How not to telecast cricket

WHAT is the cherubic Charu minus those 'Sonymphets'? DD plus WISDEN 20:20! Figures that leave you cold even after Ruby shrugged shapely shoulders when charged with knowing nothing about the game. If Sony's coverage was a cover-up informed by hype rather than substance, DD is still all prim and proper as the eternal spinster. DD turns even the chirpy Charu - Sony-hooked on films and film stars - into a hack venturing to make the best of a bad bargain basement. A basement you get to view, via your TV set, as a sofa set. In the long sofa here, Farokh Engineer, once so light-footed behind the sticks, makes it heavy going as the centre of attention. So heavy that Farokh Engineer appears to be competing with Bejan Daruwala in forecasting while telecasting. The crease on Gordon Greenidge's brow is in sharp contrast to the relaxed stance this Windies sledgehammer adopted inside the crease. L. Sivaramakrishnan, sofa-fittingly slim, comes off panel-best here - at once clear-headed and articulate in natty, chatty English.

On the live commentary front, Sanjay, at last, is on the ball and the button alike, improving with every outing. Even the punchline should come, seeing Sanjay has ceased to be mike-conscious, whether making a presentation or interviewing a star performer. The tragedy of DD, then, is DD itself. The way it cuts off the commentator, in mid-sentence air, to accommodate all the spots going is a national scandal. "Banno tera mukhda chaand ka tukdaa" (given its precocious Hindi movie tone and temper) just about epitomises DD's Clinic Plus approach - its commentary cast must never stray from the strait-and-narrow. This DD-drawn tight circle sees to it that Charu Sharma never ever goes off at a tangent, Sony freewheeling. Indeed, Ananth Narayanan and his tediously detailed stats could have found their niche only on DD, Dowdy DD. Why, oh why, must our statisticians as a tribe forget that the game comes first, the figures after?

The viewer shudders to think of how the DD-WISDEN 20:20 mismatch is going to look as the seven ODIs vs the West Indies unfold on the narrow screen. One-day cricket is all about the glorious, now glamorous, uncertainty of the game. Too complex an analysis of figures here is going to make the programme look even more 'computerrorised' than it already is. Also, would Ananth Narayanan please stop getting overenthusiastic even when describing a great innings. Ananth (shades of Ananth Rao!) visibly embarrassed Gordon Greenidge when he picked out a knock by this genial Caribbean as masterful. So extravagant was the praise lavished that even the soft-spoken Gordon (educated in Reading, UK) felt impelled to interrupt Ananth and point out that England's captain, when Greenidge played that knock, was David Gower, not Bob Willis - as given out by Narayanan.

A statistician, so Wisden meticulous, erring on 'a point of fact' - it made the viewer feel 'had'. The dot point about WISDEN 20:20 is that it has its cricket accenting made far too intricate and elaborate in an era where even the notoriously laidback ICC is tumbling to the fact that quick-change artistry is the name of the game. Maybe Sony did not know where to draw the waistline. But DD, it still comes to us in a nine-yard saree! If you argue that this is the pattern weaving (in contra-tune with "Om cricketaya namah!") to be expected in Sushma Swarajya, I say give us espnstar, each time, as the twin channel never losing sight of the game itself while furnishing us with a look at all the vital statistics - of highly gifted players and amply endowed watchers.

Overcome by DD ennui, you switch channels. Only to encounter Kill Joy Mukerji in the hamming flesh! You return to DD and find its casting to be as cheerful as a shraddh ceremony.

At the other extreme, SonyMax crams the small screen with star names from the big screen. It is 'Kapil Dil Se' wowing some film star or cricket star almost round the clock. But Kapil Dev is a put-off, even in Hindi, as he adopts a somewhat deferential interviewing tone. One can understand, though not appreciate, the simpering Shaan doing this in Hero Honda's 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa', not our cricket superstar striking a similar posture in 'Kapil Dil Se'. Cut it out, Kapil, it hardly befits your stature in the game. The ones you cross-examine should be looking up to you, not the other way round.

Take the tele tete-a-tete you had with the supremely fit Akshay Kumar, Kapil. It came off rather well except for you, Kapil, not hiding your sense of wonderment at Akshay Kumar's stunts. As Akshay, in an exhibition of martial arts being his forte, almost knocked back Kapil Dev by aiming at his heart, that star performer - you could almost see on the screen - began entertaining second thoughts about his 'dare Kapil Devil' act. When Akshay Kumar feels that way about Kapil Dev's status, our Haryana hero should forthwith cease striking a patronising note in any such interface. If it is mock humility, it adds little to Kapil Dev's aura. While it certainly detracts from the sum total of his personality as the peerless Wisden achiever. 'It Girl' Shilpa Shetty, as the curvaceous one still 'on the threshold', might get carried away - by Kapil. But for Kapil Dev to look impressed by all and sundry isn't cricket, even Palmolive style.