Jason Dasey will be missed

RAJU BHARATAN

Wasim Akram, a cricket VIP, came in place of a mike-hardened professional.-K. MURALI KUMAR

HOW saddening was the evening of Friday, July 15, 2005 for sport in India! For our cricket especially. For that Friday was the last evening during which we were compulsive witness to Jason Dasey as the Sportscenter of attention. A bombshell did Jasey drop as he revealed that, after that Friday evening, he we would cease to be an Indian telescreen presence. As he switched, near anonymously, to Sportscenter (Asia). Touching it was to hear Jason Dasey bid bye in Hindi. Simi-slim is the margin between TV longevity and TV mortality!

Jason Dasey's saying `Sayonara!' was on a par with Annu Kapoor's ZEE-proclaiming that he was leaving with his Antakshari — never to come back. Antakshari might have run its maudlin course by the time the end came. But Sportscenter, never was our week-day evening complete without viewing this capsule with keen absorption. So much so that, each time we switched to Sportscenter, we rather hoped it would be Jason Dasey, not someone else. Such was the iconic hold on the Indian viewership that Jasey had built over the last five years. `Jasey Jaisa Koi Nahin' was the impress left by the man as the sheet `anchor' of espnstar in India. In fact, as Jason Dasey moved over, last year, to spot coverage of Wimbledon with Vijay Amritraj, we felt that espnstar was giving the guy a welcome chance to `open out'. I mean no disrespect to Wilko in saying this. In fact I have to put it on record that Wilko did a stand-out job of the live Wimbledon commentary for STAR Sports. Wilko, in no way, suffered in comparison with a commentator so cosily articulate as Vijay Amritraj.

But Jason Dasey, he falls into a different niche altogether. Jason played the pioneer in helping make Sportsline, then Sportscenter, Indian cricket-centric. So India-centric, in English, that you felt almost cheated if Jasey failed to come on, as a result of some sporting events being `live', at the time, on ESPN. That Jason Dasey's English Sportscenter so arbitrarily came to be turned into a capsule presented by Wasim Akram was an ESPN act of adding Hindi insult to English injury. How blithely ESPN got Jason Dasey to announce that Wasim Akram would be taking over Sportscenter and that in Hindi! Could espnstar please enlighten us viewers upon what is the style of grip Wasim Akram commands on the nuances of the Hindi language? At best Wasim Akram knows his Urdu backwards!

What hurts is not that it is Jason Dasey who turns out to be the ready English casualty to accommodate a Hindi capsule of dubious Urdu vintage. What hurts like hell is the fact that yet another mike-hardened professional has had to make way for a cricketing TVIP — in a prestige programme like Sportscenter. A programme with a captive sporting viewership in the English language. When a pre-eminently English channel like espnstar resorts to such a populist Hindi ploy, viewers must wonder about what really is going to abide (by way of a sports news-capsule) in the English language. The language in which the game of cricket, tennis, et al, is `thought out' in India.

Sanjay Manjrekar is back to bait Indian viewers.-N. SRIDHARAN

Probably we should have seen it coming when Jason Dasey's Sportsline punchline was snatched by STAR in moving the capsule to ESPN as Sportscenter. Now Sportscenter itself stands hybridised into Urduised Hindi. This is something like STAR News's losing, overnight, its Prannoy Roy English identity. If Hindi was what sold, ruled Rupert Murdoch then, let STAR News go all-Hindi — India's British angrezi tradition be damned! STAR News, in its neo-Hindi avatar, is what saw Prannoy Roy transcreate 24x7 as a full-time English channel. The while Prannoy Roy also got the highly savvy, highly trendy Abhigyan Prakash (with his then glam Poonam Dhillon connection) to bring a fresh tone altogether to Hindi TV programming via NDTV-INDIA. That Abhigyan Prakash in Hindi and Sonali Chander in English should, after that, have settled for the vocal callisthenics of Navjot Singh Sidhu is agonising, of course. But then what is TV today if not old Sherry in new bottles? What was admirable about Jason Dasey was his English objectivity's being such as never to underscore the fact that Jasey himself is an Aussie. What is not so admirable about Sherry is that his Queen's English hold on the English language should descend, in the same bated breath, from the sublime to the risible.

Deadly serious, by contrast, is Sanjay Manjrekar on TEN Sports. Now viewers in India, whether they like it or not, are stuck with Sanjay through the 11 days that the Tri-Series in Sri Lanka runs. Sanjay is supposed to be there to represent the Indian point of view. But we saw how `unbiased' Sanjay could be in his vision of carrying out this mission, as TEN Sports relayed India's taking on Pakistan. There are those who reason that Sanjay Manjrekar is doing nothing but objective reporting as a commentator cast in the good old AIR mould. That it is sheer Indian prejudice, viewing Sanjay as projecting things from the Pakistan point of view. But, even here, Sanjay is being nothing if not the quintessential pro. Sanjay Manjrekar had a key role to play in setting up TEN Sports. So that Sanjay can see the Indian eleven only in a certain TEN light.

But now it is Sri Lanka vs India that Sanjay is called upon to vivify. So that we viewers are going to be in a position to determine if this commentator is, after all, purely habitually partisan. Somewhat like Bill O'Reilly's never being able to view Don Bradman in anything but a predictable hue. Indeed, Bill O'Reilly's masterful cricketing insights at times created the illusion that this ace writer would not have minded seeing his Australia lose. So long as the captain in saddle was one Don Bradman! Likewise, you might think Sanjay Manjrekar has a lot to live down on TEN Sports, as it now comes to us from Sri Lanka. But is Sanjay himself keen to be viewed in any other shade?

I have come to the wicked conclusion that Sanjay has spotted his spark, as a commentator, in being a dissenter for the sake of being a dissenter! That way Sanjay Manjrekar has been a robust individualist all his life. Though there are times when you wonder if his brains have gone to his head (to borrow top editor Frank Moraes's turn of phrase). Sanjay is a thinker-commentator all right, one who must question even Sunil Gavaskar for the sheer Marathi sake of questioning. `On-the-bull' Sanjay well knows what a red rag he, by now, is to the Indian viewer. Curiously, this lack of popularity is the very thing in which Sanjay M visibly revels. Try telling Sanjay that he would have played longer for India if he had `gone back to the board'. Sanjay would turn around to tell you that `the board' should have come to him! Talk of intellectual arrogance being practised as at once an art and a craft. Sanjay Vijay Manjrekar epitomises, in his commentating persona, one who would gravely inform you that only dead fish swim with the current.