Sunday, December 12, 2004

Tendu’s 34th, and amateur commentators

Ah, the bittersweetness of being a Tendulkar defender these days! Naturally, he’s splashed all over the front pages (of the TOI and HT at least) – but then, that was always going to happen when the 34th century came. It happened even with Gavaskar when he got his 29th, and that in an age when the media was far less cricket-obsessed. (In fact, given how India feels about the game, today’s news would probably have made it to the front pages even if the century world record involved two batsmen from other countries!)

But it’s sad that Tendu’s 34th had to be against Bangladesh – more grist to his detractors’ mills, especially given his bizarre form in Test cricket over the past year (three huge unbeaten centuries and a masterful 55 against Aus in Mumbai, dotted with countless single-figure scores). Can already see the all-too-predictable sneering on various websites about how he should be played only against this quality of opposition. Now, even as a self-appointed Tendulkar loyalist for life, I concede that he’s used a low-quality bowling attack to get some of his confidence back; but to dismiss this innings outright without considering that India were 24 for 2 (and then 68 for 3) at one stage…well, that stinks of the blind, petty-minded prejudice there’s just no arguing against.

For my part, I’m a trifle annoyed that his new top Test score is this innings instead of the much better-sounding 241* in Sydney. Also, fervently hope he doesn’t get his 35th hundred in the next Test.

On to another cricket topic: my respect for commentators who do their job even half-decently has suddenly increased. ESPN’s been giving amateur commentators (who presumably went through some kind of competition) one/two-over guest stints during the match, and boy are these guys stiff.

There was this 15-year-old for instance, who tried to seem assured but kept betraying himself. [Ravi Shastri: “So, are you relaxed?” 15-year-old (gritting teeth, clenching jaw, looking straight ahead unblinkingly, enunciating every word like Navjot Sidhu’s elocution teacher): “YES, I’m VERY reLAXED!”] At first I felt like throwing the kid a laxative but then, watching him and the others, I realised that this is probably exactly the way I’d come across if someone hurled me into the commentary box (all my strong opinions on the game would probably stick in my throat then).

Kudos to all the Harsha-wannabes. I’ll content myself with thinking hard about the game and keeping my mouth shut.

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