If you had walked up to me and asked me to describe in a single sentence about the first two days of play in this Adelaide Test, I would have taken a deep breath, and using all my cricketing knowledge, said, “Sorry, I don’t answer unknown people’s questions."
Just kidding. The first two days of play threw up plenty of action that you, if you were an Indian fan, had experienced several times before. It was really one deja vu telescoping into another deja vu into another and another. I mean how many times have we seen the Indian top order fail even before most of us in India could wake up and switch on the TV? This has probably been the case in every series in Australia since the tour of 1978-79. I distinctly remember that as young children many of us would wake up, and before any of us could try to turn on the television, our parents would break the sorry news to us, “you moron, this is 1978. There is not much television in Indian households yet."
Getting back to this Test, on the second day, things didn’t improve much for India. The bowling let the Aussie tail wag after getting their frontline batsmen out for a few. The Aussie rearguard action was spearheaded by Travis Head, who has the game and, more importantly, the name for lazy journalists to take note of and make silly puns out of in headlines.
The events on the field seemed such a re-run from many previous series that the only thing possibly different was there was no Steve Bucknor to hand yet another dubious decision against India. But Nigel Llong is there. He is one bloke who will not let India miss Bucknor.
But aside from the actual game, there were a few new things. The telecast, for example. This time around, there was no effervescent Bill Lawry trilling at the top of his voice, his patented words, “it’s all happening at the Sydney Cricket Ground." This was because of two reasons. One, the match was not happening at the SCG. Second, the cricket telecast in Australia has moved from Channel Nine to Channel Seven and Fox Sports with a new set of commentators. The two channels have roped in so many former cricketers to give commentary that they also probably miked up, we don’t know, Stan McCabe and Victor Trumper from their graves.
Channel Seven has been saying that it would infuse more technology and camera angles that would take the viewers further close to the action. This makes many of us to worry, because different camera angles would mean more use of that blighted spider camera, which has to be the second most irritating thing in TV viewer experience. The first one, of course, will always remain Navjot Singh Sidhu’s commentary.
The only edge-of-the-seat thrill that the remotely-controlled camera, operated on a barely-visible slender steel string, provides is in keeping you guessing whether the string will snap, and will the bulky camera fall on any of the player’s head.
On such an occasion, you, as a responsible spectator, can have only two heart-felt wishes:
1) Let not the camera come down on any of the unwary players.
2) If the first prayer fails, your back-up prayer is: If indeed the wire snaps, then at least the player to come under the blow of the falling camera be: Mitchell Starc.
Of course, I am joking. But you know it. Poor Mitchell Starc, we have nothing against him. In fact, he deserves our sympathy for the valid reason that he had turned out for RCB.
Anyway, Channel Seven says it is attempting to revolutionise its coverage through in-match interviews, like what a player or the coach feels during the course of play. This is a pretty good strategy if the plan is to suffocate the viewers with the most meaningless terms and phrases heard outside of MBA classrooms.
Since the media is constantly pestering for quotes, the players and the support staff have come up with a lingo that we have to call sports babble. It is a brilliant language comprising several terms and phrases that convey basically nothing. “Bowl in the right areas." “Execute our plans." “Control only the controllables." “Process is important." “Step up to the plate." Focus on the task ahead.”
Your modern-day players can utter these lines in any random order (“we will execute our controllables, bowl the plate and step up the process") and none of us in the media will even notice. What we need is just quotes to fill news space. The bright side is this job of doling out quotes can never be outsourced to AI system, and that is mainly because most reasonable robots will refuse to take up this work on the grounds that it is too cliched and boring.
Channel Seven is also replacing the famed ‘Daddles’, the duck that used to accompany, on screen, any player out for a duck. The new image will have the voice of — we are not kidding — Shane Warne. I did not catch the new duck during the telecast. But my hot money is on it resembling — this being about ducks in India-Australia series — Ajit Agarkar.
But we will surely miss the agreeable Daddles. The new image, we hope, ‘steps up to the plate.’
(The author, a journalist from Chennai, is known to take a Crank’s look at everything in life. Cricket is no exception. He Tweets @kbalakumar)