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March 22, 2000


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Sorry Tony

Armchair Expert

Sorry Hansie. Sorry for the way our spectators chuck things at your fielders posted on the boundary line. (It happens to our guys too.) Sorry that we Indians don't know the difference between animals in a zoo and players on a cricket field. Between a garbage dump and sacred turf. Sorry we think ball boys are there to pick up our rubbish. (Evidently 'ball-boys' is not an obvious enough term for us to understanding what the enthusiastic little kids are stationed there for.) Sorry that we amuse ourselves by hurling bottles, paper, banana peels and invective at your fielders for no rhyme or reason. Sorry that we run on to the ground and disrupt the game. But we have very goods reason for doing these idiotic things.

We do it because we think it's a great way to grab the attention of the guy next to us. Or the pretty young thing in front of us. Or the TV camera pointing our way. Or the fielder chasing down the ball to the boundary. (Sorry for not caring that the guy might find it difficult to dive through a pile of refuse and come up with the ball.)

Hey, it's only a cricket ground. It's not our living room. We're here just for a day. There's always someone to clear up the mess once we're gone. And anyway, the players get paid pots of money. (?) They are on TV. We want to be on TV. So we will amuse ourselves in this manner.

And since I'm at it, I'd also like to apologize for some of the most horrendous umpiring seen in recent times. But such things happen. (So what if no one apologizes to us for what happened to Tendulkar in Australia. Rudi from SA has done it. So we must.)

The thing is, we are a cricket crazy country run by crazy people. (Power-crazed and otherwise.) Our administrators don't care enough about improving little things like umpiring standards. Giving more exposure to umpires at the domestic level. Choosing the men in the white coat with enough care. (Something am sure your jovial friend Maninder would have told you about.) But cricket is hardly the most important thing on our administrators' agenda. So, we apologize for some of the incompetence that is a result of all the bungling.

(Gawd, this is getting worse!) Tony, we must also apologize for subjecting the South Africans to 105 f. heat, impractical travel schedules, uncomfortable playing conditions and long-post match ceremonies. Of course, we know you are not used to such conditions. Of course we know heat can do a lot more damage than cold. (In terms of playing conditions.) Sure, we could have organized a few day-night matches. Sure, we could have lessened the suffering. Sure, we could have been a little more efficient in many ways.

But that would involve some extra effort. Something special would have to be done. And then, not all our regional satraps have grounds with day-night facilities. But they must be given a match. We owe them one. (If you know what I mean.) So, you must suffer the conditions.

Now this one I like. By which I mean, I'd love to apologize for this one. (In fact, I'd be most appreciative if someone would apologize to some of us for subjecting us to the same.) I know how you and Ian and to a lesser extent, Barry must be feeling. (Well, Barry did go on a bit about those wides.) But you and Ian were good. And I know how you've been made to suffer. (Believe me, we know what suffering 'them' is?)

No, don't deny it. The series is over. You guys had some serious conversational challenges to circumnavigate. (By way of polite silence in the company of loquacious commentary partners.) You guys ought to speak up. We've gotten the great pictures in. Let's get the 'conversation people,' not commentators, right too. It's time we came down a bit on the incompetence at all levels. I mean what can be more frustrating ask them to tell you a little about the history of the place, the venue, the city of Vadodra. You get an inane tale about a tree with little else to follow. If only, we were told more about the temples there. The people. The food. The tradition. And then led into the cricket. Instead, we get 'banal.' Sorry, you have to be polite, understanding, patient and everything else. We know how hard Channel 9 has worked with the guys from DD. (Thanks Tony and the rest of you@Channel 9.) And we take this opportunity to apologize for not having assembled the best available talent from our side. (No thanks DD.)

You see, things out here operate in an odd sort of way. We think only ex-cricketers make good commentators. (Maybe they do. But you still need to pick the right ex-cricketers.) We think only ex-cricketers make good media persons. (I repeat, maybe they do. But you still need to pick the right ex-cricketers.) We don't do enough to encourage more people like Harsha. And I know how much you and the Aussies enjoyed Harsha in Australia. (You guys even wrote about him as the 'Voice of India.') Believe me Tony, there are more like Harsha.

Men and women, yes, and women, who can speak well about cricket. Who make for good conversationalists. (Isn't that a good way to approach commentary?) With an acute understanding of the finer points of the game. With a passion and hunger for the game. An interest in people. An ability to listen. And who enjoy good conversation. Sorry, you didn't get a chance to meet too many of them. Sorry that you and us had to sit through monologues that repeated everything on the TV screen. That didn't do a good enough job of analyzing replays. That ignored crucial aspects of the game. And refused to pick up on interesting threads of conversation. Sorry that we give you people who can't conduct a commentary on the game in the form of a normal, intelligent, non-stilted dialogue.

Make no mistake Tony, most of us Indians hate it just as much. But, we can't help it. More often than not, it's thrust upon us. (Just the way, it was probably thrust on you.)

You think we enjoy listening to...well, let's not get into names? You think we want to be retold what we can already read on the screen? You think we appreciate weak attempts at humour? You think our nerves don't grate at the hoary cliches? Most of us too, would rather have more like Harsha. (Okay, a few of us think he talks too much. But then, we all do.) We want more like you. Like Ian. Like Mark Nicholas. Like Sir Geoffrey. (By the way, anyone have any news of Sir Geoffrey?) But, not all of us can get there like Harsha. (So we settle for airing our points of view in places like cricket@rediff.)

Hey, but thanks a ton Tony. And Hansie. See you soon. And hopefully, we'll have less to apologise for the next time you come. (Maybe we need more of those lovely voiced announcers we had at Nagpur. Wot say Tony?)

ps. And speaking of Harsha, what do you guys think of him in that soft drink ad? (Don't think I can take names here.) Don't you think he'll make a great version of Rowan Atkinson in the ad for Barclays cards? (You guys should see the Barclays commercials, they're really funny.) I can see Harsha doing just as good a job in a great commercial for Amex cards. Hmm...looks like Harsha might have found himself another career. (Which means his job might be up for grabs. Ciao guys!)

Armchair Expert

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