February 26, 2007

Radio Gaga!

No two ways about it: I favour the spoken word over the written one. And given a chance I would have articulated myself here in ‘talk’ rather than ‘write’. Almost like www.cricinfo.com where you have options to both listen and read. My guess is Ian Chappell has his analysis taped first, and then his flunky jots it down on a PC. And don’t we all know how the Chappells love to talk.

Anyway, I’m no different. At 4 pm when All India Radio (A.I.R.) buzzed me to drop by and yap about the Indian team selection, I swiftly swung into action. But breaking news on the channels wasn’t exactly path breaking – pretty much the same scrolls, with the same fifteen names. What next? Get on to the aforementioned website and lap up everybody’s take. Not a bad idea, ol’ sport!

Made my notes. Simon says became Dravid says – “key 6-7 players, specific roles, not manage but Smart”…and so on. And yeah, no Powar! Sehwag’s in. Kaif’s out. Kumble’s in. Raina’s out. The stuff that will keep a nation busy if WC 07 goes down the toilet. Ok, we’re done. Time to go.

Wait, need to gargle – don’t want my voice all cracked up while we’re Kaif-ing away about the fielding lacks. But then radio’s pluses far outweigh the minuses - no makeup, no blinding lights, and you can dress real sloppy and nobody will notice. I swapped my faded tracks for faded jeans. Now it really was time to go.

I was at the A.I.R. Gate No. 1. Bang opposite the glorious RBI Bank babes’ statues. As I peered through the gate, the fatalistic last RDB-Radio station scene flashed through my head. And just then, the guard swung open the gate – he’d been tipped off to allow car no. 3391 in. Yeah, that sure felt good. Entry into a ‘No Entry’ area.

So, here I was at the reception area replete with antiquated radios; another world really, before we got gaga over CDs. Made a mental note to take the old Philips warhorse out. And then a wait in the VIP area; liked that, specially the sign that read V.I.P room. Also, I was alone there. Assumed I was the only V.I.P. in all of A.I.R. But then, it was 6 pm.

Contract signed, we were cracking ready. Sports’ journo, Rajaraman and I were going to talk team selection, first in Hindi, then in English. The studio was not what I expected – as there were no visible mikes. The mike was undercover, literally – hidden well within the table.

Beyond the corner glass wall, the producer gave me the go-ahead. And while we rambled on about Dravid, Pathan and Powar, I made a few keen observations – 1) How sports’ fanatics can rattle off a team of fifteen players with similar calm and devotion as the Gayatri Mantra. 2) How certain names are spoken in tandem – like Kaif and Raina, Harbhajan and Kumble, Saurav and Sachin, Chappell and Dravid; while others like Pathan and Powar are uttered in isolation - How one’s selection and the other’s omission were going to be hot topics. 4) How, if you follow the game sincerely, chances are, you will have the trappings of a selector sans zonal bias. 5) And how, talking about cricket, be it on radio, TV, the moon, or here, is always delightful. Like Raj said, “it’s like a living room conversation.” And I think, you can take cricket out of the living room; but you can never take the living room out of cricket. For the armchair critic, there’s nothing more relaxing. Therapeutic almost.

That it sure was. 10 minutes in Hindi wrapped, we dived into 15 of English. After which, we walked to our cars, still talking about the team. The selection was done. The show was over. But we weren’t through yet. When we said our goodbyes, the soundbytes of V.V.S. Laxman were still abuzz in my ears. When I drove out, I started calculating the possible eleven from the fifteen. It struck me: I was saying the names aloud. And must resemble some freak from that T.V. show, “Motormouth”. That however didn’t deter me from name-calling.

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