ANUJ KUMAR

As the market goes gaga over IPL, here is a reality check.

One country, one passion! This is how MAX pitched the second season of the IPL. But as the tournament gets into its final stages, the passion seems to be purely for lucre and glamour. The game is just incidental.

The commentators have openly embraced their roles as salesmen. Even success is branded now. Every time a player accomplishes a feat, the commentator goes shrill and describes it as a Citi moment of success. Similarly every time the ball flies over the boundary it is termed as a DLF Maximum. When the moments of success are few and far between, the poor commentator chips in with phrases like ‘if he had taken this catch it would have been a Citi moment of success’ apparently to save the day for the sponsor! When the time to show the package of maximums come they regain their original status because the package is sponsored by Hyundai.

The likes of Sunil Gavaskar are no longer wary of hosting a post-match award ceremony; the much revered Robin Jackman has had no qualms in interviewing Ishant Sharma standing on his chair and L. Sivaramakrishnan reports from the Honda bike, meant for the man of the match.

Despite all those tall claims of family entertainment, as the camera caresses the cheerleaders, there are times when the frame borders on the lewd. Some of the girls make gestures unbecoming of the sport. And it seems one of the 35 cameras is devoted to the IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi and in the midst of tense moments it shifts to show the Miss Bollywood of the day! The support cast of veejays and wannabe actors leaves much to be desired. They are so concerned about going by the script and feigning emotions that spontaneity goes for a toss and the audience miss out on crucial information. During the interval of the match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab, Gaurav Kapoor talked about the atmosphere, the brass band, et al., but didn’t give us the fact that the Shah Rukh’s team more than doubled its score in the last ten overs.

Over the top

Excitement and atmospherics sometimes get to the head. Gaurav was heard taking the names of Andrew Flintoff and Manpreet Gony in the same breath. His veejaying skills are unquestionable but sports journalism is a much more serious business. Here chalk and cheese can’t be passed off in the name of frivolity.

Mandira Bedi seems to have mastered the art. She interviewed Shah Rukh but was as dazed in front of him as she was in “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge”. The viewer never felt that she was representing them. It was like a star-struck fan enjoying the attention showered by her icon. In the midst of a cricket match who wants to know how the King Khan is feeling competing against girls like Preity Zinta and Shilpa Shetty. Talking of Shah Rukh, a few years back he made a film “Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani” which made fun of cricketers being used as advertisement hoardings. The film proved to be way ahead of its time but the joke has become a reality now. Even the helmet has a couple of logos. If you can stay clear of these distractions, window ads pop up every other minute. And if that is not a struggle, sitting through the strategic break is. They talk of making the game swift but the fact is their strategic break is half the duration of a tea break in a Test match ! The saving grace is the young Meiyang Chang, who is ebullient but focussed.

Silly humour

The mix of Hindi and English is creating unexpected humour in the studio. Full of inanities, sentences like ‘barish has come yet again’ are not uncommon. In the post-match analysis of the game between Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers neither the panellists nor the host cared to point out that one of the crucial reasons of Mumbai’s loss was the injury to the in-form Zaheer Khan during the match, which prevented him from completing his quota of overs. Aakash Chopra seems as hard pressed to find the right words as he is for runs while Saba Karim has some stock remarks for all situations and is fumbling with the names of South African players.

Samir Kochhar stops Arun Lal to tell the viewers that Jonty Rhodes changed the fielding standards in cricket! “The coverage is over the top and over hyped. It takes away from the game and viewers will reject it if it carries on in this way,” says Gulu Ezekiel, freelance sports journalist and author. The spokesperson of the broadcaster argues that they want to take the game to the layman but in the same vein says everyone has an opinion when it comes to cricket! Well, money can’t buy everything. But one thing is sure it has contaminated the gentlemen’s game!

Emerging actor Samir Kochhar made an impact last year and took over from a bumbling, fumbling Ajay Jadeja as the principal host of the IPL-2. He defends, “The purists are grumbling about the format so the coverage is liable to come under the scanner. We must realise this format of cricket is all about entertainment and mixes the two religions that India swears by: cricket and Bollywood. We do analyse the game and talk about technicalities like dew factor and the impact of strategic breaks on the batting side but in the heat of the moment, at times, flaws do creep in. Sometimes you end up saying what is not intended like Gaurav might have meant in Twenty-20 Gony is proving to be at par with Flintoff.”

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Sneha Rajani, MAX’s business head, believes a six will remain a six even if it is called a DLF Maximum. “We haven’t done anything that changes the nature or the beauty of the game. We didn’t ask for strategic breaks. It is the BCCI’s creation. Our aim is to broaden the base further and will do whatever it takes. We do mix Hindi and English when we talk colloquially. And the ratings prove we are on the right path.” As for the analyses, Sneha argues the context should be kept in mind before making the charge. “I believe the experts did mention that the game had reached to a level where Zaheer could not have made a difference.”