Television, a boon for young players

Sachin Tendulkar leaves after being adjudged leg before to Jason Gillespie in the first Test of the current series down under. "A great example of a player keeping his composure under pressure was when Sachin Tendulkar was given out in the Brisbane Test. There was a look of bewilderment and disappointment but no more," says the author. — Pic. V. V. KRISHNAN-

In a sense television acts as a carrier of the money from people like you and me who watch the game to those that administer it.

Like the Gods, television assumes many avatars in the modern game. Unlike the Gods television is not infallible.

It would be fair to say that television does more good than harm to modern cricket. As a developmental tool it is invaluable and if younger players today are more savvy than those that grew up in the radio and newspaper era, it is because they see so much and learn to analyse before they actually break into big cricket. If they are not doing it, they must.

With every year the coverage becomes more sophisticated, it takes you closer than before to the stars in the middle. With so many camera angles a player's game is exposed and while that might put more pressure on him it is a fantastic educational tool to the youngster who can actually see everything the coach is trying to explain to him. In many ways modern television is a coaching manual and in a sense it comes with a variety of coaches most of whom have been extraordinarily successful. I would go so far as to say that if there is a 16 or 17 year-old who is not comparing his point of view with that of the experts, he is being a bit silly. In fact I would recommend to every young cricketer that he treat a telecast as a kind of exam, constantly playing captain and seeing if the situation develops the way he thought it would.

Television also allows young players to observe how their heroes behave under pressure. It might have been even better if television did not have to take a commercial break after every over for they could have observed players between overs but then we need to trade off the educational value with commerce. Without the commercials there would be no cricket but every responsible network must draw the line at showing six balls an over. There must be a happy marriage and like in all happy marriages one cannot seek to dominate the other. When commercials start eating into the game, it is like cutting off the hand that feeds you. It must not happen.

A great example of a player keeping his composure under pressure was when Sachin Tendulkar was given out in the Brisbane Test. There was a look of bewilderment and disappointment but no more. There was no slapping of the thigh, no throwing back of the head, no movement of the lips. It was dignity on display and a great lesson for people watching the telecast and a great contrast to some of the tantrums that sadly television must bring too, as part of the complete picture. It has bothered me greatly that a lot of young cricketers have picked up the mannerisms, and sadly the tantrums, of some of the stars and for them the message is clear. Stars become so because of the skills they portray and the work they put in, not the antics they occasionally subject us to. That is why Tendulkar's dignified departure must be compulsory viewing for everybody that seeks to play the game

Like with every other sport, television now funds cricket and that was always inevitable. In 1992, the ICC was a bankrupt organisation and if today it is doing admirable developmental work in many countries it is because of the money that television brought into the game. In a sense television acts as a carrier of the money from people like you and me who watch the game to those that administer it. Because viewers watch the game in large numbers, advertisers find it worthwhile to put in commercials during the cricket match and that in turn funds the networks who have paid out large amounts of money for the privilege of covering the game. It is the closest you can get to a win-win situation in life.

Apart from funding the game in newer areas the money that television brings in helps pay the players better, give them a better life and in doing so encourages more young people to play the game. Television needs to do two things here though; it needs to put up the money but it needs to cover a sport in a manner that will attract more people into its fold, either as players or as viewers. It is a lesson that has been lost on other sports in India who get carried away by a little extra money coming their way little realising that if their sport isn't promoted, or interestingly covered, there will be no development. Hockey and football in India frequently stumble through ignoring this reality. They want the money that television will provide but allow themselves to be happy with only that much. Cricket has been luckier in that television has been interestingly produced and that has brought many more people into the game.

As television gets more sophisticated though there is the fear of believing that it can have answers to everything. Television is an entertainment, occasionally developmental, medium not a magic wand. There is a feeling that the day is not far when the game will become remote controlled; when every appeal

will have a foolproof solution. That day is not likely to come too soon because technology is not good enough yet and because networks will not find it viable to spend the necessary money for it. After all it is not the job of the networks to provide solutions to umpiring problems, their job is merely to provide the best possible entertainment and in doing so if they can help the umpire so be it. But that cannot be their objective and if the television camera has to replace an umpire in the distant future the administrators will have to put up the funds.

The fear with that though is that the game will begin to be controlled by the television director. To some extent that happens already because he decides what we see. I think it is very dangerous to entrust a man who has commercial considerations, however honest he may be, with the role of judge. And so television must do what it does best, which is entertain, and the umpires must do what they do best, which is to adjudicate. The one lasting fear with television though, more in India than anywhere else, is that the huge commercial demand could produce far more analysis than the game deserves. We probably have achieved the optimal level today but anything more could be overkill.

And I hope the money that television brings in, and which gets dissipated to the players, makes them more relaxed about their future rather than more concerned. When too much money chases young minds they run the risk of believing that the money counts for more than the runs or the wickets. To them, all I will say is that television is a heartless medium that lives for the immediate. The glamour and the adulation that television has brought into modern cricket can at best be a by-product, and nothing more, of the runs they score and the wickets they take.