Commentary on a loop

I suspect that like the crowd noises, the commentators’ noises too were simply culled from previous years. Listen carefully to Danny Morrison, god’s gift to the eardrums: can you really tell whether he is speaking in 2020 or 2017?

Danny Morrison... the squeaks, the screeches, the fake laughter, the forced jokes — haven’t we heard all this before?   -  Vivek Bendre

There’s much you can hear in an empty stadium, as the IPL has shown. Artificial cheers, ghostly collective gasps, shouts encouraging popular stars and more. On a clear day you can hear “Sachin, Sachin.”

What is possible is limited only by our imagination and the expertise of the studio technician. During one match I heard a newsreader say something about Amitabh Bachchan getting COVID-19, and thought the tapes must have been mixed up. Maybe I was wrong — the pandemic, like love, seems to be all around us.

Back to the IPL noises. There is anticipation in the air followed by a joint release when a hit sails over the boundary. The genius who put together these sounds from past recordings at these matches deserves praise. So here: Praises to you, Sir (or Madam)!

But it is not in organising the crowd noises that his (or her) best work lies, however. For that, we must turn to the commentary.

Just as there’s no way of telling which year the recordings are from, there is no way of knowing which year the commentary is from either. As Neil Diamond once sang in another context, except for the names and a few other changes, the commentary is the same.

When commentators say, “That’s incredible. It is the greatest shot seen on a cricket field, this is the best, finest, brightest ever…”, they could be speaking in 2008 or ’09 or any other year in the history of the greatest show on earth.

I suspect — and with that honesty for which I am known from one end of my table to the other, let me confess I could be wrong — I suspect that like the crowd noises, the commentators’ noises too were simply culled from previous years. Listen carefully to Danny Morrison, god’s gift to the eardrums: can you really tell whether he is speaking in 2020 or 2017? The squeaks, the screeches, the fake laughter, the forced jokes — haven’t we heard all this before?

Where you hear commentators stumble over a name, I suspect that the technician hasn’t been able to get the overlap exactly right. That’s understandable. Just think about it. ‘Washington Sundar’ has five syllables; ‘Prithvi Shaw’ just three, thus leaving two syllables floating in the air.

What gives the game away are the adjectives, all synonyms of ‘greatest’. The last original adjective uttered by a commentator was ‘startling’, and that was by Sanjay Manjrekar when he found out his ticket had been booked for South Africa when the IPL was in the UAE.

Perhaps — and I offer the same disclaimer as before — the matches too are the same as the ones we have seen in previous years. When there is no one in the stadium to see a boundary, how do we know a boundary has been hit? Philosophers have been unable to answer that question (or its variation, regarding trees falling in a forest) yet.

There is comfort in the familiar in these strange times. Ah! the joy of sport.