Maninder Singh: Maninder Singh was signed by Doordarshan as a part of their historic show – Fourth Umpire. Between ads of Mysore Sandal Soap and Dandi Namak, Maninder Singh peppered the match with his own wit and understanding of the game.
He’s a nice chap and all that. Friendly, smiling, and safely neutral. He does not have the balls of Navjyot Singh Sidhu, nor any radical suggestion. But he has the one outstanding quality that is required of a Doordarshan commentator – boredom.
Maninder Singh can make Inception seem like Shaadi No.1. Picking out the most obvious and boring points in every department of the game, Maninder Singh was instrumental in maintaining the brand and image of Doordarshan.
Then he got caught doing cocaine.
Atul Wassan: It is said you don’t have to enter the ditch to see if it is dirty. Atul Wassan follows the same principle when it comes to commentary. Having played for India for a full year, Atul Wassan uses all his acumen and understanding of the game to criticize everything – from Rahul Dravid’s footwork, to Dhoni’s follow through.
What makes Atul Wassan a handy commentator is his ability to easily shift from English to Hindi – and successfully transform the most exciting match into a drab affair, but easily understood by the entire nation.
Arun Lal: is the only one to have truly crossed over from Fourth Umpire to the Big League. Arun Lal can be regularly found pissing off firang commentators, and making them smile with his jokes, after he has had a hearty laugh at them himself.
Arun Lal is also heard in the IPL, where he displays extremely creative usage of terms like Karbonn Kamaal Catch and DLF Maximum. Sample this.
“The minimum they need is a DLF maximum. HAHAHAHA”
Kindly note the clever juxtaposition of the word minimum next to the word maximum. Very very clever. Arun Lal truly is dharti ka laal.
Ravi Shastri: I know many of you will be shocked to find Shastri in the same list as Maninder Singh and Arun Lal. But fact is, Ravi Shastri is the Jackie Shroff of cricket commentary. Very popular at one time, and a rambling, has-been at present, Shastri’s booming voice has become as pleasant to the ears as the Nokia ringtone.
He says the same thing over and over again. “That’s just what the doctor ordered. He knew exactly what he was doing. That’s gone to the boundary like a bullet. Clean as a whistle. Lofted in the air, high and mighty.” It is a barrage of similies, proverbs, one-liners and comparisions that are as old as the hills.
The revelation that Shastri and Gavaskar are paid by the BCCI to air the views of the board wasn’t shocking to me at all. On some days, Shastri has this distinct, drunk look on his face, you wonder if he took one large swig and sat down in the commentary box.
The icing on the cake was the toss of the World Cup final. MS spins the coin, and this is when the commentator should announce what was called. Shastri has no clue what’s going on, and then after everything is over, turns to the camera and says,
“We will do this again. The problem? The noise”, he says, pointing to his ear.
I was a tad disappointed him and Gavaskar didn’t break into the naagin dance after the World Cup was over.
Sunil Gavaskar: The Holy Man of cricket, the God under whom every Indian cricketer, critic and fan is supposed to bow down and pray. Gavaskar has an opinion on everything, even when it is not related to Indian cricket. Not that it’s a bad thing.
The only problem is that he makes sure everyone around him knows what he feels, and agrees with him. Watching him have a go at the Australians is fun, but only for five minutes. After that, it is a preachy sermon on ethics and values, and how cricket has been degenerated because of T-20, and ethics aren’t a part of cricket anymore.
Here, I would like to point out two incidents. One, the 1980 Australian tour, where on being given out, Sunil Gavaskar wasn’t very pleased. It’s funny to see him lecturing on the need to be ‘walk’ when judged ‘out’. Well, walk he did. Only, he took his non-striker along with him, and refused to play the match. Not very ethical, are we?
The second grudge I have against Gavaskar is his criticism of T20. He very smartly avoids saying the word ‘IPL’ in his rants, but serves along with Shastri as part of the IPL’s Governing Council. Why not quit that job and work towards promoting Test cricket? Or better still, why not just accept the money and shut the hell up?
It’s this hypocrisy that makes me puke.
Gavaskar, Shastri and Bhogle share inside jokes and giggle around, screw the match and the audience. Coz apart from the regular match fees, they are being paid 3 crores to pass the BCCI’s word. Who gives a fuck?
According to a news report last month, it was reported that “the two respected opinion makers have been contracted by the BCCI for an annual fee of Rs 3.6 crore each to spread the Board’s gospel – on issues such as UDRS, IPL, or umpiring decisions that may be adverse to Indian interests.”
A “senior BCCI member” is quoted as saying “They cannot say anything that goes against the policy or interests of the Board,” A “top BCCI official” is also quoted saying “Yes, both Shastri and Gavaskar are employed with the Board as commentators. We tell the TV companies that they have to take them on board as our official commentators,”
If only they asked the audiences what we thought of their opinions!
Harsha Bhogle: Probably the most disappointing of the lot is our man Harsha Bhogle. For many years, Harsha Bhogle was our man in the box. He was not a cricketer, but had a fair understanding of the game, and made interesting conversations with the experts. He brought in views that spectators feel, and showed that it is possible to understand the game without being old, or boring.
But then, he got himself a hair transplant. For me, that was selling out.
Ever since, Harsha Bhogle is all over. He has written books on cricket, on success, on winning, and picking one’s nose. Anything you need to know, Mr. Bhogle will be there to tell you. He started writing articles on how other sports can catch up with cricket, and how Team India is the prime example of leadership skills. He sold tea, and gyaan, and advice, and started sounding exactly like Shastri and Gavaskar.
Now, after two decades, I think it is time for Shastri, Gavaskar and Bhogle to retire. There isn’t anything new or original they say anyway. And the BCCI could save 7.2 crores a year, and use it judiciously for other things that have long been pending.
Like that surgery for Shreesanth at NIMHANS.
(PS: I know many of you will demand for Sidhu to be put on the list. But may I gently remind you that Sidhu is not just a commentator. He is a laughter critic, an MP, and an entrant into Bigg Boss. Such varied interests transcend the realms of a mere commentator, and deserve special mention. Also, I don’t wish to meet Sidhu at a parking lot!)