By T S Sudhir
“Andrew Strauss itni der se ballebaazi kar rahe hai ki ab to unko gend football ki tarah nazar aa rahi hogi.” The sentence got me plumb lbw, and there was no UDRS needed here !
Bored with some of the former cricketer-turned-English language commentators who more often than not seem to state the obvious (“the batsmen have to bat very well from here on if India has to win the match”), I had just moved from Star Cricket to Star Sports to discover that the India-England encounter was being served the Hindustani way as well.
It was fun. Call it native cultural affinity or whatever else you will. There is something innately joyful about the language, a turn of phrase, an idiom, that makes you smile as you listen to the commentary and watch the match. Having grown up in the times, when the silken voices of Sushil Doshi and Jasdev Singh ruled the airwaves, Hindi commentary never fails to touch my heart.
Hindi lost out to English in cricket when the Benson and Hedges matches Down Under started beaming into Indian households in the 90s. They introduced an array of former cricketers in the commentary box, reducing the likes of Narottam Puri to has-beens. Commentary in the national language became a poor second cousin. If cricket was religion in India, people prayed in English.
Though when it came to a game like hockey, Hindi was still king. The speed and energy with which the voices would reflect the `gend jo right half ne centre forward ko pass kiya, Argentina ki koshish ball ko trap karne ki, usme veh chooke aur Sandeep Singh tezi se Argentina rakshapankti ko maat dete huwe D me pahunch gaye hai aur unhone yeh shot maara aur yeh GOOOOALLLLLLLLLLL !! Bharat ka yeh behtereen pradarshan !!”
Cricket on TV in comparison, with its ad break after every over, doesn’t have the pace and adrenalin rush that Hindi commentary thrives on. Unless you have a Yusuf Pathan or Shahid Afridi on the rampage. The commentary also tends to be quite literal. “Gend ne tippa khaaya aur boundary line ke paar chaar runo ke liye.” TV commentators forgetting transistors are a thing of the past.
But I rediscovered that when it comes to critical moments in a cricket match, there is nothing quite like Hindi. Like when Munaf Patel was bowling the last ball in the India-England match and England needed one run to tie and two runs to win the match.
“Ab yeh match kamzor dilon ke liye nahi raha.” Followed by a wicked chuckle.
The commentator was to repeat the same line when Ireland was creating history by beating England. “Yeh match Ireland ke itihaas me sunahare panno me likha jayega.”
It is almost taken for granted that the Hindi commentary will be tilted in favour of India. When Zaheer Khan provided India the breakthrough against England and it looked like India will cruise through against England, the commentator perked up and betraying the delight in his voice, said “England ke ballebaaz ab patjhad ki tarah murjha rahe hai”. England bats proved him wrong, springing back into action in the Piyush Chawla over and the rest is history.
English commentators like a Harsha Bhogle or a Tony Greig have a soothing effect on you with the right language and perfect modulation, Sunil Gavaskar you like to hear because well, he is Sunil Manohar Gavaskar, Sidhu for his Sidhuisms but for that sheer mitti ki sugandh, my ears will go to hear a Hindi commentator any day or any day-and-night match.
I hope the IPL broadcasters too have a second TV channel loaded with Hindi commentary. It will be fun to hear the the dhoom-dhadaka of the T20 format and the gyrations of the cheergirls described in shudh Hindi.