Thursday, April 1, 2010

Cricket - has it changed ?

The entire sub continent seems to be gripped by the IPL fever - your truly is also affected. It set me thinking on how much the Game has changed or has it ?

The first match I recall watching was at the Nehru Stadium in Chennai when MJK Smith's team played us - Barrington and Bolus Vs Bapu Nadkarni. 1963-64 ,we moved back to Chepauk during the 1966-67 visit of Gary Sobers' Team. Bobby Simpson's team too had visited us. I remember the annual of the magazine Sports and Pastime that carried a lovely colour photograph of him. The colour snaps in that magazine were currency for the young man - the issues that had a hockey player or athelete in colour on the cover were viewed by us as a total waste of time and money as they could not be exchanged later for either a rare snap or even cash. The only source of great cricket books and the Wisden was the British Council Library.

An english willow bat was the ultimate status symbol - I had one that was signed by Colin Cowdrey and hence he became the ultimate batting icon - Oh , how I extolled his virtues that he came to the field to bat in a plaster cast despite a fracture.

Yes, the 5 day test match , white flannels , cherry red ball, have all become optional. Coloured Clothes, shortened versions , also the arrival of helmets, arm guards, mongoose bats and of course Television replays have changed the way the game is played. The latest innovation being the Mongoose.

The straight bat ( cross bat shots can break the willow ? ) is no longer the only way to play. A hoick from outside the off stump to mid wicket is today par for the course.

The gentle amble of a fielder towards a speeding ball is today a think to be frowned upon. I remember many a young man copying the young Nawab of Pataudi's style of kneeling down and fielding - many a friend got his chin cut when the ball hit a stone and bounced up at the Gopalapuram grounds - where we conducted all such experiments. Parents howled when we had our "collars up" like Sobers or Rohan Kanhai. In fact Sunil has named his son after this great batsman. Jaisimha's style was also worth emulating the swagger as you walked.

These are all defenite changes...

What has probably changed more is our view of the Game, how we follow/report it, how much we encourage our youngsters to take to it.






In the days of C.K.Nayudu and the likes - the 1920s/30s and 40s there was a clear distinction between Gentlemen and Players. Those who played as professionals and the "Rich and influential" who played it because they loved the game.The Book -A Corner of a foreign field by Ramachandra Guha chronicles this era very nicely.

This was when society looked upon both Cricketeers and Cinema Actors as "entertainers". It was nice to know them etc but you will not permit your son to follow this career. It was for Maharajahs like Vizzy ( remember his expert commentary) , Ranji ( after whom the domestic tournament is named and the "inventor" of the leg glance) and the senior Pataudi.

The attitude of the gentry toward "players" is nicely shown in the TV serial "Bodyline". These Games were eagerly followed by Cricket fans through that wonderful instrument called the Radio. Commentary was by so many famous voices - Bobby Talyarkhan, Pearson Surita, V.M.Chakrapani , our own Ananda Rao, Berry Sarbadhikari to just name a few. The BBC which used to be a great source of cricket info had the famous John Arlott , Christopher Martin Jenkins, Brian Johnston, and Radio Australia Alan Mcgilvray , Jack Fingleton till our own Chakrapani joined them. Tony Cozier of the West Indies too was a famous voice.

It was a pleasure to wait for the next mornings paper to read about the exploits , see a picture or two of the match that we had followed on Radio. I remember the Historic spell of Chandra under the victorious Wadekar's team - the raspy voice of John Arlott saying "Shandra moves in and bowls....", the photograph in the next mornings Hindu of a jubilant Chandra was almost exactly how I imagined it would have been. So the way we follow the game has changed.

Come the era of Colour television with live telecasts and multicameras the need to know the "queen's english" has gone. Why hear when you can see , why read when you can watch ?

Just before this era was when we had the masses of India becoming interested in the Game and hence came the Vernacular cricket Commentary - remember the time when the english commentary will be interrupted by the Hindi one and as the only Hindi Student everyone at home used to ask me how much a "ninyaanve" was - they had, however , mastered the numbers ek, do, teen, chaar and chakka. This was the era when cricket was becoming more mass based. A Game of the millions - not just the educated/ english speaking big town boy but the essence of India its Rural masses. For the first time a non metro player called Kapil Dev was ruling the roost.

It was not even during the post Pataudi, Wadekar or Gavaskar era but only now, these past 7 or 8 years that parents have realised not to stifle cricketing Talents in their kids but encourage it. credit for this must go to the Millions pouring into the Game through the Idiot Box and to that phenomenon called Sachin Tendulkar.

Where does this leave someone like me ? I still yearn for the writing of Rajan Bala , E.W.Swanton, John Woodcock , Alex Bannister, Dicky Rutnagar to name just a few.
The one thing I really miss are the lovely and exquisite writings of Sir Neville Cardus .
I wonder how many have read that great master , his wit as sharp as a Gundappa Viswanath Square Cut, the flow of English as smooth as a Gavaskar , It was as complete a package as the spin quartet was, leaving us totally sated but always ready for more like a Sachin Tendulkar Century

I really miss his essays - am wondering how he would have described some of the Modern greats like Sachin , Shane and the unorthodox but effective Murali. The spin quartet - the fluidity of a Bedi or Prasanna -the unpredictability of Chandra and the reliability of a Venkat.
The achievement and grit of Anil Kumble and the effusive Saurav. The phenomenon called
T 20. Oh there are so many lovely things he can wax eloquent on - the sheer contrast of a technical perfectionist like Sunil Gavaskar at one end and the inimitable Cheeka at the other end.

Maybe someone like my friend Nirmal Shekher of the Hindu must get down to the task of "Cardussing" these legends - in that old man's style. This in no way diminishes the style of modern writers like him and R.Mohan , just that I yearn to read more and more Cardusian writing.


J.Prakash said...

nice nostaglic review, Mohan.. I think the game began to get more popular in the 1980s after the historic win of the World Cup in 1983 coupled with the advent of AIR giving way to the live telecast of Doordarshan.

I still remember the Benson & Hedges Triangular series played in Australia where we woke up early at morning , 4:30 AM to catch the action live in DD prompting my mom to say "paritchaiku kooda ivvalvu cheekaram ezhundukka matte". Not to forget the matches at Sharjah where our Indian team were constantly outplayed (rather devoured) by arch rival, Pakistan (Imran & Co). Who can forget the war of eyeballs between Kris Srikanth and Wasim Akram ? As a matter of fact, the finals were always scheduled on Fridays (considered auspicious day of Muslims) with Pakistan continuing to lord tournament after tournament handing over defeats to Kapil, Azhar & company.

Ravi said...

Wonderful narration,Dear Mohan. Could envision your love for the game....very deep rooted,'Aani ver'.
Albeit more of a basketball/squash/waterpolo kind still valued the sportsman spirit that was very much visible in this gentleman's game.
Your writing has given me a deeper understanding.
May your tribe flourish.

Anonymous said...

Great Mohan! Have always enjoyed your writings in the Hindu and Sportstar. Didnt know you were from XLRI!

Do you remember the Madras victory against Clive Lloyd's West Indies (1975-76) a big one !
Krish (XL-83)

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.