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By Sunil Gavaskar
Steve Waugh is reported to have said some time back that cricket was unwatchable on TV in India. His remarks were perhaps due to the fact that the action on the field was cut off so often by commercials that there was no continuity to the game, and the flow of the game was interrupted for the viewer to really enjoy the proceedings. There was also the full screen being reduced in the middle of the over so that a commercial could be slipped in at the corners or the bottom of the TV screen even as the bowler ran in to bowl the ball. The TV broadcasters were only trying to recover the huge investments they had made in bidding high for the TV rights, and so it was understandable that they did what they did. This year Indian cricket has new broadcasters and it will be interesting to see how they cover the game even as they try and recover some of the big spending in bagging the rights for the next few years.
Watching Olympics in England is pretty much the same story, but not by way of the interruption of the action by TV commercials, but by the fact that only those sports where British athletes are participating are covered on TV. Yes, there are many channels which cover all the action, but if you are staying in a hotel it is tough to get channels other than the ones that the hotel TV is tuned to. Here again it is understandable that since London is the host city there would be more emphasis on what their athletes are doing, but the interruption in the coverage of other countries matches to switch to one where British teams or athletes are in action does endanger the poor TV screen. The TV commentary also is so biased that it is stomach turning. Here again it is understandable that British commentators would want their teams and athletes to win, but to look for conspiracies every time a British athlete doesn’t win is taking it a bit too far. There was one classic instance when the cyclist Mark Cavendish, who was expected to win the gold in his event finished 27th and the TV anchor asked the cycling expert if Cavendish was deliberately blocked by other cyclists. So what did he expect that just because the games are in London and Cavendish was the favourite according to the Brit media that other participants in the race should just stand aside and make way for Cavendish to win? In a competitive sport every player will try and take advantage and do whatever is within the rules and sometimes even bend them to try and win. After all the Olympics come once every four years and nobody is going to give up without a fight.
Having said that it was a great experience to go and watch the athletics, maybe, because they could be seen without the bias on TV. Even though there were no Indian athletes on view every time the starter’s guns went off and the athletes took off, it was a heady feeling. When some athletes pulled up because of injury it was easy to feel for them for all their hard work over the years just went up in a puff of dust in a nano second. Why does this happen despite all the warm up exercises is hard to explain, but maybe the nerves come into play and send enzymes that stiffen up a muscle and that causes it to snap.
There is a big grin on the faces of West Indian cricket supporters after their team beat New Zealand in the first Test and won a Test match against a top team after a fairly long time. It was an all-round effort alright, but it was the opening partnership of over 200 between centurions Chris Gayle and Kieron Powell that gave the team the platform from where they built up a good lead after the Kiwis had scored nearly 400 in their first innings. Gayle then ensured that the team won with plenty to spare as he smashed another half century in the second innings to take the Windies home. Of course, the bowlers also did their bit with Sunil Narine picking 8 wickets in the match and Kemar Roach coming up with a blistering spell in the second innings.
The West Indian coach then said that Chris Gayle's presence in the team has made a huge difference. If only he had realised this earlier then Gayle would have been back in the West Indian team much before the 18 months that he had to stay out. It is widely believed in the Caribbean that it was Gibson, who couldn’t get along with Gayle and so the problems in the first place. We in India know a thing or two about coaches, who think they are bigger than the players and who then manipulate to get their 'problem player' out of the team. Oh yes, we do!