For Andrew Leonard, Nepal is like a second home. He has been coming to the country since 2018, commentating on the many cricketing events that have taken place here. Every time you begin a Nepal game on live television, you are sure to hear him talk. His voice, over the course of the past four years, has become synonymous with Nepali cricket.
“Nepal, its people and its cricket team hold a special place in my heart,” says Leonard from his home in Ireland. “The love that I’ve received in the country is just amazing. I can’t wait to come back.”
Now with every visit to the country, he wants to share what he knows about broadcasting. He hopes that what he shares will come in handy to the people involved in the growth of broadcasting in the country which, he says, has come a long way since he first came to do commentary here.
Living through the passion
Andrew Leonard has not been into commentary for long. After playing cricket for most of his life and working with the Ireland Cricket Board and the International Cricket Council (ICC), he jumped into the commentary box in the summer of 2017. At first, he was sceptical, but after a few games, he realised he was made for this.
“I took to the commentary as a duck takes to water. People started to tell me I should do this more and the next thing I know I was doing commentary in a match between Ireland and Afghanistan,” he says. “After that, there was no turning back.”
Prior to his commentary stint, Andrew Leonard had been an avid supporter of associate cricket. During his time in the ICC, he pushed for them to show more games of associate cricket for the passionate followers in the respective countries. He knew there was interest from the many people who tuned in to ICC’s website to check scores. The most number of viewers on the website would always be from Nepal.
“The test game has always had coverage, but when it came to associate cricket, there wasn’t much the ICC did and that’s what I always campaigned for. Thankfully, the people who made the decisions agreed and the coverage increased,” he says.
Because of his love for the associate game, he started to commentate on it and that’s what caught the eyes of Nepali broadcasters who asked him to be a part of the commentary team for the Everest Premier League in 2018.
“It was great to be a part of it.”
Levelling Nepal up
But, soon, Andrew Leonard realised that the setup in Nepal was very rudimentary. The passion of the people running it and the love of the fan for the sport though made up for it. But, he knew with time, things would get better.
Things have got better, but that was majorly due to the EPL contracting people from India to help with the broadcasting. But, he does not see it as a problem because, in the long run, it will help develop the capacity of Nepalis working in live sports broadcasting. He says that is what Aamir Akhtar, the founder of EPL, wants to do.
“He tells me how it was necessary to bring in these people from abroad because Nepalis have never done this. But, in the long run, he wants everything to be done by Nepalis. He wants to build the capacity of teams, the marketing team and broadcasters and make this self-sufficient,” adds Andrew Leonard.
But, there are challenges. Live sporting events are rare in the country. Any franchise league lasts a little over a month and after the event is over, these people are back to doing their regular jobs.
“I’m sure people would like to do more of it. But sadly they have to go back to doing things like Nepal Idol, which doesn’t help them as they don’t evolve,” he says.
Another issue is technology. Nepal’s technology, when it comes to broadcasting, is basic. Until a few years ago, television companies did not have a replay machine. Some commentators complain they do not even have proper microphones, but things are changing as television companies in the country are realising that there is money in live sports.
“We had a talkback machine for the first time. These are the little things that help create a better experience for the viewers.”
Andrew Leonard believes that with more games taking place in the country, it is about time the country focused on commentators too. He says there are some good people in the country who need time and confidence boost to reach the next level.
“Because English isn’t their first language, it’s hard for them. But, they are getting better with each tournament.”
He says that since cricket commentary is mostly about conversation, they are also learning the conversational aspect of the game.
“There are people who don’t know when to talk and there are some who don’t know when to stop. I think this will get better as they spend more time on the commentary box. An example is Paresh Lohani who I love working with. We’ve developed a relationship in the box and outside of it and I hope more people can do that in the future,” says Andrew Leonard.