Gripes on the electronic scoreboard

ON the ball was that spot accompanying the Bradman-chasing Sachin into his 90s: 'Nothing is as nice as finding Paradise and swinging to Bacardi Blast.' At full Bacardi blast pursuing Sachin came Brian Lara, his Queen's Park Oval 52 (78 balls: 6 fours) struck in a native-heath vein matching Ten's 117 (260 balls: 14 fours). Umpires Daryl Harper and Asoka de Silva for a full two days looked taken up enough by the status of these two superbats to reject appeal after appeal in a spirit of: "They have come to watch Sach and Lara bat, not to view us give them out!" Where it was Sachin or Lara, every single statistical detail was illuminatingly highlighted. For the rest, viewers - their eyes transfixed on the top right-hand corner of the narrow screen - have gripes galore.

We are still to cross the Bridgetown Test, so there is time enough for the electronic scoreboard to get its atoning act together. The first thing the TWI-STAR combo must comprehend is how plushly laidback the lay Indian viewer is. He is baffled when that top slot shows the team's total as advancing but fails concurrently to register the tally of the batsmen raising those runs. The oily IBP Red people, sensing this 'Yeh Dil Maange Score' lacuna in the presentation, superimpose on the screen (bottom left) the batsman's number of fours even as the shot is called. There are still 3 Tests and 5 ODIs to go. So TWI and STAR must get into a liaising huddle here and now to see those personal scores (to be settled with viewers) come leaping up top right.

A not so little TV bird tells me that these individual scores are unfailingly projected after each over - but the spot, say, of the invisible Onida Casanova ("Woh driver naheen meree jaan hai") spirits it away. We are unimpressed. The spot people just can't be kept out once the over is over, so we want the batting scores-display done through the 6 balls being sent down. Unenlightened we view the '1st innings' as on - we well know that. We are given the speed at which Harbhajan Singh turbaned down that ball - we couldn't care less. We get the runs by which the West Indies is trailing - we can do a sum in the head. What we impatiently want is the lowdown on the two batsmen - nothing less, nothing more.

The viewer as the customer is always top right. That graphic strap running across the screen (after a batsman is out) is taken off just in the second we are absorbing each detail. A career-record strap displaces it. This career-record can graphically wait. We need a good hard look, first, at the strap furnishing the vital statistics of the batsman departing. We would, in fact, prefer (with the run-in to each over) that elaborate graphic coming down, spotlighting the team's total and the batsmen's scores; the number of balls faced; each striker's fours and sixes; a partnership of so many off so many overs - alongside other etceteras.

Late into that sweltering night in India, Brian Lara 'does a Laxman' in the slips by failing to reach a VVS catch off Cameron Cuffy. We crane our necks for the personal tally at which this fluid-drive player came to be so missed for VVS to end up with 69, bat in hand. The ball has gone to the boundary, but only much later do we get to see the slippery Laxman as 15 when reprieved. What is the problem in showcasing under India's total (as the upshot of that four) the precise contribution Lax reached via that errant edge, leaving Lara and Hooper telecross-examining each other? VVS - downgraded yet again to No. 6 by that supreme technocrat Rahul (67 & 36) - touches 50 off 106 balls with 8 fours on the second Port of Spain morning. Those figures are instantly encapsulated. Yet we watchers have to be ultra-alert, knowing the graphic will vanish in two shakes of a duck's tail - for superfast Colin Croft to unfold as a cheery Calypsoul for one who always aimed at the batsman's body.

We are happy to hear Navjot and Alan, Sunny and Boycs, Ravi and Mikey, Harsharp and Tony Cozy, talk nineteen to the dozen. But viewers, as good listeners, also want the batsman's 'running' commentary dope side by side. We live - and watch cricket 'live' - in an era when the viewer is king. Only onlookers in India could take failure to feed such crucial info lying down at 2.30-3.00 in the morning. By and large, as we moonlight on the monitor, we get things well, very well, from TWI-STAR. But every foreign network must understand that the Indian watcher is not content to be left in stages of distress while those pneumatic damsels look in no distress. Charms revealed in easy-on-the-eye instalments are no substitute for the facts of cricketing life. The public demand is for a revealing technological change in one vital nook of TV coverage. STAR TV ignores this hoi-polloi demand at its bid-losing peril. The gap between Harsha's Port of Spain bat and Navjot's Singapore pad must no longer show. V. P. Singh's 'Right To Know' is the privileged prerogative of scores and scores of TV buffs all over India today.