Big Cup, little screen

We have still to see the event management of the World Cup by STAR from virtually outside the boundary line. Sony has the true picture before it through near nine hours of play — counting the lunch or dinner intermission.

BHARATAN

THE SonyMax extraaa innings is under `live' threat from EspnStar. For all its Mandirazzle-dazzle, SonyMax has to pull out something tangibly crickety if it is not to be upstaged by the STAR system already in Harsharpened operation. In as clever an attempt at ambush marketing as any viewed on the rectangular screen, STAR has devised its own style of `Taking World Cup Guard', its own Geoffrey `Follow Through'. Boycott of SonyMax by bona-fide followers of the game — in the hour that counts before `coin drop' in a World Cup face-off — is thus on the cards. Ma Prem Rithambara has to `deal out' something even more eye-holding for the watcher to stay Sony riveted. DD is also there (with its enormous reach) during the 45 World Cup matches it is slated to monitor. Neither ZEE nor AAJ TAK is going to be an idle Hindi bystander either. Something like `Hero Honda Sourav ga ma pa' ZEE may be trusted to devise to create its own Cup following.

EspnStar, if taken by ChaRuby surprise last time, is all teleset to viewer hijack at least the hour before play; if not the couple of hours after. Mandira is just the cutting edge Navjot's blade needs to hone those tongue-twisters. Even LGenius Ravi has evidently opted to remain a STAR attraction. There was a certain mindless novelty about Sony's big screen-oriented unfolding of the Mini World Cup in Sri Lanka. But the idiot box office, in the World Cup proper, is fickle at the best of times. This wayward viewership stays with what it sees. Tunes with what it feels. Like, for instance, STAR ingeniously picking up the snake-charming been effect of `Man doley mera tan doley' (from Hemant Kumar's Nagin) to under `score' Murali's 300 wickets.

It will be news for the `now' generation that the instrument played here is not the been at all! It is the `claviolin' — as played by the late Kalyanji on Vyjayanthi enacting Nagin, way back in 1954. I dare say STAR has other such spins up its Chalte chalte Anil sleeve. Even the trendy Disco Station music of Bappi Lahiri sounds like being drowned by multiple channels chasing the same World Cup. Never was so much noise made by so few for so many. At the end of the day, will the World Cup come through as Cricket, Telegenic Cricket? As Sony dumps Ruby to pick Mandira as the go-go girl for the `King Solomon's Mines' in South Africa that the World Cup is going to be?

I do feel STAR, as the good old pro, got its act together earlier than all others. Here was Sony flaunting Mandira as its neo ace, there was STAR announcing its already well laid out World Cup programming. Harsha was right there for the left arm of Alan Wilkins to do the rest. Jason Dasey, too, had his own charismatic contribution to make in enlarging the World Cup as a STAR spectacle. Could you ever guess that Jason is the Aussie in the STAR pack? Nothing Ugly about this Aussie — Jason is more `desi' than any desi sports newscaster we know. The only danger about the STAR package is that it could stale. More variety is difficult to achieve with a limited number of known commentators.

That way, SonyMax has the cricketing glitterati at its commentating command. Still many an eminent White telecaster now falls flat on Indian ears. This is another significant 21st-century telly development to absorb. Only certain imported accents, like those of Geoffrey Boycott and Bob Willis, ring true for the Indian listener-viewer weaned on Henry Blofeld. This is where STAR has the airwave drop on Sony even where it hasn't the actual play to televise. We have heard all the STAR telecasters for so long that they are easy on the ear. While Mandira is still easy only on the eye. Sony needs to curtail its Hindi cine slant if it is to keep critical-analytical pace with STAR. The Jism determining `The Bipashape Of Thighs To Come' is one thing. Communicating the body language peculiar to cricket as a mindsport is another pair of shoes altogether.

Does the cricket shoe fit Sony? Mandira knows a `fair' bit of the game. But is that enough? Considering the baseball pass to which `Canadian' Ruby reduced cricket on Sony? In sum, as in substance, Sony has Ruby to live down before Mandira finds ready acceptance. Encapsulating the sights and sounds of cricket is not so simple as Mahesh Thakur wowing Sushma Reddy in a spot spirit of O shabash meree Jonty Rhodes — good catch!'' Catchpenny efforts at wooing the genuine STAR cricket audience could land Sony in no woman's land.

Having said that, we have still to see the event management of the World Cup by STAR from virtually outside the boundary line. Sony has the true picture before it through near nine hours of play — counting the lunch or dinner intermission.

Sony is ahead of the rest in money power. But money by itself might not be enough even in an era where cricket is a big-big money spinner. Spin Tony Greig could bowl too, true. Yet not even Sony knows what Tony is now envisioning bowling for Max. Whom do you go for if the choice is between Tony and Sherry? Between true to hype and true to type? Alongside the hoi-polloi Sherry, Geoffrey remains STAR's trump-card.

On how much of his robust optimism for the game Geoffrey retains depends his coming to vibing terms in a new avatar. Shilpa Shetty, for one, is keeping her curvaceous legs crossed. How STAR crossed Geoffrey now looks is going to be the deciding factor for Shilpa Pardeseeyon sa na aankhiyaan milana, pardeseeyon ko hain ek din jaana... Cricket is king only so long as Geoffrey is on song.