When Tariq Saeed was hit by a cricket ball just above his right eye, the life of the then college student underwent a remarkable change.
Until then, Saeed wanted to play cricket, do well in it and perhaps one day represent Pakistan, a dream of millions in the country, but only achieved by a few.
But the bouncer left a deep cut above his eye and left his life goals flat on the ground.
“After that incident, I left cricket completely. I used to be scared of the ball. “Every time I batted, I would see two of those bowlers running at me,” Saeed told Al Jazeera.
But those with a passion for the game, Saeed added, find an excuse to stay involved, and a way for the strong band to develop into a career – or a lesser association – in cricket.
“When I was growing up, I liked listening to certain commentators on Pakistan matches – Iftikhar Ahmed, Hasan Jaleel, Omer Kureishi to name a few.
“After I stopped playing, a friend of mine took me to an exhibition match at FC College [in Lahore] and made me comment a bit.
“I got a lot of applause there. Later, a national level illuminated tournament with top class national cricketers also took place in Lahore. I commented there on the PA system and Abdul Qadir [former Pakistan cricketer] and Imtiaz Sipra [sports writer] came to congratulate me afterwards. ”
Saeed points to that incident as a turning point, which began on a journey that not only brought him many honors and travels, but also gave Urdu commentary in Pakistan a new life.
Born in Montgomery District (now known as Sahiwal District), about 112 km (70 miles) from Lahore, Saeed was raised in a culture that revolved around sports. The region was named after Sir Robert Montogomery during the British rule of pre-division India, and produced many cricketers and hockey players.
“My cousin was very interested in hockey and cricket and I went to see how he plays. My father would tell me stories about Syed Mohammad Jaffer [former India hockey player and Olympian] who was born here, so it also made me interested in sports. ”
Fast forward a few decades and Saeed is now one of the most popular voices among cricket fans in the country.
With Pakistan currently lacking leading cricket commentators, Saeed has also ensured that cricket enthusiasts’ love affair with Urdu comments has now been rekindled.
“Before 1970, Urdu commentary on cricket matches was not even common. Even on radio, it used to get a five-minute slot. Since the 1970s, it has received 50 percent airtime.
“But after the Lahore explosion [on Sri Lankan team bus in 2009], no one paid attention to it.
“The revival of Urdu comments is very important for Pakistan’s international matches. People missed it. Pakistan Cricket Board launches Urdu comments for Pakistan Super League [domestic T20 league featuring international players] which is a good thing.
“If you look at India, they have comments in up to eight languages.”
I watched nt20 and my mom who does not watch cricket at all asked me who is commenting on it in Urdu and I told her he is a legend and his name is tariq saeed and she watched the match until your comment ended has … What a legendary voice you have sir …
– Ahsan Ali (@ syedahsanali05) 19 October 2021
Saeed’s journey from being on the microphone in that Lahore-lit tournament to international matches was not easy. As an 18-year-old, he was told he was too young when he approached Radio Pakistan for an audition and a chance to be part of the popular commentary team.
But when Saeed tried his luck again two years later, with a new manufacturer in charge, the outcome was much better.
“Someone told me the sports producer had changed at Radio Pakistan, so I thought I would meet him. It was Khalid Waqar, an all-time best radio producer. He auditioned for me and the rest is history. He is my teacher, my mentor and whatever I learned after that was through him. ”
In addition to cricket commentary, Saeed has reported for local Urdu newspapers and is a Deutsche Welle correspondent in Pakistan. He also commented on hockey matches and a Kabaddi World Cup final between India and Pakistan which made him realize how cricket was not the most popular sport in some parts of the country.
But just like athletes, Saeed said commentators need to take care of their mind and body, especially their throats that provide them with their bread and butter.
“In a busy season I do not drink cold water or fizzy drinks. No ice cream for me either. On match days, I drink tea before every game. I gargle regularly with warm water. You need to look at your throat and make sure you are not eating anything sour or greasy.
“I also make sure I do not eat much during comments, because it makes me sleepy which is never a good thing when you are on a microphone. You need to be fully focused and concentrate on what is happening in the middle. If you miss a ball or related events from previous overs, it becomes difficult as the game progresses. “
But just concentration and reporting on what is happening is not enough to keep the listeners and viewers glued, Saeed adds.
“If it’s a long match, such as tests or first-class matches, you have to create a storyboard to keep the audience interested. In Twenty20 it’s all action, so there’s no time or need for it. But in the longer format, you have to concentrate more, maybe as the players do, to not only ensure the audience, but also not zone you out. ”
While Saeed celebrates the return of cricket – international matches and PSL – to Pakistan after a long drought, he remains satisfied with the path his life has taken after that injury.
“Almost 95 percent of the individuals you see who are linked to cricket from the field are those who once wanted to be cricketers, but could not realize their dreams. I’m glad to be one of those. ”