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Zimbabwe’s blind cricket commentator Dean du Plessis bowls audiences
He was born blind and has never seen a single match in his life, but has proved that all one requires to become a great cricket commentator is a mix of erudite descriptions of action, comprehensive knowledge of great players, faultless recall of statistics, and needle-sharp sense of timing and judgment.
Needless to say, Zimbabwean-born Dean du Plessis, 32, possesses all these attributes, and has been delivering commentaries on matches for nine years.
He has shared the commentary box in Tests, one-day, and Twenty20 tournaments involving all the Test-playing nations in worldwide radio broadcasts.
The commentators he has worked with include Tony Cozier, Geoffrey Boycott, Ravi Shastri, and Australia’s former spin bowler Bruce Yardley, who himself lost an eye.
In 2004, du Plessis and Yardley made the first ever team to deliver a commentary with a single eye between them.
It is du Plessis’s accentuated sense of hearing that makes up for being sightless.
He relies upon sounds heard via the stump microphones to tell who is bowling from the footfalls and grunts, a medium or fast delivery by the length of time between the bowler’s foot coming down, and the impact of the ball on the pitch.
He can tell whether a delivery was a yorker from the sound of the bat ramming down on the ball, whether a ball is on the off or on-side, and when it’s hit a pad rather than bat.
When the wicketkeeper’s voice goes flat, du Plessis tells him a draw is in the offing.
Though he can’t play the role in the commentary box of the anchor, du Plessis can tell from the crowd noise whether a ball has been gathered in a fielder’s hands or spilled.
“I have to work with the anchor. I am the guy who supplies, well, the colour,” Times Online quoted him as saying.
Andy Pycroft, the Zimbabwean opening batsman from 1979 to 2001, said: “The thing about Dean is the intuition. The public love to listen to him. If he has the right person at anchor to support him he is brilliant.”
Du Plessis hated the “blind cricket” he was taught to play with a plastic-wrapped volleyball at the blind school he attended.
At 14, while feeling bored one day, du Plessis tuned the radio in to a station devoted to ball-by-ball commentaries, and that was what was to change his life.
“There was a phenomenal noise in the background, 80,000 people in a stadium in India, people roaring. I realised it was cricket. I was fascinated,” du Plessis said.
He pushed his way into the commentary box at Harare Sports Club in 2001, and was allowed to try out with the microphone. He never looked back. (ANI)