Jabbar, whose cricket commentary floored LTTE chief, no more | Chennai News


Tamil commentary for Indian Premier League games is a big hit these days but it was SM Abdul Jabbar who enthralled the audiences way back in the 1970s with the description of the game in the vernacular language. Jabbar, who first popularized Tamil commentary on the AIR (All India Radio) and subsequently on numerous other platforms, passed away due to age-related illness on Tuesday. The 81-year-old, hailing from Sathankulam town in Tuticorin district, was blessed with a mellifluous voice and had a deep understanding of the game which made him so popular.
It was in the 1970s that AIR started offering Tamil audio commentary for Test matches played during Pongal, Tamil Nadu’s Ranji matches and Buchi Babu tournament. Jabbar, who grew up in India and Sri Lanka, was hooked to radio commentary from a young age. “Each time the commentator spoke in English, I would translate the same line into Tamil and say it aloud,” Jabbar had told TOI a few years ago.
Interestingly, Jabbar had written to AIR expressing his anguish over the quality of Tamil commentary being aired. He wrote that barring V Ramamurthy, a distinguished IAS officer who was doing a good job, the others were quite ordinary. AIR, in reply, invited Jabbar to come over and do commentary in Tamil.
The Kerala-TN Ranji game during the 1979-80 season was his maiden commentary gig and his wit bowled over the AIR team. “Anda Pande Panai Maram Melai Yezhi Pochu, Fielder Kadai Ke Poi Tea Kudichutte Kuda Vandu Catch Puditchirklaam (The ball went up so high — it would have touched the top of a palm tree and the fielder — could have quickly gone to a nearby shop to have tea and returned in time to take the catch). When I uttered those lines — the fellow commentators cracked up,” Jabbar had recalled. He excelled in bringing a touch of humour into Tamil commentary and soon earned the trust of the masses.
Among his many admirers was late LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran. “When Prabhakaran told me that he was a fan of mine — I thought it was the biggest award of my life. I even went on to write a book on the experience of meeting Prabhakaran,” Jabbar had said. From 1979 to 2004, Jabbar was part of the AIR Tamil commentary team. After it got disbanded, Jabbar offered his expertise in various other television channels. His skills as a Tamil commentator notwithstanding, Jabbar was also an accomplished writer who wrote numerous books.
Dr Sumanth C Raman, an anchor with extensive commentary experience in both English and Tamil, believes Jabbar’s easy-going nature and discipline is what stood out. “We have done commentary on multiple occasions. Despite being so senior, he was always open to suggestions and ready to learn. He would always come prepared ahead of a match,” Raman recalled. Nanee Sathyanarayan, a senior commentator, hailed Jabbar for his command over the language. “Jabbar was someone who spoke impeccable Tamil and used minimal English words during commentary. There was old world charm each time one would hear him speak,” Nanee said.


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