Blind Zimbabwean commentator bowls over audiences

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> The stump microphones are the eyes of a blind cricket commentator from Zimbabwe Dean du Plessis, who has shared the box with the likes of Tony Cozier.

Updated: September 13, 2009 14:38 IST
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The stump microphones are the eyes of a blind cricket commentator from Zimbabwe Dean du Plessis, who has shared the box with the likes of Tony Cozier and Geoffrey Boycott in his nine-year-old career.

The 32-year-old Dean has never 'seen' a game of cricket in his life as he was born with tumours on his retinas but that hasn't stopped him from doing commentary in Tests, ODIs and Twenty20s for the last nine years.

He has also worked with the likes of Ravi Shastri and Australia's former spin bowler Bruce Yardley, who himself lost an eye, according to 'The Times'.

In 2004, the Yardley and Dean became the first team to deliver a commentary with a single eye between them. Dean is not the usual anchor - who delivers ball-by-ball passage - as he cannot see the silently raised finger of the umpire or unspoken deployment of fielders, but the public love to listen to him as he adds "colour" to sometimes boring commentary by his amazing ability to rely on intuition.

From the sound of stump microphones, he can tell who is bowling from the footfalls and grunts, a medium or fast delivery by the length of time between the bowler's foot coming down and impact of the ball on the pitch.

He can pick up a yorker from the sound of the bat ramming down on the ball, can tell if a ball is on the off or on-side, and when it's hit a pad rather than bat. When wicketkeeper's voice goes flat, it tells him a draw is in the offing.

Dean can tell from the crowd noise whether a ball has been gathered in a fielder's hands, or spilled. "I have to work with the anchor," he said. "I am the guy who supplies, well, the colour."

And interestingly, he took the plunge to the job after he heard on radio a commentary of a cricket match in India.

Fed up with the 'blind cricket' he was taught with a plastic-wrapped volleyball at the blind school he attended, Dean, 14 years of age then, one day tuned to a ball-by-ball commentary on radio. It was to change his life.

"There was a phenomenal noise in the background, 80,000 people in a stadium in India, people roaring. I realised it was cricket. I was fascinated," he said.

Dean pushed his way into the commentary box at Harare Sports Club in 2001 and was allowed to try out with the microphone. He never looked back.

Last month, Bangladesh were playing Zimbabwe when Dean heard that the visitors' captain had sent a fielder far down to fine leg after the Zimbabwe batsman Charles Coventry had smashed a four. "A sixth sense told me it was a double bluff," Dean said.

"He wanted to give the impression that the next ball would be a bumper, to make Coventry use a hook shot." As he suspected, the next Bangladeshi ball was a sneaky yorker. "The thing about Dean is the intuition," said Andy Pycroft, the Zimbabwean opening batsman from 1979 to 2001.

"The public love to listen to him. If he has the right person at anchor to support him he is brilliant."

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