October 09, 2005

INDIAN CRICKET: 2005 –1983

Do cricket repeats glamorize Indian cricket and encourage viewers to live in the past? Is this part of a greater conspiracy?
By Gaurav Sethi

Play that Simon & Garfunkel song in your head, the one that goes like, ‘…what a time time it was... ” while the sports channels shove repeats of India Glorious down your throat.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There was a time when I would yearn for repeats of the Prudential World Cup win. For years in the 80s, I must have lived off that game. I can still recall the distant year of our family holiday to Shimla, just because it was in the summer of 1983. After all, for most of us born post independence, the World Cup win was as big, if not bigger than independence itself. These ‘winning thoughts’ would usually occupy my mind during our team’s excellent run post that world cup. They were times when cricket appeared to serve the better well being the nation - when you could see Kapil Dev’s match turning catch and Shastri’s swerving his champion Audi, many times over.

But it’s only when team India’s mileage is rock bottom that you really end up seeing these repeats. Not too long ago, I recall one of our more patriotic sport’s channels showing the 1983 Prudential Cup repeats like a breaking news story. So no matter when you put the channel on, Kapil was opening the bubbly on that famous Lord’s balcony. Another favourite repeat off late has been Ganguly’s hundreds. Not to mention, the innumerable wins against top teams like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Matter of fact, just the other day I caught a nail biter versus Zimbabwe in Australia, think we won by 6 runs.

Of course, it’s when the Ganguly Glorious repeats are telecast (part of some programme that hails great hundreds) that one can do a ‘before-after’ analysis of sorts, and see the captain’s fall from grace. That Ganguly has gone by two names (at least in cricketing circles), Prince of Calcutta and Dada, is demonstrated by TV packages from the two phases. There was the Prince Phase with the lazy leaning off drives, when Ganguly was Gower like, Godly et al, in his execution. Everybody waxed eloquent in the box; Boycott endeared himself to millions of Indians with his cockney Prince of Kalcutta title. And at the risk of repeating Dravid for the millionth time, the Prince did come close to the man upstairs –though there are no accounts to prove that Christ or Krishna ever wielded a bat. But then, you get the drift, right?

Next came Ganguly-the-bludgeoning-bully, who would jump out of his crease and tonk the likes of Pollock at his peak, over covers for six. That he was such an incredible slogger was demonstrated in the Dada avtaar of Ganguly. Dada was the kind of guy who even got under the skin of the iceman Steve Waugh – by first making Waugh wait at the toss, and then unleashing Waugh’s own mental disintegration tactics on the Aussies themselves. Case in point, the close in fielders who sledged Steve Waugh and co, and made bunnies out of Ponting and Gilchrist in the now famous India Australia series that we won 2-1 Unfortunately, tactics have no place in the action packed replays.

Interestingly, one of Ganguly’s biggest critics at that time, in the Indian press and on commentary, was a certain Ian Chappell who lashed out at Dada for just about everything - from his late arrival at the toss to the abysmally slow over rate (pretty much the complaint for the series). On Greg Chappell’s appointment as coach, Ian Chappell stated in his syndicated column that he wouldn’t take the job of Indian coach for all the money in the world. Ironic or what?

Anyway, back to Saurav Ganguly, who appears to be going through yet another phase – though this one doesn’t look if it’s going to win him any airtime on the highlights or the classic repeat packages of tomorrow. If anything, he could serve as an excellent endorsee for Fevicol’s cult advertising campaign – as the guy whose feet refuse to budge at the crease. Come, left arm spinners or debutant Zimbabwean bowlers, he now appears to live in mortal fear of losing his wicket. Of course, every now and then, he goes berserk, charges down like the Dada of old, misconnects, and oops…gets out.

But amidst all these live feeds, there are some mind-boggling Ganguly innings - The twin hundreds against England when he first became a household name. The 180 plus in an ODI in Taunton, England, versus Sri Lanka, and last but by far not the least, his 163 against Australia in Brisbane.

In fact, if they ever did a rating, Saurav Ganguly would definitely be in the top 5 Indian players, on sensational cricket repeats. And if a biopic on Saurav were to be made, it would make for some great viewing - replete with showering sixes, shirt flinging, alleged associations, frantic huddles, manic exaltations, counter allegations, the works. Arguably, Ganguly might be the most interesting character that Indian cricket has ever seen. But unless he can add to his own “India Glorious” packages, it might well be another predictable ending, like so many Bollywood films, drained of ideas.

Ganguly aside, the biggest draw for great innings’ repeats has always been Tendulkar. Whether he’s is in the team, or elbowed out, you can always watch some memorable innings by Tendu on telly. This in no way takes away from his present abilities as a player, but it does interestingly, bring to mind, a conspiracy theory.

In addition to a significant team contract (that can fetch Grade A players in excess of Rs. 1 crore per annum), the big bucks come from ad revenues. And at present, team India’s value is well below par. Ad contracts and fresh endorsement deals aren’t happening for quite a few players. Some of these players are also the face of various sports’ channels. By marketing them with renewed gusto they can at least keep their brave deeds fresh in everyone’s minds. And somewhat erase any lack of form, or absence from the team through injury.

It’s as if, the sports’ channels (the film distributors), the board (the film producers) and the players (the actors) are all part of one well oiled Bollywood machine. They ruthlessly market their wares, irrespective of present form or folly. And like an aged actor, gone to seed, hope to recreate the magic of a Big B. Because, as in the case of the Big B, it just takes one good innings to cash in. Till that time, like the government did in George Orwell’s 1984, they will continue to redefine the truth. Till it does indeed, become the truth.


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shakester said...

interesting write, except I'd say you're looking too much into it. channels dont have much to show these days what with India not playing in the off season, the cricket rights up in the air for a year, and an indian sports tv viewership that is loathe to move away from anything but cricket- indian cricket at that. So if a channel has to recycle, it might as well recycle that which is relatively "watchable".

Its that simple, really, though it might be more intriguing if it weren't.

Arun M said...

It's money, baby...nothing else! The so-called 'leaders' in sports-casting are fighting over the crumbs thrown by the BCCI by way of telecast rights, and while they claw at each other, they need the viewers to keep tuned. What better way than some old 'flings-with-wins' re-runs? Though, I do wonder whether any of the fans keeps track, considering Ganguly & Chappell are providing good entertainment, live!