Indian fans all over the world were very excited when the BCCI announced that the team would be embarking upon a long season of Test cricket at home. Over the past couple of years, the viewers have been spoilt for choice in the limited-overs formats of the game but have been left wanting for more in Tests.
Growing up, watching Test cricket was an absolute pleasure. My mind immediately traces back to Tests between India and Australia. They were hard fought battles, not only physically but also technically. As a kid growing up, listening to the commentary was an absolute pleasure.
The likes of Tony Greig, Geoffrey Boycott and Michael Holding helped to break down the nuances of the game superbly to an average viewer. Tactics were discussed, strategies were elaborated upon and phases of play were immortalised due to the words spoken.
Fast-forward 15 years to the era of commercialization, social media and T20 cricket, commentary has become a bit of a joke.
A particular passage of play during the 3rd day of the first Test between India and New Zealand left me wanting to pull my hair out. The 20-minute spell of play can be best described by the words 'cricket action described by bizarre selfie talk'
India had bundled out New Zealand for 262 and were adding to their lead with Murali Vijay and Cheteshwar Pujara looking extremely comfortable at the crease. The way in which they were dominating the bowlers left the commentators with no choice but to discuss the rage of the century - 'selfies'
The men in question here were Sanjay Manjrekar - the primary culprit for such crimes, Sunil Gavaskar - who is slowly deteriorating into mediocrity and Simon Doull - a mere spectator, a foreigner here.
Sanjay Manjrekar and Sunil Gavaskar have become experts at this kind of commentary during the IPL, where action off the field often takes precedence.
Bizarre selfie talk
As India were building on a 100 run lead, the cameras shifted to the crowds where a couple of women where spotted casually clicking a selfie to mark the occasion. It was highlighted by the commentators. One was hoping it would just be a passing comment.
But no. The action over the next couple of overs shifted to the faces in the crowd with the commentators analyzing, scrutinizing and breaking down the phenomenon of taking photos with a front-facing camera in a much manner than they describe the play.
It all started when Simon Doull mentioned that he doesn't really enjoy taking selfies, highlighting his old-school ways. Sanjay Manjrekar responded saying he emphatizes with the Kiwi as you are often forced to go cheek-to-cheek with strangers while taking these photographs. Oh the misery.
Did it end here? No. They went on to highlight that having a longer arm helped you in this case. If you had a short arm, your cheeks would definitely be in contact. But if you are better endowed, you might just be lucky enough to avoid such contact. What with sweat dripping down in the hot conditions in Kanpur, that would definitely help. Stop it, please.
A couple of overs had passed. Vijay was struggling against the persistent spin while Pujara looked more at ease.
We were then informed that as per their research, one’s eyes go a little bit narrow while clicking a picture, adding to the appeal of the person when being photographed. This passage of play hit its low point when they proceeded to describe various 'positions' that people can take selfies in. The cricket had taken a back seat and selfies had taken over.
While fans are appreciative of the fact that commentators describe the play in such a light-hearted manner these days, this time they had taken it over the edge.
Only a couple of days earlier they had discussed Sunil Gavaskar's new hairstyle as he was sporting a ponytail. He described a wonderful story of how he did so to show his grandkid one could actually look cool with a ponytail, the fans lapped it up, enjoying the fascinating insight into one of the country’s greatest batsmen. They would love to hear more about this, or stories of this kind. When the action shifts to trivial matters like selfies, one does miss the calming influence of a Harsha Bhogle.
The commentary box is filled with legends, cricketers that have filled our lives with joy, given us moments to savour, passages of play that will stay with us forever.
One only hopes that they don't descend into mediocrity like this spell, that it was a mere aberration.