15 Feb 2015

Hearing the Hits

From One In Five, 7:06 pm on 15 February 2015

cricket rf
Photo: 123RF.

He describes himself as the world's first Blind Cricket commentator. Katy Gosset talks to Dean Du Plessis who uses the sounds of ball and bat to help report on the sport.

The thwack of the bat and the dragging of feet at the stumps. Background sounds to the average cricket fan.

Dean Du PlessisBut, to Dean Du Plessis, these tell the tale of what's happening on the field.

The 38 year-old from Zimbawe describes himself as the world's first blind cricket commentator and has analysed the game on both radio and television.

He works in close partnerships with other commentators but picks up details from the small sounds others might not hear.

"I started to realise that by listening to the stump microphones I could tell who was doing what, more or less."

He says players revealed individual habits such as [South African player] Shaun Pollack dragging one foot as he reached the crease. "And Warney (Australian player Shane Warne) would give a massive grunt when he bowled so I certainly knew when Warney was bowling.

He says there are also clues to be gleaned from the batting.

"When a batsman hits the ball through the offside there's definitely a sharper crack sound to that and, then, when he plays the ball through the onside, it's a bit more muffled"

Giving it a Crack

In 2001 Dean finally got a chance to put his theories to the test.

A triangular series between Zimbawe, India and the West Indies led to a chance meeting with a well-known South African sports caster, Neil Manthorp.

Dean was invited to try his hand at commentating - albeit just for 15 minutes.

"You can understand it because, I mean, it’s a totally blind guy who now wants to commentate to the whole world on the Internet about what's happening in a game of cricket."

But before the broadcast was over, the London based producer was urging Dean to stay on for the rest of the series.

His foray into commentating attracted plenty of media interest and he has had a number of gigs in both radio and television.

But Dean says his dream job as a full-time cricket journalist still eludes him.

He says he would like to find such a position based on his skill, rather than the need to fulfil social obligations or meet disability quotas.

And he says he would jump at any broadcasting opportunity, including those outside Zimbabwe.

"You've heard what I can do so why not take the risk and start playing a few unorthodox shots as opposed to just playing with a straight bat because, I can assure you, I will reward you."

In the meantime Dean will be keeping a close eye on the Cricket World Cup and predicts New Zealand will be in the top four.