There is little doubt that there is more than a touch of glamour to be working in the media these days along with very good money for the right candidates.

This certainly is one reason why more and more former cricketers are making a beeline for media assignments rather than becoming coaches, umpires or administrators which would come more naturally for players who have recently retired.

By ''right candidates’’ I mean these very former cricketers who have a name and a certain aura and who have invaded the field. It is another matter that very few of them are good at the job they have taken up.

Being an international cricketer means that he can play the cover drive majestically or bowl a well disguised googly. It does not automatically mean that he will be up to the mark as a media presenter. This requires very different qualifications. A deep knowledge of the game, impeccable English and the ability to convey your views in a manner that keeps the audience engaged and entertained. You also have to have a pleasing personality and a presence that comes through on television.

Some have it, others don’t and unfortunately most of the latter are the former cricketers. As one famous TV anchor once said ''more important than what you say is how you say it on television.’’ Unfortunately even if the cricketers have something profound to say the manner in which it is conveyed – either through sub-standard English or with a deadpan expression – the significance of the point is lost on the audience.

That is not to say that all the former cricketing greats have something to convey which revolves around great insight. Most of them utter mundane things that even the average cricket follower is aware of. The same goes for their columns in various publications which can be trite and puerile.

Also being former international cricketers and having represented the country they cannot afford to be absolutely candid in their views regarding other players, issues or controversies and end up more often than not sitting on the fence. Because of this their copy suffers in credibility for they say things in a guarded manner while hiding their real feelings.

Under the circumstances whichever way one looks at it, there is a lot to be said in favour of the professional writer and commentator. Nowadays the trend as I said is to have former stars writing and commentating on the game. I have nothing against this. Certainly there are some technical insights that only they can give and they can relate dressing room stories and personal anecdotes which the professional writer or commentator may not know about.

All the same much of their comments are either inane or clichéd something that a close observer of the game already knows. The professional writer or commentator often describes the various aspects of the game in a much more readable or presentable manner. Of course if a big name can double up as professional journalist then nothing like it and that is why Jack Fingleton’s reports or Richie Benaud’s comments have been so authoritative.

Today the best among the commentators and analysts are Alan Wilkins, Mark Nicholas and Mike Haysman and none of them has played cricket at the highest level. They have a friendly voice – so very important for radio and television – perfect diction, ample knowledge, style and substance and thus are able to hold the attention of the listener or the viewer.

In this connection the sacking last year of Harsha Bhogle from the commentators’ panel was certainly a step in the wrong direction. India’s most popular cricket commentator and a respected figure in the world of broadcasting suddenly found himself on the sidelines just because he was trying to be fair and objective.

So what can we expect from those luminaries still around for commentary duty? More hype and less restraint, a lack of style and substance and consequently a fall in standards. As if the fall in standards over the years was not bad enough. By removing the one trained professional commentator from the box the dictatorial authorities have dealt the world of cricket broadcasting a severe blow

I well remember eminent cricket journalist NS Ramaswami’s comments when he wrote 'Indian Willow’ in 1970. In the introduction he said ''my credentials in writing this book are a lifelong devotion to the game of cricket.’’ That quality I feel is paramount when it comes to a high quality of cricket writing. Who can forget NSR’s scholarly writings that brought back memories of Neville Cardus? Today it is the succinct views of the newspaper’s own columnists that are more readable than the few paras that go under the star cricketer’s name.

Even though former players adorned the commentators box for years the influx really gathered momentum following the coverage in Channel Nine of which cricket followers in this country became familiar following the formation of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket in the late 70s. The media coverage was largely hyped as the game underwent a major change with the advent of night cricket, coloured clothing, white balls, black sightscreens et al. And in keeping with the jazzed up image glamour in the form of several former Test players took over the commentary box.

Hitherto a good voice, knowledge of the game, interesting tidbits and the ability to convey the action on the field in a suitably descriptive manner was all that mattered. But now the hype and the allure took over in a big way and the most necessary qualification for adorning the commentary box was that you should have represented the country and everything else came later.

As I said I have nothing against former international players turning commentators provided they also fulfill the other necessary qualifications required for the profession. While there are some who fit the bill there are many who are not able to present themselves suitably either through limited knowledge of English, their inability to express their views adequately or being distinctly uncomfortable before the camera.

Not everyone can be a natural in anything they take up and having played the game at the highest level is no guarantee that a Test cricketer will make a successful transition to the commentary box. Also for someone of that stature you would expect something more than what you generally get.

Except in a few cases there is nothing very profound that the 'experts’ are able to put across. Having played international cricket means that he should be in a position to bring some insight into the comments or relate some interesting anecdotes. But these are few and far between and in most cases except for adding name value there is nothing very insightful. Often the anchors and moderators have more interesting things to convey besides being more natural.

In the last few years TV coverage has been hyped beyond all imagination thanks to aggressive marketing and assorted gimmicks with sponsors pumping in astronomical amounts of money. Glamour too has taken a new turn with the advent of attractive ladies – with or without a cricketing background - into the commentary box. How much all this has directly upped the programme ratings is debatable but then with plenty of money going around these are here to stay.

That doesn’t mean that we have to listen to some inane comments by the experts. I know of many people who turn the TV to mute mode and just catch the action. I don’t blame them!

(Cover Photograph: the very popular cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle)