England gave us the English language. Englishmen gave us cricket. Given the alacrity and varying degrees of skill with which we adopted them, it was only a matter of time before All India Radio (and later Doordarshan) gave us Indian cricket commentary. While we achieved competency in playing cricket, our skills in commentating on the game are dismal. Dodgy in English, re-recycling the cliches of the game, little sense of humour (or horribly funny stabs at it) and ignorance of basic commentating norms made our commentators, both radio and TV, the boringest in the world. Thrust on a public that have known little else, Indians continue to suffer them in stoical forbearance.
Traditionally, the bores came in threesomes, the earliest trio being Vizzy, Berry and Puri. Vizzy, the Maharajkumar of Vizianagaram, who could neither bat, bowl or field, led India in England in 1936 armed with 36 suitcases and three valets and controversially sent back star all-rounder Lala Amarnath on ‘disciplinary’ grounds. His princely clout meant he became a selector, BCCI chief and a radio commentator. A prince among bores, his mind schlepped along on free association: instead of the unfolding game, he boldly explored links between Rohan Kanhai and Lord Kanhaiya. An unfortunate generation dependent on the radio had their brains addled when Vizzy noted: “First slip standing at second slip, second slip at gully, gully at short cover”. When Sobers bowled to Nari Contractor, Vizzy attempted lyricism: “Gary to Nari, skipper to skipper, left-hander to left-hander....” His colleague, Berry Sarbadhikari, was soberer, but could not stomach India’s haplessness against England in 1952 (when Trueman and Bedser shot them out for 58 and 82 in the same day at Old Trafford), often wondering mournfully if it was a technical or a temperamental collapse. Another colleague, Devraj Puri, was all fire and brimstone—his indignant declamations about an unjust LBW decision in a game against India against Australia almost led an irate crowd to set ablaze a packed Brabourne Stadium.
Now for our ‘live’ cricket commentary on TV, where our talking heads usually forget that they need not describe things which viewers can see for themselves. Mahaguru Sunil Gavaskar takes no chances with the viewers’ knowledge or intuition, analysing every blade of grass (or crack) on the pitch, then dissecting an inswinger bowled over the wicket that took advantage of the breeze from mid-on. For Ravi Shastri, everything has gone like a ‘tracer bullet’ in an ‘electric’ atmosphere for long.
Commentators like Arun Lal are patriots par excellence—every nick or rap on the pads is used for declaring Indian batsmen not out, and opposing batsmen out! Most of them are ex-Test players, but for one exultantly garrulous intruder specialising in blithe unctuosity. When he pauses, as happens rarely, it is to flaunt a silly insolent grin from one big ear to the other. Ideally, our commentators, including those plodding away haltingly in Hindi, should be made to watch Sky Sports or Channel 9 commentators. But I am loath to guess what effect this might have on our ‘Bore Ratnas’!
Apropos V. Gangadhar’s Glorious Certainties, true, the biggest bore in Indian cricket has to be Harsha Bhogle. He represents the basic problem with the Indian mindset—the idea that some slick talker with an mba has the solution to all our problems.
V. Gangadhar’s list of boring cricket commentators brought on really boring memories (Glorious Certainties). I’d also have A.F.S. Talyarkhan, a real eccentric and first-rate bore, up there. He disliked sports administrators, calling them ‘brass-hats’. Again, he disliked stadiums—being all for the maidans, where he’d cuddle up in tents with lemonade, enjoying the scent of the turf. And if he fancied a catch, shot or wicket, he’d go on, with superlative encomiums eating up two or three overs.
Laxman-Siva-Rama-Krishnan sounds like he's having multiple organs on air.
Ravi Shashtri ends each sentence with' hmmm...'.
You are being unfair to Arun Lal. He is a soft target. He is fluent in both english and the hindi language. The only 2 languages I speak. And no he is not jingoistic. I don't know where you get that from.
Gavaskar, who is not a soft target is a complete and utter chauvinist.
Manjrekar is a complete regional chauvinist & sounds like he speaks english in marathi.
Manjrekar is probably the worst because of the abovmentioned problems & a horrendous voice combined with bizarre insights and agenda pushing. Till date he has said almost nothing of substance. This would be fine since Shastri is much the same but his role is different. Shastri is the play by play commentator. Much like the late great Tony Greig.
I will not say RIP because I am not religious. But Manjrekar takes the analytical role and he fails miserably. he is not good as a tony greig,ravi shastri role and definitely poor at slotting into a Nasser Hussain or even Saurav ganguly role now.
The best would right now be Ganguly. Strange but true!
Truly,V.Gangadhar has a great sence of humour.What a relief after readig poison laden artcle by Meena Kandsamy.
The biggest Bore in Indian Cricket has to be Harsha Bhogle. It is downright hilarious how prattles on and on about player selection issues and cricketing techniques while having played nothing beyond tennis ball cricket in some gully in Hyderabad! Harsha represents the quintessential problem with the Indian mindset - that some slick talker with an MBA has the solution to every major problem on earth!
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