STAR and Indian sensibility

HOW TV won back for Kapil Dev the aura the tube itself had snatched from him! Those tears Kapil shed on BBC Television, they had nothing to do with the crocodile, after all. A meal of the crocodile Sunil had admitted to making on STAR. All in vain seeing how Kapil pipped Sunil at the thoroughbred post as 'The Cricketer of the Century'. Centuries numbering a record 34 could not see Sunil through. Sunil losing the Wisden prime prize to Kapil was like STAR losing out on the World Cup to SONY. Did espnstar then retrieve lost cricket ground by bagging all rights for overseas ODI-Test telecast from 2003 to 2008? Yes and no. The Little Screen reality is that from the Mini World Cup to the World Cup - from September 12, 2002, to March 23, 2003 - it is SONY overseas almost all the way. 'Almost' I say because espnstar is crucially set to chip in on the 2 Tests and 7 ODIs in New Zealand during December-January 2002-03.

DD due (in between) to cover the 2 Tests and 7 ODIs at home against Carl Hooper's West Indies we viewers just want to wish away. Nine Network might bring all its camera wizardry to bear upon those 9 matches vs the West Indies. Still DD would move at the pace of a buffalo photographed in slow motion! The gap between DD's Hindi bat and English pad is there for all India to audio-visualise. DD is best defined as 'Leopard Television'. Its spots don't change even after play resumes. 'Spot on' is DD before this over is completed. 'Spot on' DD still is even after the next over begins. Old habits die hard. DD has a tradition to maintain. Technocrat Sanjay Manjrekar might get on famously with Geoffrey Boycott. The left armour of Maninder Singh might come up with an analysis of Harbhajan Singh's style of spin that has Bob Willis hailing this commentator's penetrative cricketing brain. But neither Sanju nor Manni can do anything about DD's time-tested capacity to frustrate the advent of the finest in foreign technology. Sushma Swaraj failed to 'Indianise' Hindi Cinema. Clearly she has now set her heart on indigenising TV commentary.

'D Day' DD is thus destined to mark. Even as STAR forges trendily ahead in the five years following the World Cup. Upon how telegenically SONY covers this mega-mega 2003 event hinges the success of the espnstar show later unfolding as a modernised version of the Five-Year Plan. Who heads the SONY challenge starting with the Mini World Cup in Sri Lanka? Could be Tony Greig stealing in on the batsman from his vantage position at super silly mid-off! Whose viewpoint (if Tony so materialises) would Greig be representing in the Mini World Cup and the World Cup? South Africa's? England's? Australia's? In the end, remember, Tony represents only himself. Sherry, beware! The entire idiom in which you have cast your TV terminology, Sherry, might need to undergo an Arabian Sea change once Big Tony has the small screen all to himself. Yet is Tony Greig the one to tie himself in SONY knots even for the sake of a World Cup? Be sure Tony will somehow be back in the espnstar arena once the greatest cricket show on earth is over. Over to Tony!

Under the weather is Sherry looking? Not on your commentating life! Navjot in fact has reserved his literary best only for Tony to get back. Wait and watch the sparks fly.

But such a prospect is one whole World Cup away. After that hep happening, does espnstar have the foreign field all to itself? This twin channel would be making a sad mistake if it took the Indian viewer for granted in the first flush of having regained all overseas cricket coverage. The tie-up with Sky and then Channel 4 has not always worked to espnstar's India-centric visual advantage on the tour of England. Take Ajit Agarkar's 109 not out (190 balls, 16 fours) as India's parting 'tick' in the Lord's Test. The moment that Test finished, Indian viewer interest lay in getting an instant package of Ajit's undefeated hundred. But there was no such spot espnstar dispensation forthcoming. Instead we had to watch Nasser Hussain bat all the way home as the Man of the Match.

Not that Indian viewers were averse to absorbing Nasser. But their instinct was to zero in on Ajit Agarkar's shotplay leading up to his 109 not out. If espnstar, in future, cannot liaise with Channel 4 (or whoever) for it to be able to present things from the Indian viewpoint, we are only so enthusiastic, and no more, about the five-year international deal it has struck. Indeed the English accents have been one too many during the Test matches in England. We sophisticated viewers readily vibe with Ian Botham and David Gower. But think of the marginally English-oriented Indian viewer - in his ears, only Geoffrey sounds articulate. Bob Willis is also on, if only because he is bell-clear and rings so scrupulously fair.

But when the commentary is by espnstar, let its own set team of commentators speak more. Speak more while making it a point to be less repetitive.

The same point pressed home time and again is a rude reminder that even Shah Rukh visually stales, as Kareena's Pepsignature tune, once the 'neo Deva diva' comes to be Madhuri measured by the Aishwayardstick.