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The medium is the message

By Pritam Sengupta
March 11, 2003 13:12 IST
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Soak it in, but just don't forget to thank those "jokes".

Six matches (and 19 days) ago, the boys in blue seemed like babes who couldn't lick a long hop (or a lollipop) from the only Bedi in the show. Now, as the men stand just three matches away from the pinnacle, remember those people who made the impossible possible: the TV commentators trying to make sense of it all in the midst of tarot card readers, models, and mega serial actresses.

Yes, the TV commentators. Say thank-you to them all.

Every team discovers what it needs to do when it is scraping the depths of defeat, debacle and despair. For the Aussies, the pill Shane Warne took had the adverse side-effect of enhancing the rest of the side's performances.

For the Indians, though, the shot-in-the-arm was provided, or so it seems, by the caustic and sarcastic comments of the players turned pundits after the heroes' cycles fell in a pile against Australia in the second match.

Remember, six matches and 19 days ago?

Javagal Srinath punched the "idiot boxers", without naming them of course, holding their 'mot juste' responsible for the attack on players' cars and property after the debacle. And Sourav himself certified a couple of them as "jokes", without naming them of course.

A nice question to ask after India has won six matches in a row is: would the players have been motivated in staging such a sterling comeback in the absence of 'expert' criticism and public pressure?

Exhibit No. 1

Krishnamachari Srikkanth (averaging 29.88 from 43 Tests; 29.01 from 146 one-dayers) may have the numbers stacked against him vis-à-vis Sourav Ganguly (average 40.59 from 67 Tests; 42.69 average from 226 ODIs).

Still, Dada owes a small thank-you to 'Cheeka' for reminding him of what he was capable of. 'Let him bat at No. 14," was Srikkanth's suggestion after Ganguly's airy-fairy shot against Brett Lee started the collapse.

Result: 17 runs from two innings at an average of 8.5 from the first two matches, pre-Srikkanth. 286 runs from the following five innings at an average of 95, with centuries against Namibia and Kenya, and a fine 48 against Sri Lanka.

Exhibit No. 2

Navjot Singh Sidhu (averaging 42.13 from 51 Tests and 37.08 from 136 one-dayers) who rushed home in a huff from England in 1996 after a run-in with Mohammaed Azharuddin may not exactly be the epitome of on-field courage.

Sure, "Sherry" stood up to the likes of Holding and Marshall, Ambrose, Bishop and Walsh when the current team couldn't cope with Oram and Adams. But when you consider that his 51 Tests came over a 15-year period you wonder if he picked and chose his matches, even domestic matches as is rumoured.

Still, the 'Boys in Blue' owe a small thank-you to "Sixer Sidhu" for reminding them of what they were capable of. "Let them change their nappies," Sherry said, index finger pointing skywards. And, boy, have the boys changed the nappies of other teams!

Result: seven matches, won six, lost one, win percentage 86, highest score batting first 311, highest score chasing 273, batting average 37.4 (against an overall average of 30.4), bowling average 21.6 (against an overall average of 30.1).

Exhibit No. 3

Michael Holding with 1,192 runs from 162 matches (60 Tests and 102 ODIs) may be no patch on Virender Sehwag with 2,835 runs from 79 matches (14 Tests and 65 ODIs). But then Holding was a bowler (391 wickets in all).

Still, 'Veeru' owes a small thank-you to 'Mikey' for reminding him what he could do if he used his bat and his mind together at the same time. "Virender Sehwag is overrated," he said, on the eve of Monday's Super Six match against Sri Lanka.

Result: Sehwag who averaged 13.5 in the previous six matches with scores of 6, 4, 24, 23, 21 and 3 responded with a 66 that would have surprised even Geoffrey Boycott's mother for its cerebral quality.

In targeting the television commentators, Srinath and Ganguly, in their own ways, demonstrated a striking inability to understand the role of the medium and its messengers. But all that is so much water around the Cape of Good Hope.

If the 'Artistes in Azzure' want to thank somebody on March 23, they might like to start with the commentators whose carping seems to produced the best out of them.

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Pritam Sengupta