Be it Nasser Hussain’s “one minute down, next minute up” or David Lloyd’s “Big man, Big game; it’s a leg bye who cares” moment, there are some iconic commentary lines seared into our hippocampus. To keep the listeners engaged, a blend of analysis and wit is the sine qua non for commentators. Richie Benaud, one of the finest commentators ever, once said that commentators should shut up if they cannot add anything to what’s written on the screen.
Much of the commentary on Pakistan cricket by current local commentators, instead of invaluable insights or tactful analysis, lacks substance and predominantly revolves around repeating banal cliches and reading numbers emblazoned on the screen — something which someone with even a cursory understanding of the game can also do.
The era when Munir Hussain, Omar Kureishi, and Chishty Mujahid used to take the commentary mic is considered by cricket historians as the golden era of Pakistan’s cricket commentary. The void these three have left is a big one to fill. Launched before the 2019 edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL), Change of Pace has been a breath of fresh air for fans who wanted to listen to the quality commentary.
Pioneered by a bunch of avid cricket fans, the commentary team — comprising Musad Afzal, AZ Khawaja, Ahmed Hassan, Sarkhail Khan, Ahmad Afzal alongside producer Sarfaraz Ali — is a clear-cut upgrade over many of the seasoned local commentators.
Although there is still a long way to go for Change of Pace commentators to be at par with the troika of Chishty, Munir, and Omar, credit must be given to them for revitalising Pakistan’s cricket commentary. From starting off with ball-by-ball commentary of just 20-over matches, they have now come a long way.
Not only have they commentated on entire ODI and Test matches, but they have also managed to rope in cricketers and eminent names in the cricketing world like Cricviz’s Freddie Wilde, Islamabad United’s Strategy Manager Hassan Cheema and Multan Sultan’s chief operating officer (COO) Haider Azhar to come on their podcast.
Outspoken and quality in-depth analysis of the match? Check. Good sense of humour that can tickle your fancy? Check. Discussion of other topics like music, culture, and movies alongside cricket? Check. Change of Pace’s unique style of commentary has unsurprisingly received an extremely positive response from Pakistan’s cricket community and has garnered more than 132,000 listeners.
There is also an interactive chat box alongside audio ball-by-ball commentary paving the way for fans to share their thoughts and engage in discussion with the commentary team and other listeners. On top of all that, in a long-term partnership with The Citizens Foundation (TCF) in the UAE on their Baghbaan programme, they are also helping raise funds for the development and operations of their schools.
The journey from inception to this point has not been all smooth for Change of Pace but instead of getting bogged down, their commitment did not flinch. Talking about their journey on The Padded Room podcast, Musad admitted that there were times when listeners plummeted to an ‘embarrassing’ level. To fill me in about their journey, I reached out to AZ Khawaja, one of the members of their commentary team.
“It was surprising how quickly we have developed a committed listener base,” Khawaja said. “We wanted to create a space where genuine fans can offer their views, and where the coverage celebrated Pakistan cricket rather than denigrate it.”
He further added that the in-game chat has developed into a safe space for discussion and it is quite remarkable in this social media era that they had to face almost zero negativity or toxicity.
So, if you want to watch a Pakistan cricket match where commentary does not just revolve around banalities and clichés, make sure that you tune into changeofpacelive.com whenever Pakistan plays its next game.