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Blind sports commentator always gets it right

posted 23 Feb 2012, 04:18 by Mpelembe   [ updated 23 Feb 2012, 04:18 ]

A cricket commentator proves you don't need replays to get the score right, just a good pair of ears.

HARARE, ZIMBABWE (FILE) (REUTERS) - You have to see it to believe it: a blind cricket commentator who swears he can tell how far the ball is going by hearing the sound it makes as it hits the bat.

Dean du Plessis provides the cricket commentary for Zimbabwe's state radio. Blind at birth he has developed an acute sense of hearing which he says enables him to listen and gauge the power and the direction of the ball hitting the bat.

He listens to the ball's speed and spin, is attentive to the players' grunts and exertions, their joy and disappointments. He senses the mood on the field during the game and gathers the scores with what his colleagues say is astonishing accuracy.

Du Plessis says he doesn't need his eyes but he is totally dependent on two things: the stump microphone to listen to the ball and his colleagues to make sure he doesn't make a mistake

"I was actually born blind, I was born with tumours on both my retinas, so I was only meant to be alive for a very short space of time, about 3 to 5 months probably, well I am still cruising now, I am still doing a pretty good job, 35 years down the line," says du Plessis.

It all began 20 years ago when he was listening to a radio broadcast of a cricket match at boarding school in South Africa and he got excited listening to the roar of thousands of Indian fans.

"I then started to realise that the more cricket I listened to, I realised that the stump microphones, obviously the microphones by the wickets, are very, very useful, because I was then able to determine when bowlers came in to bowl. Certain bowlers dragged their feet a bit as they deliver the ball, others give a little bit of a grunt when they bowl. And that's how I was able to, and then I realised: hang on, hang on, hang on, I think I know what's happening here, I could, you know, I knew when Sean Polock was coming in to bowl, I knew when Allan Donald or Shane Warne, because Shane Warne, he was the leg spinner from Australia and he imparted a huge, because he had such a lot of effort when he bowled, he gave quite a bit of a grunt" he says.

Former New Zealand allrounder Chris Harris says du Plessis can even recognise who is batting as he is familiar with each player's individual style.

"Its amazing to consider that a man that can't see can commentate on cricket, and that's obviously just shows what an amazing man Dean Du Plessis is, as I said his hearing is very much heightened and he can pick up just by noises, I was just watching a New Zealand versus South Africa game and he said that must be De Lange bowling and I said how do you know, and he said I can hear, I can tell by the noise that his foot makes when it scrapes on the ground at the bowling crease. So those little things that he picks up, which is really amazing," Harris says.

Du Plessis also sits in the broadcasters' commentary booth where he provides colour to the anchor's match breakdown.

But what he wants is his own show and he says he is willing to go abroad to achieve that.

"I want to be an established cricket broadcaster and you know, the broadcasting industry does not allow that to happen in this country, simply because its not big enough for no other reason, but its just not big enough you know and football is the sport that dominates Zimbabwe which is understandable as well, and I don't just want to be the guy who does the analysing, I dont just want to be the guy who helps out in broadcasting. I want to have my show. I want to be the anchor, and its not going to happen in this country, for love nor money, you can forget it, its not going to happen. So if I was offered a job in South Africa, Australia, England, Bangladesh, no matter where, any cricket-loving nation, my cases will be packed in a beat of heart and I'd be out of here," he says.

After commentating cricket for more than 10 years du Plessis says he knows and understands the players intimately and that's why he is on top of his game.