Old Sherry in New Year bottles

RAJU BHARATAN

AS we ring out the old and bring in the new, certain flings never change. Like Duper Model Navjot Sidhu looking as well preserved as Super Model Sheetal Mallar (in that Collection G spot). This when quick-change artist SonyMax is all teleset to charge a whopping Rs 4 lakhs for a 30-sec World Cup spot! When change is the name of the game,you have Sherry stuck on the one thing you can't change - your wife! Wives could be more amenable to change,Sherry,if you left behind the old clich�s in 2002. How Sherry forgot to rope in the `bicycle chain' effect, as 22 Test wickets fell in a day's play at Hamilton, is a Hitchcocktail mystery. Even in 2003 Sherry's pet ask is : "Why murder a man who's trying to commit suicide''

As the quintessential `Britannia' Telecaster, Sherry outstrips one and all in the EspnStar team with his gift of the fab. That is why you get a mental jerk when Navjot lapses into the syndrome of our batsmen not being able to "cope up'' with the pace generated on ultra-green New Zealand wickets. We just can't dismiss this as yet another Sidhuism, can we? Queen's English is instinctive in the Chandigarh Test case of Navjot, so that never again must Sherry urge us to "cope up'' with his flow of words.

How diametrically different is the EspnStar English that Sherry speaks from the Hinglish with which Ruby cast a not so precious Sony stone. Geoff Boycott, if still there, would merely patiently hear out Sherry before coming up with the Clincher `Yorker': "It's all roobish!'' Never get off the Lord's English horse you are riding, Navjot — not even when `Harsharper' keeps chivvying you. Earlier it was Ravi venturing to get in a cutting word `Wiltedgeways' alongside Navjot. Now it is Harsh interrupting the influx of old Sherry in new bottles.

My own radio experience is that the player-commentator, for all his show of an open mind, betrays a closed ear in the matter of the seasoned mike-performer even mildly venturing to join cricketing issue with him. It is precisely because the seasoned commentator — who might have lesser-calibre cricket behind him — is in a position to take on the player-telecaster that you hardly find such a vintage voice current coin in today's meretricious telesetting. Harsha is the noteworthy exception here. Online, he has built a highly personalised niche for himself. Harsha now is His Own Man In The Box. Entitled to be so, considering how Harsh sets tender female hearts aflutter as the `remote' turn-on. Harsh's iconic status is the very point likely to hurt the player-commentator the moment `Online' unwittingly crosses the `V.V.S. Laxman Rekha' teleset for him.

Only to a Rekha, revealing her charms in easy on the third eye instalments, is the Sherry field to play open here. Indeed Rekha is just what the `cricketantor' ordered as she ventures to beguile Sherry with her `Umrao Jaan' Ada of `In aankhon kii mastee ke mastaane hazaaron hain'. A hazaar pities it is, Harsha, that you and I, as journo-commentators, can go so far and no further behind the mike. Only ex-cricketers enjoy the telly luxury of weaving all their playing days' hang-ups into live commentary. Having said that, we have to acknowledge that Sunil Gavaskar, as a mindset opener, remains more open than most. Gavas was at his analytical best as we were witness to a collapse of Indian will and skill on the `killing' fields of New Zealand. "A cricket ball can't kill you,'' observed Sunny with brutal frankness. "It could at best hurt you, even hurt you badly. But a cricket ball can't kill you.''

What Sunny was implying was that there had been no call for India's five-star batsmen to press the panic buttons simply because the cricket ball at Hamilton was travelling in sync with the title of Dom Moraes' first book: `Green Is The Grass'. Sunny here had our traumatised thoughts inevitably turning to Nari Contractor vis-a-vis Charlie Griffith. But even Nari argues — to this D Day — that he was in line to meet the Charlie Griffith ball `bat on', when a revolving window behind the sightscreen opened. Opened in the exact second that the Griffith delivery so rose as for Nari, momentarily, to lose sight of that beast of a ball. What a ghastly sight it would have been if we had been able to view so shattering a happening on the narrow screen...

Even now, when you see Rahul or Anil or Alex `helmetamorphosingly' hit, you shudder as you wonder how an earlier generation of batsmen at all coped with such a dimension of pace. Okay, Sunny, accepted that a cricket ball can't kill you — if you are the Gavaskar class of bat. But what about the London museum expert who, upon espying your improvised panama `helmet', wanted to know which idiot had made bold to wear it? Upon being enlightened that the headgear was the ingenious handiwork of India's topmost scorer with 10,000-plus runs against his name, that expert came up with the candid diagnosis: "He's lucky indeed. The guy would have dropped dead on the spot if a cricket ball had hit this monstrosity!'' That, Sunil, is something you yourself told me, so think again before you drop your Ruby-countering EspnStar wisdom-pearl about the lethal effect of being hit by a cricket ball. Don't air comments, Sunny, that could, needlessly, only make Sherry think twice about perpetrating the chestnut of our cricketers having to develop the killer instinct if they are to win the World Cup.