Spoilers of Good Cricket!
By Shoaib Hashmi

There is a nifty little cricket series going on between us and our neighbors, and there is plenty of good cricket and excitement -- and I am hating every moment of it! Because I watched all day, and then woke up this morning to screaming headlines, “Lousy Umpiring Mars Gallant Indian Effort”! They lost only three wickets! How much could the umpiring have loused it up?
I saw what happened. There was this ball outside the off-stump, and Tendulkar swung at it, and it turned 753 degrees, and even a blind man would have thought it was an outside edge, and Bucknor gave him out. He has stood in more than a hundred tests, and is among the most respected umpires of the age, and he is not on Inzimam’s payroll, and what he made was a ‘wrong’ decision, but it was not a ‘bad’ decision; and we only know it was wrong because we have these bloody TV cameras, and can show replays in ten speeds of motion from fifteen different angles, and go on showing them ad infinitum! And all we have accomplished is to take all the joy out of a glorious game, and replace it with heartbreak and bitterness and stupidity! There!
Tendulkar is a pleasure to watch, and I too would have loved to have seen him go on, and maybe become the highest century maker -- and I think as a race we have lost our marbles, and we don’t watch it for the glory of a cover drive curving past two fielders, or the mane of a heroic figure flying as a thunderbolt is sent down. We watch so we can pick nits, let the bile hit the fan and spread bloodymindedness all round!
There is, first of all, that bunch of yahoos who come on as commentators. It has happened all over, but I think ours take the cake. A test match has become five days of a string of inanities spewed out in an aggravating voice, and in a decade I don’t think I have heard one thing which was worth saying. I thought of making notes and quoting for you, and then I thought I’d rather die.
Part of the reason is this new habit of old cricketers, who have had their day in the sun and should now sit back and look after their grandchildren, coming on instead to impose themselves on us commentating. It started with Benaud and his generation. Among them was Geoff Boycott, who, as commentator and general pundit was all over the place telling everyone how they should be playing the game -- quite forgetting that in his own heyday he was the most boring and plodding bloody player in the game. Many times they had to leave him out of the test side, despite being the highest scorer of the county season, because the sedate English threatened to throw a fit if he played. And yet he managed single-handedly to kill the game, and hand the corpse over to the one-day match.
I remember the time when a great discussion ensued, and the minions of TV actually held a many day seminar to debate the qualities of a good commentator. For three days they talked themselves blue in the face about whether it was knowledge of the game, or command of the language which was the more crucial. And one thought what fools they are to be looking for an answer, because they don’t even understand the question!
A commentator is meant to be a companion while you watch your match in the loneliness of your lounge, instead of mingling with a crowd of plebs who know how to have a good time in the ‘General’ stands. And you don’t mind if he can inform you in the higher esoterics of the game, and you don’t mind if he can spout poetry at the drop of a hat. But what you really want is some personal charm of manner, some turn of phrase which will make the experience more enjoyable.
Instead you get interminable tirades on how there are two lousy captains and twenty-two dumb players playing under Steve Bucknor who doesn’t know how to tell a catch from a stumping. You also get the judgment that the last shot was the greatest shot of the series, and this about thirty-seven shots to my knowledge. And if, by our misfortune, one player completes a century, you get the incisive analysis that it was all because he was ‘relentless and persistent’, and therefore the feat is proof of ‘his concentration and dedication and discipline and, oh yes, talent’! Now excuse me because I have to go and watch some more!


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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