From third eye to hawk eye

DOM MORAES as a teenager came up with an evocative title to his first cricket book: Green Is The Grass. Sadly cricket is now not so much feelingly read as vicariously watched. The medium is the message: "Let not technology overwhelm you." Yet it certainly overwhelms you as you discover the Hawk Eye sitting in super judgment on the Third Eye. In the very first over of the Saturday, June 6 India-Sri Lanka NatWest triangularomp, was Sanath (when 0) out lbw to Ashish? On a bouncy track, the arrow-straight Ashish ball hit Sanath high on the right knee-roll. So umpire Steve Bucknor naturally ruled Sanath to be not out. The third eye affirmed Steve's verdict to be just enough. But the hawk eye, contrastingly, much later showcased Sanath as having been 'clean bowled' by that Ashish snarler!

Switch to the first over of the Indian innings that Sourav faced in the same July 6 face-off. Chaminda obviously had Sourav (with Dona around) rather 'edgily' touching a beauty. But Steve Bucknor shocked viewers by adjudging Sourav (then 0) to be not out. The third eye exposed Steve's verdict to be visibly unfair. Out of the blue, Sky Sports had also introduced what looked the ultimate in technology: the Hawk Eye. Until the ESPN telecommentary team enlightened us that the hawk eye is not to be treated as conclusive - not yet! How technology shows almost everything but really resolves nothing! Sky Sports has eliminated the red-green traffic-light jam altogether. Sky's OUT-NOT OUT ruling (in capital letters) is clearly easier on the eye while the third official (sitting in front of the monitor) hands it down as the 'Umpire's Decision'. Note how technology has already identified this third official (perched in the pavilion) as the Umpire of Umpires! Thereby preparing viewers, mentally, for the game to be soon all but team-spirited away from the two umpires in the middle.

S. Venkataraghavan need no longer worry too much about our Cricket Board making deferred payment to him only in Indian rupees. Let David Shepherd be paid in pound sterling and Steve Bucknor in dollars green. It could now last only so long as the midpitch authority of such quality umpires abides. For I can't see such esteemed umpires agreeing to stand up and be counted as mere over-changers. The idiot-boxer is all 'set' to act as the judge, the jury and the executioner. Cricket, Lovely Cricket! Now just helplessly watch 'Kareenayika' Kapoor as being more 'Pepsignificant' if the controversial dismissal comes about at the end of the over. TV 'spot' on! The third eye can wait. An eye for beauty can't!

Yet cricket retains some of its 'Gentlemen vs Players' charm to this day-and-night. Thus is even Alec Stewart inclined to be more indulgent now that he is in the winter of his career at 39. The 29-year-old Ten's hand Stewy stops to shake in appreciation of that July 4 Sachin gem (105 not out). Rewind to India's first (Sunday, June 30) triangular encounter with Sri Lanka. Sachin (49 off 70 balls: 3 fours, 1 six) is clearly out - caught behind by Kalu off Nuwan. But Sachin, as the apple of Orchard's eye, hesitates for a split-second, thinking of the team's resultant position (135 for 5 in response to Sri Lanka's 202 for 8 off 50 overs). A gently nudging nod by Orchard auto-suggesting that Dave expects a finer perception of the umpire's job from a sportsman of Sachin's integrity. Instantly Ten walks, one short of his 50.

These are the 'moments' of which cricket is genuinely made. Going off at a tangent vis-a-vis the geometrical precision of Ten's strokeplay, take that fascinating old 'stager' finally 'recognising' Sachin in the TVS Victor ad. That vintager is Daaji Bhatawdekar. It is verily a cameo conclusion drawn by Bhatawdekar as he says of Tendulkar: "Main tumhen pehchaanta hoon: tum wohi ho naa - from 'Lagaan'! "All I mean by this is that it is the element of fantasy that keeps the game alive even on TV - from spots to shots. It is this blend of whimsy and fancy that technology, heartless technology, is sedulously out to destroy. Where technology should be the game's servant, not its master.

The 'Lagaan' factor now symbolises the personal equation of the viewer in interlinking the spots with the game. That is why Aamir Khan is a turn-on each time he is spurned, on the small screen, by Rimi Sen. It is a spot flawlessly enacted in its Nizami texture by 'Akhtar Hyderbadi'. Even V.V.S. Laxman is in no eligible position to fault it as Aamir Khan delivers the Rimi Sen punchline: 'Thanda peeko nikal gayee mere ko pyaasa chhod gayee'. Was the very first Aamir take okayed here? Viewers would like to know in the light of the pertinent point made by Naseeruddin Shah as the actor's actor. Naseer wrote that he chose to switch to movies because: "There are no retakes in cricket, if you are out you are out, that's it!" Yet technology ensures that there is no end of 'retake' for commentators in the box-seat, none for umpires in the hot seat. It is a peculiarity of Indian television that the spots are watched as intently as the cricket. Viewers here don't ever seem to tire of watching the same spot time again. Just as viewers don't ever seem to tire of seeing India losing time and again. Let us hope against hope that the picture was reversed at Lord's (last Saturday) by habitual final chokers India.