A comm box of anecdotes

Last Updated 27 May 2018, 18:35 IST

I was a cricket commentator for almost 40 years and covered the game in all its forms. I started at the age of 21 as a student commentator from Mysore and went on to successfully do commentary till 1997 when I officially retired.

My first match was a Mysore versus Hyderabad Ranji Trophy game which was reduced to a one-day affair because of rain (for which, I was paid Rs 25 and the train fare). Today, the level of cricket broadcast is fantastic and each and every commentator is infinitely superior to those of yore. The unforgettable moments that I have chosen to write about here do not have much cricket in them but are rare instances of amusement and intrigue during cricket commentary.

The fellow commentator on my first match was the great M N Pachu (M N Parthasarathy), a Professor of English at Maharaja’s College who loved cricket more than anything else in the world. (He never got married!) He passed the mic on to me in that first match saying, “handing over now to Thumbi”. Thumbi is my nickname. The AIR (P.Ex.) protested, asking Pachu not to use nicknames during commentary, to which the great main said, “I can’t help it. I’ve known him only by that name ever since he was a child!”

The same Pachu had a tremendous disadvantage in his inability to count the number of players in the team. Every time, he would start with “4 men in the off, 7 men in the on” and successfully make a mess, taking the total to above 11. He would then ask the scorers to count and let him know. This would be a fantastic joke among the other commentators.

The other commentator for the same match was Safi Darashah, who was an IAS officer then. (He also played the Ranji Trophy for Mysore state). He was one of the delightfully knowledgeable chaps to share the commentary box.

On that particular day, he started off with: “The fast bowler is coming up to bowl but the batsman withdraws his stance because sight screen is blocked”. Later, it was learned that a policeman had passed the sight screen just when the ball was being bowled. To this, Safi reacted thus: “The view of sight screen is blocked by wretched policeman”.

Safi and all of us forgot about the episode but the police commissioner of Bangalore telephoned the KSCA president asking for a public apology from the commentator for saying “wretched policeman.” Safi, the great sport that he was, immediately apologised. Further, he said that as an IAS officer, he had started his career as a Superintendent of Police, so he was doubly sorry for his remark.

This next episode was during a Test match between the Indian and New Zealand women’s team at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. Shanta Rangaswamy was bowling to New Zealand skipper Karen Hadlee. The ball hit Karen above her thigh and it went for four leg-byes.

The Kannada commentator immediately stated: “The ball was a googly and adu Karen avara thikakke hodedu boundarige hoitu (The ball hit Karen’s bum and went for the boundary)!” The commentary was interrupted by the AIR executive who took exception to the use of the unparliamentary word. The commentator asked, “Idakke nanu enu helabeku? (What else can I say?)”

Not willing to let go of this issue, I asked Karen about it during the post-match interview. She said, “Yes, I was hit on my bum. The ball went off my buttocks for leg bye. How else can a commentator describe it?”

(Published 27 May 2018, 17:55 IST)

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