The current series between New Zealand and India has offered viewers some welcome opportunities. To wonder just how Ishant Sharma is India’s ninth leading wicket-taker in Tests. To gaze at Brendon McCullum’s sparkling eyes. And to enjoy the commentary of one of our favourites: Ian Smith.
It seems that to be funny and jovial in the commentary box is a pretty difficult task – particularly to avoid coming across a complete berk in the process. Michael Vaughan, for one completely random example, is about as amusing as accidentally eating gone-off yoghurt. Even David Lloyd at times is excessive in his wackiness. Yet somehow, the former New Zealand wicket-keeper always makes us laugh. He makes the game fun.
Our opinion on Smith is helped by the fact that cricket coverage from New Zealand features a cornucopia of ex-players, many of whom are indistinguishable from one another on air. Mark Richardson? Craig McMillan? No idea. They are a blank canvas of similar sounds. Aside from Smith, the only two of his compatriots that we can recognise from voice alone are Simon Doull (bearable, but we get the impression he think’s he’s some kind of superstar) and Danny Morrison, who mercifully doesn’t seem to cover Test matches.
However Smith has more than just a good voice and sense of humour. He is not merely a clown. He understands the game and appears to respect it. He adapts to situation like all good commentators. It helps that since retirement in 1992 he has become a broadcaster, not just a cricket commentator. He presents a breakfast show on what looks to be the Kiwi version of TalkSport (making him some kind of Antipodean Alan Brazil, but without the drink problem). He covers rugby union as well as cricket. Perhaps he best defines the famous line from CL James: by knowing that cricket isn’t everything, he understands when it needs respect and when it needs the piss taken out of it.
He was also commentating on the single greatest moment in cricketing history: