Cricket is ever-changing. Cricketers or rather the erstwhile ones aren't. Here is a blog which was written on August 1 last year when India toured England. A year and then some time has passed but shooting off the mouth continues relentless. Read on...
There are three aspects to contemporary international cricket. Batting, bowling, and shooting off the mouth. Get all three right and the chances of a win double up.
While the England-India series, half-way down now, has seen centuries and hat-tricks, swing and seam, sixes and boundaries, it has also had mindless predictions, blatant accusations and verbal jabs aimed at either cutting time after an exhausting day of cricket or just an innocent attempt to get some attention.
The breed of experts and television commentators. Most have a past record that is the only reason why masses hang onto every word they utter on television or elsewhere. It's not that all of them are great orators in particular. ( Current related read: Michael Vaughan blasts India's strategy)
If history books are correct, so was Hitler. While as much as this comparison might seem exaggerated,Â weren't commentators called commentators because they were meant to comment? If, knowingly or unknowingly, their words were always meant to create a furore and shape opinions, won't they have been called television dictators right from when cricket began to be beamed to homes? Yes, some of us want to hear what the legends have to say, what they feel. But we can wait. Yes we can till the end of a match or a series, especially if the actual sport gets an ugly name.
For me to deliberate on why and should former players fuel a controversy might be unfair (considering most of us sports journalist have never played an international match or sat in a commentary box) but clearly, a tweet hinting at 'substance abuse' on a bat mid-way through a Test is immature, disgraceful and perhaps, a childish attempt to get forgotten glory back. Clearly every action has a reaction, and in the case of the England-India series, the reaction has been equally venomous. What spirit of the game do we talk about? What legacy is there left in a game that is famed as a gentleman's sport?
While the stiff upper-lipped gentry in all their fineries, enjoying a cup of English tea on a warm English afternoon clap every run scored irrespective of the team, some famed English commentator, a now-well-known English media blogger and a few former English players indulge in giving vent to their personal thought process by screaming foul, and when silenced, they scream louder that it was 'jolly good old English humour,' wasted on Indian sensibilities. No, our sensibilities aren't crystal clear either. We have an equally provocative retort to every 'light-humoured' comment coming in from the other side of the English channel. Tit for tat? Fire for fire? Brick for stone? How about a bouncer for a boundary, a sharp cover drive for an outswing? After all, we are still talking of cricket, right?
I have never heard former experts and commentators live, but from what I have gathered, the likes of John Arlott and Ravi Chaturvedi must be wondering what and who, they have left their great art of speech to. I will, though, borrow from what Pradeep Magazine, veteran sports journalist who I have the pleasure of knowing personally, wrote recently. "Indeed, our past cricketing greats-turned-TV commentators seem to believe their job is not to add their nuanced understanding to the images of games we watch, but to voice their prejudices, jingoism and ultra-nationalism."
Nationalism aside, when can I, as a cricket-fan first and sports journalist second, be enlightened on a topic and then left to form my own opinion rather than forced to subscribe to one or the other contrasting views? See, in vulgar terms, opinions are like as*h*les; everyone has one. I learnt it in school. It's time the celebrities of cricket's hall of fame and television cricket commentary learnt it too. Let's get on with the game, shall we? (Current related read: Gavaskar's advise for expert English opinions? 'Ignore them')
Note: This blog is a personal take and does not propagate that very forced shaping of opinion, that it seeks to outline against. Reader opinions, if any, are welcome in the section below. Bharat Army, cheer up. 2 still to go. Barmy Army, congratulations on 2 Tests well won.