THE deadly DD-STAR divide

WAS it not the wickedly ageing Hollywood Glamour Puss Mae West who, as Marilyn Monroe hitched her wedding wagon to baseball star Joe de Maggio, came up with the devastating TV quip: "Why bother about the captain when you have the whole team?" Rahul and Laxman, at once eligible and vulnerable, beware - at a time when runs are of the essence from your finely tempered Test blades. For the fatal attraction of touring the West Indies lies in a scene where they club the ball as spiritedly as they night-club. Cricket 'overnight-and-day' it is for us viewers as the launch of this TV column coincides with the 'third-eye-opener' that the first Test at Georgetown is going to be.

A 40-years-plus working lifetime spent in Visual Journalism (at The Illustrated Weekly Of India) hopefully equips me with the photographic mind needed to sustain the tone of a 'live' column such as this - in which the action replay makes it growingly tough for the umpire to cut his white coat according to his cloth. David Shepherd (when all set to umpire in his 50th Test - India vs South Africa at the Wankhede Stadium, February 2000) put the problem in perspective as he said to me: "I am told it's Channel 9 covering this landmark match in my career - that means 17 cameras!" Told that the Wankhede Stadium was in no position to accommodate so many cameras, 'Shep' felt rotundly relieved, if not roundly relaxed.

There was neither DD, nor even radio-commentary relay, when Gary Sobers (4) was sensationally c S. Venkatraghavan b Bishan Singh Bedi - off the last ball sent down during the first day (March 19) in the 1971 Georgetown Test. That made the West Indies 231 for six when Ajit Wadekar's India was already on a spin-roll, having wrapped up the decider-to-be second Test at Port-of-Spain by seven wickets to 'hold' the rubber. From Sourav & Co, therefore, we have every reason now to expect an encore. An encore to whose core STAR Sports galvanisingly gets.

What a traumatic release from DD and its obstreperous capacity to be 'spot on'! The spot coming on almost before the last ball of the over was bowled! Such outrageously countless DD interventions (during the series vs Zimbabwe) are better envisioned than described. Sanjay Manjrekar would just be developing a point and bang on would come that spot of Jothika - as the 'Paragon' of dancing virtue! A spot assault on our visual senses. Offputting enough for Ravi Shastri to disappear discreetly from the idiot DD box.

Mark my Mascarenhas words, Ravi was eased out - to be fresh now for the STAR job in the West Indies! The deadly divide between DD and STAR is now there for all India to view and review. No way can DD be persuaded to look at the STAR Small Screen as the Brian Lara Dutta model. To look and see how fine-tuned STAR telecasters are in the art of 'breaking off' (within a second or two) as the last ball is bowled. How often have you missed the first ball of the next over on STAR or ESPN? You contrast, not compare, STAR and DD.

If Sunil G played with a straight bat, so did Sanjay M. But Sanjay had no way of divining just when the next spot-pause on DD would materialise. While Sunil knows no STAR spot will ever cut in on his cutting comment. Yet sit back even Sunil can't. The moment Sunil is laidback, spot on is Our Man Geoffrey in putting Sunny on his technician toes. What we viewers would ideally, therefore, like to witness is Geoffrey and Sanjay pitted in telecombat. Viewers have this impression that Sanjay makes his point but misses out on the punchline. While Navjot Singh Sidhu's punchline is his lifeline! What's Tony Greig got that Navjot Sidhu hasn't? India's hoi polloi! The Qutb-tall Tony saw no Asian challenge to his standing, as the Dinosaur of Cricket Commentators, until Navjot came on as the Turbanator Commentator.

Navjot draws his populist stance at the wicket-gate from his long-time romance with the mainstream cinema in India - 'Kabhie kisi ko muqqamal jahaan naheen milta') This (Navjot's pet Khayyam composition) should be telling Sidhu precisely the style of crease-occupational hazard the commentary business could be in the long run. A run-up in which Michael Holding is heard to be as smooth as 'The Whispering Death' in his commentary delivery. As 'The Rolls-Royce of Commentators', the mikogenic Michael ensures that any Humber telecaster finishes as an also-ran.

Dot-ball point - no commentator could afford to be Calypso-so in his approach during the 'Lara-as-life' series in the West Indies. The box-seat contest here is as razor-keen as the telematch between Brian and Sachin. Encapsulating this centrestage contest, in all its velvety nuances, must draw the best out of commentators of all shades. DD would have made a hoary hash of it. While STAR is sure to give the bash its best shot. Over to Georgetown where, from Sunny-Tonny (c Carew b Sobers 116), we had the first of Gavaskar's 34 Test hundreds.

That '34' is Brown Blaster Sachin's next TV target - with Black Buck Brian Lara in red-hot pursuit.