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March 8, 2000


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Blue glow

Armchair Expert


Few things have influenced cricket the way television has. Thanks to television, cricket fans, cricketers, administrators and armchair experts around the world have resource, an oracle, they can now turn to for insights on the game. And draw on the collective wisdom of names like Sir Geoffrey Boycott, Ian Chappell, David Gower, Sunny Gavaskar, Richie Benaud and the ever-smiling Harsha Bhogle.


Last week, Donald said he wasn't bowling at his best. (Not that the hapless Indian batsmen would notice.) That he took time out to prepare just that bit harder because things weren't quite right. How he pin-pointed what was wrong with his bowling during England's tour of South Africa. You can imagine how useful such an interview could prove for a budding fast bowler. Just by way of hearing tips, firsthand, from someone who, perhaps, might be his idol.

Players and budding superstars get to know what their peers and idols are thinking. What drives them? How they deal with adversity. How they fight their way out of a bad patch. What motivates them? And more such valuable nuggets that can help players improve their game. By listening, watching and tuning in to watch idols like Donald, Tendulkar, Pollock, Boycott and Sunny.

And what makes all this possible?

...skip to Channel 9

Thanks to the ever-improving cricket broadcasting standards, most intelligent observers of the game can position themselves less than a foot away from Saqlain's mysterious 'doosra.' (Now you know how the Aussies cracked the code.) Know the different speeds at which Kumble bowls. Detect patterns in Srinath's bowling. (Short, shorter and 'can somebody please tell me why he never pitches the ball up?') And feel the adrenaline rush that comes when you see a batsman being hit right between the eyes by a Brett Lee special. (Best experienced by wannabe 'pace' bowlers in super slow-mo on a 29 in. television - just so you can see the fear in the batsman's eyes an instant before being hit. Yum.)

Sure, you can read about the pressures of captaincy. But you can't see them frame-by-frame on Sachin's face and arrive at your own conclusions. (The way you can with television.) You can wa...wait a minute!

...rukavat ke liye...!

Damn, I hate this part. Lemme cut the volume. I mean, I love what Channel 9 is doing for DD and India by being part of the telecast team for the India-SA series. But why is DD doing this to us? The Hindi commentary. Man, does it suck. And I promise you I have no language bias. As a matter of fact, I love the language with much the same intensity that I hate when Yashpal and Maninder are doing the telecast. It's awful to have Ian Chappell and Tony Greig handing over the mike to Maninder Singh and Yashpal Sharma. The latter may have been good cricketers, but they make a real mess of giving viewers worthwhile insights into the game. But then, that's a different argument. One we will have to reserve for later. Anyway since I've cut the volume, it pretty much takes care of them.

And there's Kirsten! Still a little comfortable when Srinath goes around the wicket to him. Wait, let me make a note of that. Will post it to the Indian think-tank so they discuss it in their next team meeting. How do I pick this little chink in Kirsten's armour? By seeing it with my very own eyes the last time India toured South Africa. And every other time a good right-arm seamer bowls at him. Like am seeing it now. Where? You got it.

Consider this. I want to be an opening batsman. I want tips from the best in the trade. Like, say Sir Geoffrey Boycott and Sunil Gavaskar. And I know that's impossible.

- Correction. It used to be impossible. Now you can. Watch them on television. Talk to them on television. Listen, very important, to them on television.

Next question?

I want to lead India. I want to know about the value of setting goals and playing the game by sessions instead of days. I want to know what a captain goes through every minute he's on the field leading the side. I want to know it from people who've been there. And no, 1 out of 4 won't do. What should I do?

- Watch Richie's or our very own Harsha's end of day analyses on ESPN. Don't listen to word of what Maninder and Yashpal say. And follow the Aus-NZ series on Channel 1 NZ. (If only, some of the members of our think-tank would.)

- Want to know what made Geoffrey the dogged, determined, run-accumulator that he was? Don't miss the next episode of 'Cricket, up close and personal.' Want to get the picture.

Thanks to Ian Chappell and team demystifying the mysteries of reverse swing, I now know Imran didn't hypnotise our batsmen during that '82/83 tour of Pakistan. (Of course, Imran and Sarfraz never bothered to tell anyone.)

All of which just underscores some of the crucial contributions of cricket on television. Anything that helps impart knowledge has to be good. Anything that does it with the pizzazz and the hype of television is...well, 'unpublishably' welcome. (I was requested by some readers to desist from even indicating expletives.)

Magazines can only do so much for the cricket junkie. The Internet still cannot do too much. (Thanks to highfalutin problems like band-width.) So what does one do?

Answers to why Sachin is the greatest? Why Ganguly looks a better bet for the captaincy? Why Darryl Harper ought to take special classes to judge the height of short-pitched deliveries better? Why Mcgrath on the cricket field is not the most polite person in the world. And more! All courtesy, television. For free lessons on dealing with failure, tactics, mind-games, aggression, body language and life.

Of course, it helps if you're life is basically cricket and more cricket. Mine, pretty much is - and to think, I'm not half a cricketer. Imagine what it can do for players willing to step back and take stock. After all, the camera never lies. (But I think I've already said that.)

...tune in to DD. (sometimes without volume!)

(Good! Very good!) Sorry, that's for Tony Greig and Ian Chappell. They are back. And are, right this very minute, telling batsmen and leg-break bowlers around the world how Anil Kumble bowls his leg-break. From every angle possible. Come on guys. Stop it. It's bad enough that everyone plays him like a medium-pacer. The least you can do is not expose the way he turns the few balls he does. But jokes apart, see the many dimensions television has brought into the game?

Cut to later: end of yet another day's play in this long, dark period Indian cricket is going through. Yet another depressing day for Sachin Tendulkar. Yet another depressing day for Indian cricket. And yet another depressing day for Indian cricket fans. Especially the one's at the stadium. With little to cheer about, little to eat and drink, little by way of comfortable seating. No, I take that back.

As an aside, I'd like to say that, on evidence of what one saw, the administrators and officials did a truly good job of organizing the Bangalore Test. And, if reports are to believed, Brijesh Patel and his team have some very useful plans for future cricketers. May their like be encouraged. God knows, we need some efficiency to be pumped back into the veins of the game here.

Me, after much deliberation, decided to settle into my not very large but very, very comfy sofa-cum-bed. With my little blue-black book. And the benefit of the best coaching manual in the world to tell me, which of Kumble's loud appeals for leg-before were off deliveries that pitched in the 'strike zone.' (Not to mention the dissection by Tony and Ian I've already talked about.) Or why Mongia and Ganguly still watch balls sail between them. Or whether the noise the umpire is being asked to adjudicate on is a faint snick or a combination of gamesmanship, the bat scraping the ground and the crowd., this deserves a separate paragraph. This is an example of not just good, but audacious, great captaincy. on to next paragraph., stop! Look, Channel 9 clone!

Showing, the fifth one-day international between Australia and New Zealand. New Zealand chasing a modest 191 for victory. Six overs, or thereabouts, into their innings. Going at something like eight per over. Brett Lee, charging in to bowl at Sinclair. (Who's coming off two consecutive ducks in his first two one-day matches, then is dropped off the first ball in this innings at second slip. Talk about defining moments.)

Sinclair sends the first two balls of Lee's over to the boundary. Brett asks Steve Waugh for protection by giving him a man at mid-off. (Oh, I forgot to tell you, small total notwithstanding, Steve had two slips and two gullies for Sinclair. Even after the New Zealanders had got off to a flyer.) So as I was saying...what does Steve Waugh tell Brett Lee?


I repeat, NO.

Roughly translated, Steve Waugh is telling Brett Lee... "Brett, I suggest you bowl better balls. I'm not going to give you protection for bad bowling. I'm not going to let this nervous, debutant get away with this kind of nonsense. He can't get away with this for too long. I'm not going to back down. You don't back down. I have confidence in you. I have confidence in this team. We'll get him. So let's stick with the plan."

Less than three overs later, they got him.

Our approach, I won't start. We've seen enough. We know what it can teach us. It's time now to learn. To bow before the blue glow. to blue glow

Armchair Expert

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