Down the Lord's 'slope'

UP in the St. John's Wood clouds 'one-day', down the same Lord's 'slope' the next - the topsyturvydom that is Indian cricketdom, there it is for you! At the drop of a Geoffrey hat, it is a collapse of batting will and skill. "If you are going to wear a hat at all," observed Alison Adburgham, "be decisive and go the whole hat." Geoffrey ventured to do just that - on the third morning of the Lord's Test so cataclysmal for India. Only to regret throwing his hat into the ring that Nasser ran around Sachin (16 in 96 minutes off 61 balls). Harsha even subtly tried bringing in Geoffrey's Shilpa Shetty connection - to soften the body-blow to Indian batting. Sensing the body language of the well-cushioned Shilpa Shetty to be a far cry from the body language of the Indian team over the first three days of the Lord's Test, Geoffrey manfully ignored the Harsha bait.

So sublimely ridiculous had our Lord's fall from favour been by the fourth evening that it made no 'turbaned' difference if Geoffrey could do his 'Mecca of Cricket' pitch-reading only from beyond the boundary. Navjot at his own pitch pronounced Indian survival in such a Test of character to be "Impossible!" Maybe Navjot had a ball-point there. Six 'points' in the Liril scorebook to 'Ice Maiden' Tara Sharma for materialising as a welcome break from such commentative monotony! For what is it if not old Geoffrey hat to hear Boycs say that Indian batsmen played 'stoopid' shots to get out? Oh, I admit commentators could sound only as convincing as our batting out there looked. After Kapil Dev won for us the World Cup at Lord's, the Indian Test scene (versus Lloyd's West Indies) was no different, was it? Indian cricket still remains the victim of a syndrome epitomised by one four-letter word as HYPE. It is for the espnstar commentators now to sit down and introspect upon how they could contribute to toning down such hype. Hype making viewers get hyper. So hyper as to suggest: "We rest Sachin!"

Glossy vacuity is the tragedy of TV in India. For instance, why should India (via espnstar) be saddled with the presumptively foreign Sky Sports-Channel 4 Technology? Technology by which the still purely experimental Hawkeye sits in such absurdly supercilious judgment on the umpire's decision? In the Lord's Test case of almost every Indian batsman ranging from the dispiriting Sachin (16 & 12) to the uplifting Rahul (46 & 63) to the rearguarding Laxman (not out 43 & 74) we 'saw' that the ball would have just 'clipped' either leg or off stump - if the batsman's pads had not intervened. How possibly could Hawkeye be so allowed to prove the hapless umpire fatally wrong in hoi-polloi eyes is something that passes tele-comprehension.

What is the one lesson Hawkeye brought home right through the Lord's Test cutting the Sourav shirt to size? That the batsman can logically be ruled out lbw only if the umpire is cent per cent certain the ball would have hit middle stump! For which umpire is hawk enough to have an eye so unerring as to determine if the ball would have 'clipped' off? Or leg? Sourav (0) going lbw to a Hoggard ball pitched marginally outside the leg stump has cricketingly to be viewed as 'the rub of the red' on the green. The discerning viewer by now well knows that Hawkeye raises more questions than it answers. In the circumstances, what is all this about employing Third Eye Technology (mercifully not Hawkeye) to sanctify lbw verdicts during the Mini World Cup in Sri Lanka come September? Is even Third Eye (no matter how many angled cameras they employ) advanced enough to be lbw conclusive? At most Third Eye could be invoked to 'walkie-talkie' the umpire on whether the ball pitched outside the leg stump to negate a Sourav-style lbw verdict.

Sachin, for instance, is on record as identifying David Shepherd to be his pet umpire. Could this Sachin view be sustained once the final lbw judgment, too, passes to, say, Shep's no less capable confrere: Peter Willey? To a Willey sitting as the third umpire in front of the rectangular screen inside the pavilion? That Peter Willey's verdict should so prevail over David Shepherd's may be poetic justice in a way. Seeing how Peter Willey ends up as the 'final' third umpire only because he chose to opt out of the Elitist Panel. Yet what if the third umpire in front of the pavilion idiot-box happens to be Eddie Nicholls? Is Technology here not going to rob Peter to pay Chanderpaul?

The TWI camera in the Caribbean, we saw, was as alert in picking up the shape of things to come as in picking out the shape of thighs to come. That is technology easy on the eye. Yet the camera can lie. As Hawkeye hindsightingly proves. "Technology shouldn't overwhelm you!" we are Samsung Digitally enlightened. Technology titillatingly used in the Sprite spot to X-ray Lisa Ray is one thing. For the rest, international cricket is too serious a show business to be so hijacked by Technology as to turn the field umpire into a standing joke. No point in having an umpire of David Shepherd's cherubic calibre there if all he is expected to do is to react the way we intently expect him to do when the total is 111 for 1. As our score was at one stage of the Lord's Test that so psyche-shatteringly saw Indian batting lose caste all over again.