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Dada and Dravid – Just what the doctor ordered for!

On a day when everything goes wrong for Indian cricket, the only source of laughter for the sad Indian fans are the post match shows on the various news channels. The Men in Blue suffer more humiliation by the hands of the on-screen experts rather than their on-field opponents.

Kya Buddhe ho gaye hai Tendulkar? Pujara mein ghusi Dravid ki atma? Firki mein fasse Dhoni ke dhurandhar? –   become the most watched programs and the TRPs go through the roof.

However, these were easily avoidable with a single click of the remote and a sadistic smirk but when they become a part of LIVE cricket commentary, one is in serious trouble. This has been exactly the case with the much touted England in India series. The promos began with the Mishra family trying their hand on “Angrezon ka Band” and then it worsened with Shane Warne trying to convince the audience –  Jo baat Hindi mein hai, voh aur kahan!

However, disaster struck on the 15th of November when the broadcast began. Kapil Dev, Arun Lal, Rameez Raja and Navjot Singh Sidhu took cricket commentary to a different level. If the cricket on field was fun, the on air commentary was funnier! Sidhu cracked his whip with the bombastic (read mindless!) Sidhuisms and Rameez Raja made a mockery of himself by statements like - “Umesh Yadav ke paas pace hain, josh hain, jawani hai aur ab wickets bhi….”    

It was fun for a while but when the patriotic Hindi speaking Indian heart yearned for some serious cricket commentary, the finger obliged instantly by changing the channel. Though one ran the risk of running into Ravi “the cliched” Shastri and Laxman “God-knows-what-he-says” Sivaramakrishnan, the presence of the two true Indian legends made it worth the while.

Over the years, cricket has been through multiple transformations. Earlier, Cricket was watched on the field, read in the newspapers and heard on the radio. With the advent of television, cricket has become much more than just a game, transforming into a spectacle. Hawk eye, stump cams, speed guns, super “slow- mo”, snick-o-meters, hot spots and spider cams have not only improved the production quality, but have also enriched the viewing experience.  However, the real success of a production depends upon the commentary panel.

According to Sir Ian Botham,

“Cricket is full of theorists who can ruin your game in no time.”

True, cricket has more experts than players. Even the best commentators in the world are not necessarily the best players. The likes of John Arlott, Omar Qureshi, Tony Cozier, Henry Blofeld and of course Harsha Bhogle have only made cricket richer through their eloquent narrative. Even a few cricketing greats like Richie Benaud, Sunil Gavaskar, Bill Lawry and Sir Geoffrey Boycott have stamped their authority behind the mike as they did on field.

It is not the case anymore. The quality of cricket commentary has been on the decline since the last decade. Nowadays, the commentary box has become the old age home for the retired cricketers instead of true-bred cricket experts. More channels, more experts, leading to poorer coverage. The usage of cliches and misuse of (stupid!) phrases and idioms has cheapened the game, been a torture for the ears and has placed the post match shows at par with the comedy circuses on prime time.  The evident lack of knowledge has also been a glaring gaffe.

However, all is not lost yet. Two Indian legends have taken up the mantle to fix the nonsense on TV just as they did with the Indian side in the beginning of the 2000. Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid have taken cricket commentary by the scruff of the neck and have turned it on its head. The duo has brought in a fresh approach to commentary and has taken the aerial route with the conventional methods of cricket commentary. Their language is simple, understandable and their analysis is ‘just what the doctor ordered’ for Indian television. Both the youngsters (in TV commentary years, they are) have strong, yet logical opinions on the game and the cricketers. They refrain from unnecessary criticism and do not put the players to sword. They criticize tactics, strategies, shot selection assertively but never go overboard with it.

Similar to their playing days, they have struck a beautiful partnership behind the mike as well. If Dada teaches a lesson or two about how to use flamboyance with class, Dravid offers a straight bat when analyzing a situation. While Dravid is more restrained when it comes to criticizing players, Dada prefers to give it the full Monty with a dash of humor. His comments on Shahid Afridi after the T20 World Cup left the audience rolling on the floor with laughter. However, there has been no viciousness or personal attacks in their criticism and it shows that they know what it takes to be out there. Maybe because they were once the victims of crass criticism, there is an evident empathy towards the players when both these stalwarts are on air. Even when provoked and pushed, their answers are balanced and free from biases.

Apart from their intelligent analysis, their on-air banter is a sheer joy for the listeners. For instance, after Sehwag scored a hundred in the first test, Ganguly shared his amazement of how Sehwag has transformed himself into a fine opener after starting off as a middle order batsman and then Dravid struck….

Ganguly: He was pushed up the order to become an opener.

Dravid (cheekily): By whom?

Dada (as direct as it gets): By the captain of that time after consulting with the vice captain.

Another instance of such outstanding banter was when Ganguly asked Dravid if ever he had hit a six to get to a hundred. Dravid, being his modest self, replied… “Never had the courage Dada, never had the courage…”

Whether be it Dravid reminding Collingwood about how India slammed Australia after following on or be it Ganguly giving it back to Shane Warne when quizzed about his toss fiasco, this duo has definitely set a much elevated standard for the rest to follow. Will they be able to change the face of Cricket commentary? Yes, no or may be - all three results are possible. The fellow commentators may take a leaf out of their book and change their style or may stick to their own. But if they do, as Ravi Shastri says…. “The-crowds-will-get-their-money’s-worth and Cricket will be the real winner!”

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