Monday, February 21, 2011

Sourav Ganguly – Refreshing the face of Indian Commentary

For a country obsessed with its cricketers and contributing a lion’s share in enhancing the game’s richness, it is surprising that not many Indian cricketers have managed to ride on the wave after their on field sell by date. Except for Sunil Gavaskar and Ravi Shastri hardly has any Indian cricketer done justice to their ability of narrating and analyzing the game from the other side of the boundary line. Among the players who hung their boot after 1995 it is only Sanjay Manjrekar who comes close to comparison to the two microphone stalwarts. Barring a few who have been promising with still a lot to prove, others have either failed to express their thoughts appropriately or have been criticized for their associations with media houses that use cricket as a tool to enhance the TRP ratings of their ‘soap operas’.

Australia’s Channel 9 and England Sky Sports’ have been the favored employment destination for their cricketers who have wished to associate themselves with the game after retiring without being directly involved but the Indian scenario is quite contrasting. Not only did Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) have no constant broadcaster for its home matches for long till Neo Sports’ emergence, but the communication skills which is the oxygen for an ex cricketer have always raised questions about their credibility beyond playing the game, probably the two key reasons why popular names have slipped into oblivion until handed over a honorary post by the board.

The taken for granted Indian audience’s patience was slowly hitting the roof top and the reviews of the broadcasters was visible on social networking sites where fans have openly shared their dismay ever since the medium has been made available to them, over the quality and content of the voice that brought the game into the living rooms. Not only had the Indian Premier League (IPL) made the commentators worthy a sales manager of a fast moving consumer good (FMCG) company but for an intelligent cricket watcher who keeps a tab of the telecast in Australia, South Africa and England, India formed the bottom end of the expected standards axis. The monotony had to be broken for better ratings and financial interest, if not for anything else and if anyone has heard to Sourav Ganguly in the two world cup match analysis shows that he has featured in so far has to congratulate ESPN Star for their master stroke.

The present generation hardly remembers watching Ravi Shastri or Sunil Gavaskar bat, but Sourav Ganguly remains fresh in their memories. Right from his burst into the international circuit with his Lord’s special in 1996 till his retirement in 2008 hardly has any other cricket divided opinions, the way he has. As a captain he was pivotal in setting the foundation for India’s resurgence as a top cricket team and allowed his hand picked boys to redefine the meaning of aggression and body language. The approach not only stirred the emotion of the entire nation but also invited for handful of controversies and he soon became a synonym for India’s attitudinal shift from gentlemen to ‘give back what you take’ boys, especially after his Lord’s balcony antics on 13th July 2002.

A slight observation confirms that nothing much has changed in his role as an analyst at ESPN Star’s studio. He may not be artistic but he is blunt, straightforward and is willing to call spade, a spade. His technical view points on game situations not only leave you wondering the reasoning skills he possesses but also leaves you wanting for more. Having played his last first class as recently as December 2010 and with 424 international match experience he brings in a sense of fresh air into an atmosphere that had become stagnant for quite some time now. His insights from dressing room perspective; trusted bait for listeners since the evolution of sports commentary, have not only kept the audience on their toes but also have given the fans an entry into the thought process of the cricketers featuring in this world cup.

The passion in his presentation is visible and if his progress is at the rate what one is seeing then it won’t be late before he earns another set of original fan base for his new profession. He has got an entry into a much bigger gamut which would have been far from possible had he been picked up by any of the franchisee for the fourth edition of IPL and knowing his penchant for the big stage, this is just the beginning of his second calling. Tomorrow if the world witnesses Sachin Tendulkar or Rahul Dravid in the commentator avatar then Dada deserves to be credited for opening yet another flood gate.

May the breed grow and continue to spice up cricket discussions across living rooms.

Sidhanta Patnaik
21st February 2011
Marthahalli, Bangalore

P.S: As I am about to publish this piece Harsha Bhogle, Dermot Reeve and Sunil Gavaskar wished him on his wedding anniversary

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