05 January 2015

Of Sanjay Manjrekar and L.Sivaramakrishnan

The new Indian cricket commentator in English. 

Of the second tier of Indian commentators in English, comprising mostly of cricketers who played for India since 1990, Sanjay Manjrekar and L.Sivaramakrishnan have the most exposure.

Of course Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Navjot Singh Sidhu all appear in the commentator’s studio from time to time, but none of them have done series after series consistently. In case of the first three, mostly it seems like that they are recently retired and still value the family time that they have been able to get, and that having being been some of the highest paid Indian cricketers of the last decade, they do not need the remunerative aspect of commentating. VVS also makes mistakes in English, but its hard to dislike that or make any issue with that because his enthusiasm comes through and makes you smile (and of course its not our first language so grammar can go take a hike).

Sidhu of course, was the original star of the this 2nd generation of commentators, the progenitor of bad jokes; he has had to pay a huge price for his popularity as TV studios have swooped in to put him up in reality TV in a big way – almost to the extent of ruining his political career.

Akash Chopra and  Murali Kartik have recently started appearing in Ten/Neo sports cricket coverage – but those are basically cut price outfits which are not willing to pay anything for a decent producer to direct the show - the conversations don’t seem go anywhere, and the quality of coverage suggests that it had been recorded on second hand 80s equipment.  Akash Chopra of course also now taps into the Cricinfo mega network, and now Murali has managed to get into 2014-15 Border Gavaskar commentary.

But Sanjay - he is really maturing as a commentator. I think the best thing is that he has been given the hard task of introducing each random commercial segment of the pre-post match shows. Where he has to say Lava Super Fours. And he is almost apologetic when he has to say - with a twisted smile, and an odd way of putting it forth. He is self effecaing enough about his own record, especially when Ganguly and Dravid are around (though he is much more senior a cricketer). And he is not pompous. Thats what I hate about Ganguly. Sanjay and Dravid together are a delight - both probably the most technically correct batsmen ever produced by India, and both are the least likely to fault any other batsmen on technical aspects; always leaving space in their comments to be not absolutely hard on anyone.

What helps Sanjay is I think his years of producing cricket compilation videos. He learnt the art of looking directly into a camera and speaking to a viewer, which is not something the rest have mastered yet - maybe Ravi Shastri and Harsha Bhogle. The rest want to talk to each other. In their living room.

Siva - I am thankful that Siva is not doing as much commentary now  as he used to. What a terrible speaker. If his accent wasn't bad enough, his descriptions, his manner - everything. Am sure we have more English speaking ex-cricketeers than him. W.V. Raman and others who do Ranji games are so much better. Worst. Piss offs.


[To be completed]

Dhoni eulogies | Harsha speaks something new

 Harsha Bhogle sometimes suffers from over exposure. This is especially true during any cricket series played in India, where he is in the com box, in the post match presentation, in the papers each day, and is more or less a big celebrity himself.  

Rare is the scene then when Harsha speaks something which sounds new, or which has not been noticed before. All his sentences start “I/you/one gets the feeling that...da da da”. When one starts talking about feelings, the stage is set wide open for all sorts of things.

So it is one rare instance in this article on Dhoni (http://www.starsports.com/cricket/columns/columnist=126/articleid=1374417/index.html) that he actually had an insight: “That is why he liked one-day cricket. It has two logical ends. If you can’t take 10 wickets, you squeeze out 50 overs. In the last couple of years, as bats grew bigger, as end overs hitting became more sophisticated, he struggled there too because his team didn’t take enough wickets early on. But at least you could outscore the opposition over 50 overs. In Test cricket, he couldn’t do that. So India increasingly looked like a side that waited for the opposition to set the game. It was different in India where he had the surfaces that allowed his bowlers to dominate.

That Dhoni has been suffering in ODIs because the rules and bats and the contests in ODIs have been diluted. That Dhoni (probably like all other captains) does not enjoy the new ODI rules. That India has not been doing well enough in ODIs as well. Will update this with some stats later. But Dhoni's  recent discomfort in ODIs is well noted Harsha; and is something to watch out for given the World Cup 2015.

With regards to Harsha - maybe going abroad helps him. A little away from adulation. and little more of radio commentary where you have to look at the game differently.

My main worry is that I am not really doing what Dhoni is telling me to do. Dhoni is about living in the present. About doing things. I read somewhere that he doesn’t sit and watch full matches, has never done. If Dhoni is inspirational then what are we doing sitting here and watching full matches, discussing, analysing, and more or less wasting our times.

as an unabashed Dhoni fan, bunch of mixed feelings. Unhappy that he never got the bowlers to correct the overseas record. Happy that he doesn't have to endure the taunting of Kohli captaincy fans (who will soon see that captaincy without the required bowlers, or benevolent declaring opposing captains is not as much fun). Happy that he got to get out on his own terms - no press conference, no bullshit, like he always has lived his life. And happy that he still has some of the best overall test captaincy records for an Indian captain, and some of the best wicketkeeping records, and managed to work his batsmanship enough to be counted as one of the leading wicketkeeping-batsmen of all time.
Now lets see what he brings to the WC. I have a feeling that it is going to bring a Imran Khan style take no prisoners campaign at the world cup. ‪#‎dhoniretires‬

11 December 2014

Titan cup semi final 1996

As retrospectives go, this is not much - a group match, which is a defacto semi-final because of an earlier match being washed out. We are going to talk about the The Titan Cup 1996 semi-final featuring Karnataka Bowlers v. South Africa. 

Well Tendulkar did hit an 88 in the match, and Mark Taylor hit a century, but I had to check the scorecards to remember that. The only thing that popped up was Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble letting loose a frenzied lower order slog which was more reminiscent of Pakistan than the Indian team of those times. 

Later on we found out that the tournament was suspect – maybe Cronje had it fixed, along with Azhar (and Jadeja probably). But unlike match fixing in other matches, these revelations came out much later – almost 6-8 years had passed, and for a lot of people, the connections were never made. 

10 October 2013

Apples in my garden

The supercilious tone that Ram Guha in his article Serpent in the Garden (or how The IPL is representative of the worst sides ofIndian capitalism and Indian society) uses to rubbish 20-20 cricket and the IPL should have been very familiar to me. I have been reading a battered duct-taped copy of  the Picador Book of Cricket, edited by him – and it is evident from the writings chosen therein, that either there are very few good cricketers in the modern era who can be written about, or that modern writings about cricket are not upto his mark. But it is with me, a copy which was bought by a friend, from the sweaty sale-by-the-kilo Sunday raddi book market in Daryaganj, in Old Delhi a couple of years back, for fifty rupees.

We bought that book because we had read one of Guha’s writings - his article “The Wall”. It was about Rahul Dravid and his intensity and temper, and its interpretation by an advertising firm. It took a fascinating trip through yesteryear stars and linked them up with Dravid’s style of play, and at the end only a lingering image of Dravid as a classical block test batsman should have remained. Fortunately we had tv, and could see the same Dravid scampering around the field, sometimes heaving dirty strokes, sometimes awfully trying to force the run rate. We could see that Dravid was what Mr. Guha made him to be, but also what Dravid wanted to be, which was so much more. Watching him with the young Rajasthan Royals now, you might even have been mistaken: were we reading about the same man. You see, Mr. Guha’s cricket writing had a classic problem – it was based on experiences of watching matches in stadiums - where everything is far off; where even from the best stands, nuances are missed; where even if you have the best angles, facial expressions are lost. Stadium cricket, unless done through and probably even then, a pigeon hole picture through binoculars, is an alienating experience, an experience where you have to start relying on your thoughts of what is happening in the middle, rather than being able to see the high definition broadcasters’ focus on lingering close-ups of players. Cricketers cannot be built up to be something they aren’t on the television.

But this was not a choice for the lot of us. We were not brought up in big cities.

Cuttack, which was my paternal home town, had a game played there every two-three years, and even that was 60 kilometres too far away.  As kids, we had to watch Azharuddin and Sachin in borrowed time in neighbours’ houses, sometimes even going to the extent of stealthily plugging an antenna wire into their cable connections. For us, cricket played professionally in stadiums, cricket played in clubs, that always was entertainment. Our cricket was not the maidan cricket so fondly spoken of by Indian cricket commentators; that was the cricket played in cities, that lead to professional club cricket, and to Ranji representation.

We played our cricket in anywheres - school fields, colony fields, fields in government bus stands and fields in the tehsildar compounds. Wickets were chappals, or in better times, bricks. Tennis balls and duct taped balls, and matted wickets, all these were too costly for us; we played with cork balls which weighed a ton, and would break a bone if they hit us. But they lasted ages. That was our cricket. No structure to it, no coach to it, no club for it. The crooked arm was not a no-ball. Cricket which came on TV was just that, an additive live show, which we could understand and adulate because it was bat and ball. Our cricket was separate from that cricket. So there was not much to worry about when IPL came. We never had the privilege of cricket association memberships, of 5 day gaps in our professional aspirations, club memberships or even players representing our states in the Indian team. We had nothing to lose. For us, IPL brought cricket home in a month that was traditionally dry; IPL managed to allow us cricket at a time and in a format which suited us; for lots of us IPL managed to allow us access to tickets which were reserved only for association members and pass holders, and if anything, IPL helped us glimpse cricketers whom we were not allowed to see earlier.

For us IPL was a sort of democratisation for the cricket experience.

But for all that IPL gives us, we probably have a more objective way of looking at it than Mr. Guha does. That IPL could not have been done without the franchise model – the investment required to pay the players, the coaches, the talent hunters, and to run the team at that scale required private capital. So far this lack of capital produced shoddy domestic cricket, unfit to be broadcast and unfit to be watched on television. If the ownership was handed out after a contrived process, then the competing bidders had our best regards for the legal rights they had; but till the time the cricket was real, competitive and live, being as far removed from the our cricket as any other form of previously televised cricket, there was no reason not to watch it. 


He has retired. There is no more connect to the cricket of our childhood, so we shall look onwards and see if we (will) like it. 

25 December 2011


Cricket’s back to IST+, which means early morning consciousness. Or in my case, very very late night consciousness. Cricket is the only human activity I can voluntarily be awake for at 7 AM. As a largely crepuscular creature, to bed at 6 AM is a normal late-night for me. 8 AM is an irritating but acceptable start to the day. Awake at 7 AM! Only for cricket.

There is nothing on the cricket calendar quite like the boxing day tests, and we have been lucky to play them two years in a row. The fact that it is boxing day adds some intangible bit to the excitement surrounding an always anticipated series.

Watching cricket in Australia is a real joy, some bit of it captured in one of Laxman’s recent interviews, and this nice piece by Monga. You just need a look at the pitch to know where the cricket is happening. It is really distinctive.

Like I did for the England series, I feel we have a chance here. I’m not quite sure what happened there. I think we will better understand in time, but it should not have been a bad as it was. My gut feel is that most of the team didn’t care enough since we had just won a world cup. I hope that it was that, combined with injuries and an opposition that was very skillful in its home conditions. None of it is excusable of course.

For a life-long Dravid fan-boy, England 2011 was a wet-dream ensconced in a nightmare. Everything was exactly as I pictured it when I drifted off to sleep every night. Except that it turned into a FUCKING NIGHTMARE!

That tour has made me a little reluctant to make predictions, including ones of competitiveness. But for most of our stalwarts, wining a series in Australia is pretty high on the list of priorities. Since we have never done it before, it might be the highest for some. Motivation should not be an issue here.

For us, I am looking forward to Ashwin, Yadav, and Kohli. This will be a proper test for the three of them and an opportunity to earn real respect. I think we will miss PK, and the selectors might have missed out on a trick by not picking Irfan when Aaron pulled out.

And of course, as always, I am looking forward to our creaking terminators.

For them, I am looking forward to Warner, Cowan and Pattinson. I don’t want any of them to do well, but if any of them are going to (as I’m sure they are), it would be nice if it was these three.

So merry Christmas to one and all, here’s to a great series.

And oh yeah, fuck you Ponting.

26 November 2011

Hysteria, and its effect on a cricket enthusiast.

This post is not about Sachin Tendulkar (OK, it might be a little, but he is really a metaphor for a wide variety of things). It is definitely not about some nonsensical milestone that anyone who has to produce a few time-bound-bullshit-words for a living has so much to say about. It is about the popular media, and the effect that unrestrained commercial motivation, a largely unsophisticated viewer base, and a complete lack of imagination have on an intelligent cricket fan.

For the record, I love Sachin. I started watching cricket in 1994, when he was all of 21 years old and I was 9. My granny, whom I watched all my cricket with then, loved him too. But that’s because she thought his trademark grimace when he fronted up was a smile. She liked the way he smiled.

Through the years, my craze for cricket has only grown, as has my respect for Sachin. But he has never been my favorite batsman… never the guy I get up at 3AM to watch in New Zealand or stay awake till 5AM to watch in the Windies. As a batsman, I have always considered him a class apart. I don’t enter into debates about him v. someone else because he is, clearly, a class apart.

He has never been my favorite because of the hysteria. Because his worth is devalued by the excess of nonsense that occupies the public space by the hangers-on… the once-were commentators, the word-for-money sports journalists, the downright-stupid newsreaders, and the rabid and unintelligent dickheads that populate bars and comment-spaces on the web.

Sachin is the greatest batsman I have ever seen. He is also my countryman. And yet I cannot find the joy I should in his feats because of these hangers-on. What fucking assholes! As an extreme comparison I think of what an intelligent and sensitive German might have felt about Luz Long v. Jesse Owens during the 1936 Olympics… When sport ceased to be about the sportsmen, but rather about their damn following.

For an informed cricket enthusiast, the nationalistic fervor, the rabid fanaticism, and the unrestrained commercialism that always surround Sachin are good reasons to not invest emotional energy in his achievements. And this is a real pity, for he is such a great batsman.

For my part, I love the way he scurries around the outfield these days, like the familiar ragged teddy bear that you just don’t want to give up. And for that grimace-smile as he strokes his way to ninety-something.

What’s that? Ninety-something? Not thirty four short of something else?

Stupid Fucks.