Sherry vs Greigy

Have we absorbed the last of Sidhu on EspnStar? Perish the thought! Let the tour of Australia be over and watch how Navjot bounces back like India Rubber! — Pic. RAJEEV BHATT-Have we absorbed the last of Sidhu on EspnStar? Perish the thought! Let the tour of Australia be over and watch how Navjot bounces back like India Rubber! — Pic. RAJEEV BHATT

IT is STAR Wars with a vengeance — via Channel 9! To my left, Navjot Singh Sidhu. To my right, Tony Greig.

IT is STAR Wars with a vengeance — via Channel 9! To my left, Navjot Singh Sidhu. To my right, Tony Greig. Such a face-off, it always was on behind the scenes, between Navjot Sidhu and Tony Greig. Between EspnStar and Channel 9. Over Sherry making it to the populist STAR team for India's tour of Australia. An Australia where, on Channel 9, it is still the Qutb tall Tony calling the shots. The four Tests and nine V & B ODIs Sourav's India are due to play in Australia represent the plum opportunity for any telecaster. Near inevitably, therefore, viewers here expected Sherry to be on the tour button. In taking on Tony. Diamond cut Diamond. Hype meet Hype.

The MID DAY Cell Poll reflected but the ground position when it showed that 9 out of 10 watchers wanted Sherry. Turbaned, suited, booted — and hooted in Australia! But then Channel 9, as the Super Camera Angler, reserved the right to X-out the name of a particular EspnStar commentator, I suppose. Actually just no one inside the box likes Sherry overmuch. Least of all his fellow EspnStar commentators. If only because he steals their thunder in a martial Akshay Kumar vein of "Taste The Thunder!" Game is Sherry for now pulling the shapely leg of the Malawade girl (answering to the name of Vidya) in that hotshot Akshay ad. No less game is Sherry for bringing down to earth (long, long before she turns 50) any airhostess looking a ripe enough catch going with a Sachin six.

A delightful contradiction in idiomatic terms is Our Man Navjot. Feeling for his wife (called Navjot) do you find Sherry, the moment Harsha threatens to let loose that cheetah on him. At other times, Sherry just goes ooh-la-la gaga, the instant the camera invites him, as a would-be Sardarji truck driver, to U-turn negotiate the curves of a pneumatic young thing in the crowd. "Jaayeeyenga nahein, chaand abhi dhala nahein!" is Navjot's eye-riveting punchline here. Viewers have watched, through the tube, Sherry and Tony clash at least once. A piquant passage of arms during which Tony tried every trick in the Channel 9 trade to discomfit Sherry. Only for Sherry to be a rapier thrust telematch for each needle point Tony made.

Tony is the epitome of the cozy chatty style that is the tele-norm today. Sherry, by contrast, has accomplished the next to impossible by reviving the art of tellingly employing the Queen's English in the craft of crickety commentary. It is vital to recognise that it is this, his wordy hold on the grammar of cricket plus the composition of commentary, that gives Sherry his unique niche at the Idiot Box Office. Sidhu is not Sidhu if the chestnut is not thrown in with the striking turn of phrase. A chestnut rapturously hailed as yet another "Sidhuism" in our com lore! Sherry is by now well aware that the quality of the English he speaks (as the son of the one-time Attorney General of the Punjab) is his own rare gift of expression. Side by side, Navjot lets the Punjabiat in his lexicon studiedly surface. The combination is deadly. It is a potion embodying all those ingredients of the brew that is Sidhu.

To the lay viewer, Sherry is a treat to watch as he indulges in such verbal callisthenics. That Sherry unfailingly overdoes it is the man. Love him or hate him but ignore him you can't. You do feel saddened that a com with such a feel for the nuances of the English language should be engaging in such wilful gimmickry. But that is Navjot Singh Sidhu up mike front. Thus is Sherry at once a captive draw and a problem child for EspnStar. How now does the arrangement that EspnStar's drawn up with Channel 9 work on the Aussie tour ground? If Channel 9, sitting Tony tight in the box, says it just doesn't want Sherry here, there is little EspnStar — or you and I — can do about it.

There is, in fact, no com room, on Channel 9, for either Sherry or Geoffrey. It is not that Tony loathes Sherry less, just that he loathes Geoffrey more! But Geoffrey is out of "live" commentary contention for at least six more months. So the Geoffrey-Tony issue sorts itself out for now. To a Geoffrey voiceover on EspnStar, Channel 9 would have no Kangarooted objection. It is Geoffrey's live presence in the box Tony detests. Remember how Tony identified, in print, "Boycott's ability to be where the fast bowlers aren't" as being "legendary"?

Tony-truth to tell, Channel 9 doesn't care a jot for Sunny either. But the BratPacker Channel 9 Generation knows that, given Sunny's stature in the game and his ICC clout, it has to tolerate Sunil Gavaskar. No way do they Melbourne sledge out Sunny yet again. But Sherry, couldn't he curb his speech to be more acceptable to Channel 9? You no more expect Sherry to "change his style" than Geoffrey to "wear another hat"! Each is of vintage value to EspnStar only if allowed to go on in his own native strain. Even if that puts a strain on the viewing imagination.

Have we then absorbed the last of Sidhu on EspnStar? Perish the thought! Let the tour of Australia be over and watch how Navjot bounces back like India Rubber! Harsha & Co at EspnStar are whizkidding themselves if they think they have seen the back of Sherry. The more Sourav seeks to see Sherry off his back, the more forward does the aam janata look to watching Sidhu hold forth. EspnStar therefore holds this Jack In `The Box' down in the knowledge that Sherry coiled-springs up afresh. For all that, Sherry is going to be missed Down Under. As our openers go down under.