricket commentator's journey had not been an easy one as when he approached Radio Pakistan for an audition, he was told that he was too young for the job. However, when he tried his luck two years later, he was given the responsibility. “Someone told me the sports producer had changed at Radio Pakistan so I thought I’ll meet him. It was Khalid Waqar, an all-time best radio producer. He did my audition and the rest is history. He is my teacher, my mentor and whatever I learnt after that was through him.” Also read: PCB decides not to hold opening ceremony of HBL PSL 7 He said during the interview that he does not drink cold water, fizzy drinks or ice cream during a busy season. "On match days, I drink tea before every spell. I gargle with hot water frequently. You need to look after your throat and make sure you don’t eat anything sour or greasy," he said. “I also make sure I don’t eat a lot during commentary because that makes me sleepy which is never a good thing when you’re on a mic. You need to be fully focused and concentrating on what’s happening in the middle. If you miss a ball or related events from previous overs, it becomes difficult as the match progresses.” But concentration and reporting on what’s happening solely are not enough to keep the listeners and viewers glued, Saeed adds. “If it’s a long match, like Tests or first-class matches, you need to create a storyboard to keep the audience interested. In Twenty20, it’s all action so there’s no time or need for that. But in the longer format you need to concentrate more, maybe like the players do, to ensure not only the audience but you also don’t zone out.” Saeed said that most individuals in cricketing circles he met wanted to represent Pakistan but he was glad on the decision he took during his college years. “Almost 95 per cent of individuals you see linked to cricket off the field are those who wanted to be cricketers once upon a time but couldn’t fulfil their dreams. I’m glad to be one of those.” (The article originally appeared in Al-Jazeera)

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