When standards fall and fall

BLUNT instrumental in India strikingly chasing 270 is 'Najafgarh Ka Sehwag' - even if it is merely Charu saying so. A treasure trove of 126 from 104 balls (21 fours, 1 six) is an 'extraaa innings' to remember - even if it is only Ruby saying so. The telly problem now about viewing Veeru playing a Sehwagonload of shots, about left eyeing Sourav Gang up with him for 117 from 109 balls (12 fours, 3 sixes), is that such a 192 night-stand only sets the tinsel 'tone' for Ruby & Co to make it the SonyMaxim to throw even more stardust in our eyes!

Viewers would argue that Ruby on Sony is but a hawaa kaa jhonka. I have a different outlook on the Prediktacky matter. An outlook derived from being a mindless witness to Khushwant Singh lowering Weekly standards 'before my eyes'. An outlook derived from being an eyewitness to that Bulbous Sardar's falling standards' style ultimately getting not only to be the accepted thing but the done thing. To wit, nothing is more difficult to sustain than for espnstar to keep raising cricket coverage standards. To nitwit, nothing is easier for showbuzzy SonyMax to do than to bring those standards snub-nosediving down. Make no mistake, the trivialising of cricket on TV has begun with a vengeance keeping in vandalic view the chalta-hai way SonyMax treated the showcasing of such a mega event as the Mini World Cup. In the mega-mega happening that is going to be the 2003 World Cup next, be sure the SonyMax female format is going to be duplicated in an idiom that surpasses anything SET-attempted so far.

What hurts like jahannum is the thought that the ICC, via SonyMax, should near vicariously have consigned Dalmiya's India to this level of telly tripe. Not that Khushwant Singh did not have good points in his editing, but what stood out bizarre here was his stated norm: "I want tits and bums." Not that Navjot Singh Sidhu does not throw up great points for debate, but what stays in the mind's eye is the shot being 'sixy' enough for the sexy airhostess to have had a ball. What do you say of a SonyMax VJ averring, 'Chalte chalte,' that Anil Kumble "has the makings of a terrific model"? The thing tragicomic about the SonyMax approach is that the live commentary itself remains within the telly cricketing beat, even if the line-up of 'casters and accosters here keeps you guessing about whom you are hearing when and where.

If it is Robin Singh yacking, you feel sad that his commentary lacks the punch his shotplay packed. If it is Sanjay spouting, you feel like telling this meritocrat that TV commentary is not all about technique, that it falls flat if the punchline is missing. But then hype is the name of the SonyMax game. The way Sehwag exploded in that 126, even Sachin (not out 9 off 20 balls) had to damp-squib coming after him. But for Barry Richards to say that he himself could not have stroked the ball better than Sehwag is laying it on a bit too Sakshi Tanwar-Smriti Malhotra Nerolac Parvati-Tulsi thick!

Come on Barry, single-handed you smashed 325, wand in hand, during a 6-hour play-day for South Australia vs Western Australia at Perth, 70-71. So have a Brian-Ten heart, Barry, when drawing TVIP comparisons! If Krish Srikkanth jazzes it up by habitually blinkingly observing that he could not himself recall playing an innings of Veeru's 126 shot-filled dimension, you accept it as the Peter Pan of Cricket delivering the SET dialogue opposite Charu. But for you, Barry, to put Veeru in the same-square bracket as 'The White Richards of World Cricket' is for us to discover TV as gone berserk.

In no way do I seek to underplay India's dream 8-wicket win over Mirror Long Face Nasser's England. Veeru simply blazed vividness in a canter by which Sourav merely had to 'take the ball up' from where Sehwag four-left off. This made for eye-riveting dishoom-dishoom TV. For all that, when truly great players studiedly get carried away on TV, it is the barometer of a fall in cricketing values there is no arresting. At this run rate, we prefer to view that Pepsippable spot as being, at the very least, well enacted. Glam Puss Kareena as the come-hither brunette comes over as a stunner. Supercat Shah Rukh going after this Kapoor Sex Kitty casts a spell all his own the way he ad libs: "Main kab se wait kar raha hoon - Cup laaoge, Cup laaoge. Kab aaoge, kab aaoge!" There is savoir-vivre to the way Shah Rukh utters: "Koie pressure naheen!"

"World Cup kie humein kya ichchha hogee - sub moh Maya hai!" comes as the sanctimoniously clinching follow-up. The audio-visual impact is as ear - and eye-catching as that pre-eminently South Indian MAX lady humming: "Om Crickataya Namah!" To think that this is about the only enduring image we carry of the Sony-Max 'Deewana bana de' dispensation. Why, oh why, did the TV 'comments' iring of the game we got from SonyMax have to verge on the airy-fairy? 'Brand' Kapil Dev as a SonyMax ambassador - and the Golden Age of Mediocrity in commentary it is! 'Ma Prem' namaskar, pray deliver us from this visual torture!

After SonyMax who? Who if not DD as the Windies are already here! What have we viewers (in no remote control) done to deserve this? For the choice diabolically to lie between SonyMax's 'extraaa innings' then and DD's laidback feedback now. Now espnstardom lost is espnstardom lost. Harsha, how we missed your solo style of emceeing in all that 'CharRuby' dueting - masquerading as anchoring! "Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself." Was not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle bang on the ball as he said that?