Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Chewing gum for the eyes in cricket times...

TV is chewing gum for the eyes.
Frank Lloyd Wright

If there is one item that has changed life, per se, it's television. And television and computers have spawned a jungle of statistics.

Observe the excitement over Shane Warne's
700tth wicket. Why seven hunderd, sort of in between ? After all, we always talk about 100 runs or a century; Tendulkar achieving the milestone of 10,000 runs. No one ever heard of anyone celebrating anything 700, 7000 or say, 300,

Shane Warne announces he is retiring at the end of this series, and immediately a hype is built up . Anything-99 is always a suspenseful situation. So television types went ballistic over 700 wickets, tributes poured in from Cricket Australia, folks rushed to get tickets for the Sydney Test. Poor Glenn Mcgrath got pulled along in the wake, till he had to issue a denial later. Inexplicably, he then shortly, anounces his retirement at the end of the 2007 World Cup.

Television demands drama.

Every twitch hovering about your lips and every tear descending from your eyes is recorded for posterity. Sledging, hitherto restricted to the pitch, suffers, due to the presence of microphones near the stumps, And gnarling bowlers have spawned an entire generation of lip readers, who can tell what kind of words are being exchanged by adversaries. Your gait, as you return to the pavillion is scrutinised and analysed, till you feel like just lying down on the grass right there, alone with your thoughts, after a flying career .

Cricket they say, is a gentlemens'game. That was probably true till the operative adjective was "gentle".

Whoever heard of , say, Bapu Nadkarni, exulting over a wicket, pumping his arms, shaking his fist and twirling the ball while doing aeroplane like action runs on the field ? Prasanna and Chandrashekhar often endeavured to hold up the tail of the batting side; so does Sreesanth. Notwithstanding the fact that I grew up listeneing to radio commentary of cricket matches due to the non existence of TV, I dont ever recall anyone ever reporting on Prasanna et al dancing down the wicket , concluding with a bharat natyam /breakdance mudra at the end of it all, to the complete consternation of the bowler.....
Dramatics certainly existed. Gilchrist and Nari Contractor are proof enough. One ended his career.

Somehow, one cannot imagine the Nawab of Pataudi whipping of his shirt and twirling it from the pavillion balcony, and Gundappa Vishwanath was more comfortable exchanging cool smiles with the bowler, while whipping the ball regularly beyond the ropes.

We never knew the length of a batsman's hai and frankly, it never mattered to us whether he even HAD hair. And here we have M. S. Dhoni, celebrating his arrival on the cricket scene , so to speak, with a drastic coloring of his hair, appearing immediately in motorcycle commercials, where he compares his milk drinking with the vehicles gas guzzling..... (actually he is shown to lose out. I wish someone thought of using him for a "drink milk" commercial, hopefully , free)

And then there is this thing about the sunscreen stuff they plaster on.

By and large, sun strength on the subcontinent has remain unchanged over, say the last 50 years. The indian skin, I like to think has some built in protection native to our natural habitat. Unlike white skin, with its absence of melanin, we do not tend to suffer from serious tanning issues.

Television, has proven to be a fertile ground for multinational sports cosmetics comapnies, who hitherto spied only on teams from colder, western countries. So you see Sehwag splattered with the white stuff on his face and around his lips, Zaheer Khan, manages to improve on his ferocious looks at the batsmen, as he takes his final bowling leap, his mouth surrounded by a border of the white stuff, glaing at the batsman. Muttering through the white stuff is even better.

They all lookalike, were it not for their one -day match colours.

Strangely though, except for matches held in India, and possibly Pakistan, most of the time there is very little audience watching these histrionics. The game is being played , not for the people, but for TV audiences. Where Cricket Control Boards rake in the Moolah selling the TV rights.

When the TV cameras pan across the stadium, giving their commentators a breather, one sees empty stands, clean green hillock like outfields, devoid of spectators. And all the while, a dumbstruck captive TV audience inhales and exhales tension with every ball bowled by Sreesanth, Munaf, Irfan and company, and every cut,glance and swipe, reverse or otherwise exhibited by a Tendulkar or Dravid. Traffic actually reduces on the main thouroughfares of Mumbai, and you can actually get place to sit in buses and trains.

And while we are on records and staistics, why not go back to the days, when radio commentary was still an idea in someones head.

It may have occurred to some that Warnes 700 wickets will shine only till someone else comes up with 703 or something. The upper limit is adjustible. With the amount of cricket being played today, thanks to TV sponsorships, its a matter of time before the norm will be 20,000 runs and 1000 wickets, all upwardly adjustable.

So we need to go back to when Teat Cricekt first began. Between England and Australia. I am sure there werent hundreds of guys compiling statistics then, but some performances get remembered....

Charles Bannerman of Australia set a number of records in the first England Australia Test.. He faced the first ball in test cricket, scored the first run, the first four and the first century. He scored 165 not out in Australia’s 245 all out. Of all the records he set in that match one record still holds – his 165 constituted 67.34% of Australia’s total (245) – the highest percentage by a batsman in a completed test innings.

Charles Bannerman scored the first test century. Billy Murdoch, who played for both Australia and England scored the first test double century (he also hit the first ever six in test cricket). Andy Sandham of England scored the first triple century (in what was his last test match), and Brian Lara has scored the only quadruple century.

And since we began with Shane Warne, it is only fitting that we end with some other bowlers with records of some other types.

Who is the worst bowler in test cricket? It is Rawl Lewis of the West Indies whose three match test career saw a bowling average of 318 (the worst in test history) at a strike rate of 585. However, Roger Wijesuriya of Sri Lanka has the worst strike rate of 586 - though he has a better average of 294!

TV, anyone ?

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