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Monday, January 09, 2006

CRIC IN FO(MENT)

In sport, a great deal of superstition goes into an individual placing himself when the gong goes and play is called. Normally successful sportsmen and sportswomen have been known to astonishing lengths to absolve themselves of being at the spot when play is called. And against this , publications have surpassed themselves in pulling out all stops in ensuring that their fare is picked up, consumed and has the readers coming back for more. (Ed-There was a magazine of ponderous academic intent that did not even have a date when it began, but thereby hangs another tale !)

Printed by A S Vadiwala and published by Krishna Tewari on behalf of Infomedia Ltd., the first (dated ) issue of Cricinfo (magazine ) hit the stands recently and my curiosity aroused, a cellophane-wrapped copy found its way. A nod to the slew of slick advertising that it boasts of and bikes, cars, lifestyle equipment, fuel, and state-of-the-art furniture made it clear the kind of readership it hankered after.

The laboured introduction by Sambit Bal drones on about the splendid heritage and the preponderance of quality writing in the field, and proffers aspirations of valuable cherished material now on print as the raison d’ etre of the entry of the monthly publication into the admittedly crowded arena of public cricketing mindspace.

An interesting aside is that it already has a letters to the ed column, the most catchy being an epistle who wanted medical research to reveal why left-arm fast bowlers do not reach the speeds achieved by right-handers.

Copious plans have been hatched to evoke memories of a TV-less and almost by inference public memory-less era, tales of craft and guile long forgotten and treading on the scabrous bylanes of pop coverage in the form of umpires and stadia. There are several articles spouting various personal and occasionally readable views on favourite cricketers, icons and villains, commentators and the like. For the avid historian, there are oodles of print to lap up as grovelling writers genuflect to talents of admired cricketers of unprepossessing aspect. Recreations of matches and players witnessed in the flesh always arrest the reader in midflight and that was the best part of the voluminous 122 pages for me. The endeavour to familiarize a greenhorn to the glories and chutzpah of yore bear fruition, if only because of the array of authors unleashed almost in cohesion.

Contemporary coverage is less riveting, as ball-by-ball accounts of dreary matches are recounted by tired hands and dulled minds, and even the Pak-Eng series angst has all the appeal of a potted plant growing.. Dravid grants a 29 minute interview and gets a vivid eulogy in an imbalanced piece of awed adoration. Lalit Modi, President of the Rajasthan Cricket Association is an unlikely hero of another that smells, nay reeks, of corporate skullduggery. The quirky antics of the Calcutta cricket fan are analysed in Freudian detail, and a “japery” yarn on the Aus-SA tussle is as flat as the track at Premadasa was. A narrative on the (fairly obvious) threat of Paki potency is upstaged by The Butcher of Najafgarh talking through ( his hat) on his thinking process (sic) during his fetching 155 at Chennai. An interview with Greggie’s vision and Frazer’s executionary prowess fails to settle on any results achieved through his methods and is interspersed with some Dilton Doiley-ish observations on the radiance of the duo’s analytical machinations. The unbearable Bhogle waxes eloquent on the aural charms of Tony Cozier. Whew !

Where Cricinfo fails perceptibly is its predilection with current occurrences to the point where viewed with a hand-lens, glossy blandishment is extolled as the gleam of genuine refulgence, and relative lightweights acquire alarming wholesomeness. Another feature looked forward to was domestic coverage, which dishearteningly didn’t get much more than a footnote. That it did find mention is itself progressive in this day and age ! Bland and unimaginative photography, ne’er a caption worth the name; omissions of the distaff side of the game hardly live up to the “big picture” that Bal promises in his write-up. And for the grammatical errors that have insidiously seeped in past zealous proof-readings might forgotten but not quite forgiven !

In all, certainly another welcome entrant to the fold of sports journalism but with runs to score before the voracious sports-lover echoes “I’ll be back !”





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