Cricket is a game best observed, but for those of us at home, either in front of the television or with wireless tuned in, wiling away an afternoon taking in the finest the game has to offer, commentators have become as much a part of the atmosphere and fanfare as many other components of the game we take for granted in the modern age.
Some have etched their way in to the history books with class, elegance, and understatement while others burrowed their way in to the conscious of the public with blustering volume while others still are memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Today, it is almost impossible to look at the cavalcade of voices and faces shoved in front of the viewing public, particularly in Australia, and feel any real understanding or affection. This is in stark contrast to days gone by when the likes of Richie Benaud firmly planted themselves as the face, voice, and mind of the televised game.
1 Richie Benaud
There are almost too many ways to describe the impact Richie Benaud had on the game in both Australia and the northern hemisphere and while he was a big player in the advent of World Series Cricket and also a driving force in a fresh and unique way to broadcast the game. The fact of the matter is, no one voice had the authority, delivery or grace that Richie Benaud brought to the game.
An understated voice in a sea of bluster and noise, Benaud could say so much with so few words, from a perfectly timed phrase to a snippet of genuine, heartfelt analysis, Richie commanded the airwaves with nothing more than his aura and his knowledge of the game and for that, he will always be fondly remembered.
No finer praise can be heaped upon the legacy of the man than to reaffirm the belief that he truly was the 'Bradman of the microphone.'
The passing of the great man hit the community as hard as any loss the sport had endured, and the many tributes, including the growth of the famous 'Ritchies' section at the Sydney Cricket Ground each summer, perfectly illustrate the impact Benaud had on many generations of cricket lovers.
2 David Lloyd
One for our more northern based brethren, even those of us who grew up in Australia have fond memories of one of the more recognizable voices to have accompanied our cricket over the years.
A brilliant, broad Lancashire accent was the perfect instrument of delivery for Lloyd who brought a touch of excitement and while the man himself once described it as 'mellow Accrington' as a nod to his roots, the fact remains his tones are about as unmistakable as any.
Affectionately monikered 'Bumble,' Lloyd has spent decades delivery witty, knowledgeable and interesting anecdotes as an accompaniment to the wider cricket experience, enriching any broadcast from the humblest radio station in a shack or shed mounted high above a ground to the plushest television studio room or box.
There are few more famous catchphrases in the game than Bumble's use of the term 'start the car' toward the end of an innings and it is often the perfect cherry to a long, enjoyable stint in the commentary position.
3 Bill Lawry
If anyone out there in the world hates Billy Birmingham, more commonly known as the 12th man, and I'm sure there are, few would have the right to hate him more than Bill Lawry, a man who endured decades worth of ridicule from the famous Aussie larrikin for his love of pigeon racing, his sometimes high-pitched voice and, above all, his rather large proboscis, or in layman's terms, his big nose!
Beyond the banter, Lawry carved out a tremendous career as a cricketer at the highest levels before honing his craft as an intense, passionate and understanding member of Richie Benaud's commentary team and, in the process, earned himself a place in the modern cricket landscape well beyond that of what he'd achieved with the bat or in the crease.
It is the eccentricities of the man that endeared him to a loving public, but it will forever be his knowledge and passionate delivery, at times seemingly unable to hide his love and adoration for the Baggy Green or the canary yellow (that's Australian gold to you!), that ensured Bill Lawry would long be remembered as one of the very best in the business.
4 Harsha Bhogle
Plenty of cricket fans around the world are more likely to know Bhogle by his voice than his face, but the Indian commentator has long been held in the highest esteem by colleagues and cricket lovers all around the world, and for good reason at that.
Equally adept at the subtleties and nuances of the game as going over the top or fitting in with the locker room talk as appropriate, Bhogle has spent many a summer bringing the sub-continental perspective to the ABC's Grandstand radio coverage and it was his insight, intelligence, and affability that saw him mesh so perfectly with the more basic Kerry O'Keeffe in some of the more entertaining spells of radio I can remember from my childhood.
A man in possession of sublime intellect, Bhogle was able to both break down the more technical and in-depth analysis involved in the game while simultaneously regurgitating that to a wider audience in a more accessible way.
5 Johnathan Agnew
Another man in possession of a distinctive voice, the man from Macclesfield in Cheshire has carved out such a tremendous career behind the microphone for the BBC that it's almost too easy to forget he played the game at the highest level himself.
However you view his three Tests for England, no one would suggest he has eclipsed that with his efforts as a commentator and cricket correspondent over the years, with 'Aggers' very much the authoritative but jovial face of Test Match Special.
Another recognizable voice, the clean, clipped tones with which he delivers both deep analyses and the occasional line of dry wit, there will be many out there who can lay claim to Agnew as a huge part of their youth as both a cricket commentator and the voice of some cricket computer games, most notably Shane Warne 1999 cricket, a classic to this day.
Who are your favourite cricket commentators? Let us know in the comments below.
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