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   With television temporarily forbidden... (December 16, 1987)

With television temporarily forbidden, because it is felt it would strain the eyes, I have been listening to the cricket commentaries on the radio. It is like going back 20 years in time, to the period of the Maharajkumar of Viziangram and Vijay Merchant exchanging friendly and pointless chatter, with occasional moments of enlightment from the venerable Anandji Dossa ("thank you, Anandji")

The three-day match in Pune against fluke-champions North Zone had two commentators exclusively in Marathi. And I mean exclusive; the Hindi commentators often use English cricket terminology, here, through the three days, they used only Marathi, devising ingenuous complaining; I was impressed and I was even more impressed and I was even more impressed with the technical depth of their know-ledge of the game, which they often brought out.

The two English commentators at the match, unfortunately, were a disaster. They spoke English with wide Marathi accents.

The one-dayer in Nagpur had tow inarticulate locals. It was like at the time of the match, they suddenly found they had forgotten to appoint any commentators and picked up tow persons from the audience. One of them was a doctor who spent the whole day repeating how in a limited overs match it did not matter whether a run came from a batsman or from a bye or leg-bye, so long as it came.

And so we come to Bombay and the current Test. The old company of Anant Setalvad and Suresh Saraiya are doing the English commentary. Setalvad is a precise and to the point as ever, like a sauve and sophisticated Dr. Narotam Puri. At least you know you have tuned in to a cricket match when you listen to him.

Saraiya, I find, has in the intervening years grown in confidence. Unfortunately, he has become over confident. He talks too much - too many disconnected ideas in single sentences, tenses changing, grammar squandered, the accent more hybrid than ever. In the old days, when he was still an enthusiastic learner, he was unconsciously funny; now he is just irritating.

To continue with cricket, there is a lot of talk of the stands being empty, though a crowd of 10,000 to 12,000 may be considered as small only according to Wankhede standards.

However, to blame the cricket board for the lack of public enthusiasm is not correct. The board is to be blamed for a lot of things, including the fuss it is making over Vengasarkar's very fair and intellingent column, but it cannot be blamed for the lack of people in the stadium. For this the Indian cricket team is to be blamed. If it had won the Reliance Cup, the crowds would have come to see it play the West Indies.

And talking of cricket across the fence, I think finally England has won, apology or no apology. Because Pakistan has allowed England to select the umpires.

 
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