Monday, April 30, 2007

Idiots -- I

Or 'Why SET MAX should never be given telecast rights of any kind'

Lance Klusener struck one powerfully through the offside. Mark Waugh scooped the ball up and fired it right back towards Damien Fleming. Allan Donald was a bit too far outside the batting crease, having been slow to get started with the run which Klusener and South Africa so badly wanted, and Fleming threw the ball to the great Adam Gilchrist, who had no problems in running Donald out. Match won, Steve Waugh's Australian side were on their way to the World Cup final. They would eventually lift the Cup, the first in a troika of such wins.

This match happened in Edgbaston in 1999 and I remember feeling that this was truly one of the great one day matches. And one very important factor which helped make this match such a great experience for me, a viewer thousands of kilometres away, was the brilliant telecast, commentary and post-match team, led by the affable Harsha Bhogle. ESPN had telecast every match in such a way as to make viewing a cricket match a pleasure. When something important was going on, they would never cut to a break. For instance, in that last over of that semifinal, one ball before Donald's runout, there was another chance that Australia missed, an attempt by Darren Lehmann(now selling melons). After this, there was a small delay as Steve Waugh readjusted his field a bit(Klusener had struck two fours previously in the over, to tie the scores). But until and unless Harsha or Ravi Shastri or some other commentator indicated that a break could be taken(like after every over, when they tell you the score), the telecast wouldn't stop.

Now let's come to the 2003 world cup.

SET MAX, in an aggressive bidding war, outbid ESPN-Star and, to the dismay of cricket lovers, won the rights to telecast all ICC events till 2007. The farce began with the disastrous telecast of the 2002 Champions trophy in Sri Lanka. The esteemable Ruby Bhatia was roped in for co-anchoring the pre- and post-match shows with the redoubtable, punctuation-is-for-wimps-and-girls Charu Sharma. Also employed were the services of VJ Maria Goretti. Other personages not entirely connected with cricket were also brought in.

Now I know you will bring up the point of Harsha Bhogle and ESPN's 'Apple Singh' campaign. Harsha was an MBA and a cricket lover, a qualification shared by Maria Goretti. Apple Singh(Sanjay Mishra) was 'not even an MBA.' He was a cricket lover and an actor, having appeared in 'Dil Se' and an ad priorly. Neither of them ex-international cricketers and therefore, by my own logic, 'qualified' enough to host a cricket show or comment during the game in progress. Harsha Bhogle is a good commentator and presenter and the Apple Singh ads were not stupid or irritating. You could argue further but I won't, since I'm right.

But I digress. The 2002 Champions trophy telecast was simply atrocious. Commentators of great repute were absent. Most notably, Sunil Gavaskar and Geoffrey Boycott. These two are very very good, despite Gavaskar's tendency to say 'Mammad' Azharuddin and Boycott's frequent usage of that phrase involving the throwing of kitchen sinks. Also adding to the atrociousness(atrocity?) was the current team, with the rather pedantic Barry Richards, the unnecessarily excitable Tony Greig, the dull-as-Doctor-DoLittle-2 Mark Chapman(or something) and the avoidable rest-of-them(this includes Ian Chappell and Laxman Sivaramakrishnan).

Ok fine, Tony Greig's all right, we'll leave him out of this. I will also exclude the Sri Lankans, Arjuna Ranatunga and the brilliant Ranjit Fernando(more on this later). But the others are bad, you'll have to agree.

The 2003 world cup, with the bad 'Extraaaa innings'(now why so many 'A's there? Was someone poked with a pin while thinking up this name?) before, during, and after every match, set the standards for a new, low-aiming, under-achieving form of cricket telecast. Ruby Bhatia had been 'rested' and Mandira 'Shanti' Bedi was brought into the team. She seemed slightly better since she didn't giggle as badly as Bhatia and, like Arvind said, "only butted in to say 'After a short break.' " Arjuna Ranatunga also grunted, 'She is better than that first lady, who knew nothing about cricket.'

But MAX knows nothing about telecasting cricket matches well. I want to watch a match because I enjoy good cricket. Not because I enjoy good advertising. But MAX is relentless in hurling barrage after barrage of advertisements at me, the viewer. That is the cause of my hatred of SET MAX and their telecasts.

If I wanted to watch a series of advertisements selling everything a middleclass family cannot afford, interrupted by cricket, I would watch any STAR channel in a cricket stadium. But MAX figures otherwise. They have worked out that since advertisements are good enough for players to give up concentrating on their careers as players, they should be good enough for the common viewer as well, who is only just viewing and not actually playing on the field. So whenever there is a slight delay in actual, quantifiable cricket action on the field, MAX swings into ads. Not just one or two but a series of irritating ads. A case in pint...point is yesterday's final between the Aussies and the Lankans.

By the way, 'a case in pint'....pretty good, huh?


Harish said...

Ranjit is an excellent commentator. He is the best from Sri Lanka.
Such remarkable emphasis on verbs and propositions had never been heard so far in cricket commentary circles.

And-a, Aarjuna is a gud commentator.

Harish said...

I feel Richie Benaud's commentary was missed in this world cup. Such equanimity, such mental poise irrespective of whether a wicket falls, a six is hit or there is no play due to rain. He certainly would have suited the empty stands and the kind of cricket that was on display in the Carribean.

Sandeep said...

Olle pint-u.

Arjun Sharma said...

[Harish]He he, brilliant!

[Harish]Yes, Shri Benaud was sorely missed by cricket lovers and connoisseurs of the fine art of commentary. His methodical explanation of the ongoing and bygone events of the field, his patient unravelling of the myriad tangles of the game, his relentlessly robotic tenor of voice -- all delights.


Anonymous said...

yeah, all those adverts are a pain. I think Set MAX employed one guy to sit over a button so that he can press it the moment 5 seconds of non-ball action elapse

Archana said...

That match was a great one indeed! Innu kannige kattida haage ide.

Anonymous said...

Just for the record Australia never won the semifinal.The match was tied

Harish said...

As an anonymous reader of your blog has rightly pointed out, that match was tied. You have blogged wrong information and have misled an entire nation of more than a billion on the events that happened in the not so distant past. This reminds me of 1984. In 1984....

Gottalla? oLLe emergency-1984 remix-u!