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Saturday, January 21, 2006


Over the years, my sports-watching on the telly has been with a resolute finger on the Mute-button except on the odd night where after a hard day’s work, I could extract some pleasure from listening to obdurate footer fans holler in the wind on cold wintry days, singing off-key but loudly. The esteem that I held sports commentators in my younger days has undergone an inevitable erosion, so for all I care, the commentary box could have been blown to smithereens—may not have made an i. of difference.

Part of the agony has been caused by lunatics let loose with a microphone and the whole planet as their audience. Add a dash of dubious international experience and one is held hostage to their warbled wisdom, annoying anecdotes and extra-terrestrial modes of speech. Let us ignore cricket for the time being, that could fill a train to Pakistan; tennis coverage is full of VJ Amritraj whose abysmal tennis knowledge is compounded by his verbosity, whose every exclamation is a plagiarized one and whose locker room stature is too daunting to ignore. In Athletics there is seldom much to say as the action is over far too quickly, but for the protracted long distance battles or field events, Steve Cram and others fail to translate the onsite excitement to the viewer. Gillian Clarke’s shrillness is exacerbated by her maudlin recounting of even engrossing matches. By and large, football commentators are aware on ceding ground to the decibel levels in the stands and are suitably subdued.

That leaves us with golf, which as a spectator sport is as rivetting as watching an egg hatch, the mosquito drone of F-1 and others has me reaching for skin protection, basketball is too confusing, and the rest is silence.

Of late, the latest sports channel on the Indian C & S firmament caught my attention—hockey coverage when the whole nation steadfastly ignores it, live Davis Cup action, and presence of an actual contemporary tennis player who was more than adequate.

A round-the-year challenge made to my folks is that a prominent Indian channel that prides itself on its professionalism will never manage one sports coverage section, without an error, just one. Borne out on the two days that I mistakenly tuned into their show, surely the worst sports anchor in the history of Indian television—whose grasp of any game is appalling, unintelligible and long years of admired accents have left her rudderless and exasperating. One tennis match set at the Aussie Open was pronounced as having ended 9-5 ( Ed-Where are you, Jahangir Khan !), and the very next day, a score of 6-6 was displayed in a completed match. I am not even getting started on so-called qualitative matters. And this is what privatization has done for us, Hurrah ! Sometimes, silence is indeed golden.


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