Thursday, March 03, 2011

A commentary on commentators

25th of June, 1983, was a momentous day in the history of not just Indian cricket but India as well. There is no denying the fact that those men went where no Indian had gone before. What I do not like, however, is when some of those men come on to news channels as broadcasters with nothing to contribute, but to remind us that they had won a world cup.

When I look at cricketers analysing cricket for me, I look for insights, I look for very interesting anecdotes, I look at them for stating things that are beyond the obvious. Apart from Sunil Gavaskar, none of these ’83 players say anything insightful or even entertaining. They keep repeating themselves on and on and on. All they talk of is the 1983 world cup. They have been doing this now for over a decade.
Imagine somebody tweeting something great one day and then retweeting the same thing for the next 10 years. It gets irritating. Here is an analysis of the most irritating characters of the 1983 squad on the tube.

K. Srikkanth: An ODI great despite a grand average of 29, swashbuckling despite a career strike rate of 71. Rahul Dravid has a better strike rate than him. I do not mind the superlative adjectives used for him, but what I do mind is that as a cricket analyst he doesn’t know his face from his ass. His scientific name is ‘selfus contradictus’. Here is a pearl from when we was doing live commentary – ‘great shot over the top and OH! He is caught on the boundary. What a stupid shot’. Just that to say this Cheeka style, please ignore the spaces between words.

Since those halcyon days of Cheeka the commentator, we now have Cheeka the expert. He comes on news channels to explain the ‘poishun’ of the game. Ok, ‘position’, but then that’s not the way Mr. Srikkanth pronounces it. He has now become the most forgetful of all ex-cricketers. ‘Whaddyoucall’ has become his favourite phrase. These days his lines go like this – ‘that was a great, whaddyoucall, catch, by, whaddyoucall, Yuvraj.’

Madan Lal: He embodies simultaneous translation. He is constantly thinking in Punjabi and simultaneously translating it in Hindi. If you are unfortunate, you will catch him translating it to English. A simple man, he strongly believes that all one needs to win matches and tournaments is ‘josh’. Here is how his expert analysis goes:
Q: Tendulkar did not quite look like himself in the last 2 innings. What should he do?
Madan Lal: He must play with more josh.
Q. What would a team like Zimbabwe be thinking when they are up against the might of Australia?
Madan Lal: They must come out with belief and with Josh.
Q. The finals. What would the teams be thinking?
Madan Lal: That come what may, we must play with josh.

No wonder, whenever he is asked what the team thought in the mid-innings break when they went out to defend 183 he replies, you guessed it, that they thought they will play with josh.

Kapil Dev: A lot of unjustified fun was poked at his English when he was a cricketer. His job then was to win matches for India. However, he cannot ignore his awful English when he comes on the tube as a cricket expert. He better be eloquent. But the Haryana Hurricane does on TV to the viewers what hurricanes do to trees.

He once asked after an insipid Indian performance in a match – ‘are we the problem balling, or is we the problem batting?’ I’m sure former cricket writers must have turned in their graves after hearing this, just like a few fans might have smashed their TV sets after this. For a bowler, it’s amazing how he pronounces bowling as ‘balling’.

Mohinder Amarnath: Courage thy name is Jimmy, is what Gavaskar once said about this brave-heart. But out of his cricketing whites, beaming from the tube, he turns his viewers into brave-hearts. Those people who do not have cable at home and are forced to watch matches on DD, start taking cable connections just so that they do not have to hear Jimmy paaji singing on ‘Fourth Umpire’. He is the only cricket expert in the world who’s mid and end innings analysis is songs with changed lyrics.

When he bowled, so slow was his run-up that he would put batsmen to sleep by the time he reached the bowling crease, and then hurl a ball to get them out. As an expert, he talks insipid stuff that puts viewers to sleep and then he suddenly sings to give them insomnia for weeks.

Syed Mujtaba Hussain Kirmani: By far, the most inattentive cricket expert. Maybe, not inattentive, but handicapped. After all, he was last seen advertising Widex hearing aids. But whenever I have seen him in a studio, he is sans his hearing aid, and hence the absolutely unrelated answers to questions.

Q: So, Mr. Kirmani, a tough total for Dhoni’s team to chase?
Kirmani: Dhoni has a reputation of drinking 4 litres of buffalo milk every day. So you never know what will happen.
The line above is usually uttered in even more unintelligible English and followed by a guffaw from the former keeper. If a buffalo was to hear Mr. Kirmani utter this, milk would curdle in her udders.

So, batch of 1983, we are grateful to you for having won a world cup. We shall, however, be forever indebted if you stop coming on the tube.