Sunday, June 23, 2024

Eden of cricket – The Hindu

In the old times when Kolkata was Calcutta and we were busy growing up, Cricket was more than a game or an interlude in work worn lives. It was a season, a mania, a fever in the blood. The young and the old, the student and the office goer, the kid batting a ball in his backyard and grey haired men sitting in their verandahs , were aficionados of the game. Vast crowds spilling out of buses and trams, and smart executives zooming past in chauffeur driven cars were equally glued to their transistors for the commentary and the latest scores. The game was not a mere recreation but a dedication. Truancy from the workplace or schools and colleges was taken kindly as Test Cricket ruled lives. The unassuming teashops at the corner as well as the more fashionable restaurants ,came alive, playing host to the game and players through large loudspeakers and milling crowds. Cricket was the great leveller.

All of them were votaries of the game who discussed it threadbare with much nuance and detail and with such obvious joy and passion .The ills of the world were forgotten in the frenzy of the moment. The major highlight of the game apart from the game itself was the commentary that ushered in the game right to our drawing rooms and our modest radio sets with such flair and flamboyance. The splendour of the language rather than the actual game interested me. There were legendary commentators like Pearson Surita, Sydney Friskin, and their ilk with their felicity of expression who enchanted our ears. I can still hear Pearson Surita’s voice ringing through the years “ It is a lovely day here at the Eden Gardens and there is a mammoth crowd at the stands to witness for the third day in succession the brilliant tussle between bat and ball. And walking on to the crease is the Nawab, the Nawab of Pataudi looking so young and so debonair in the morning sunshine”

There would be the nitty gritty of the game, the toss of the coin, both sides electing to bat or bowl. Then the leisurely commentary would change pace and turn racy as we pitch headlong into the game. “ It’s Venkatraghavan once again , bowling from the high court end, it’s a good length ball delivered off the leg stump “ and in the softest of whispers “there goes the wicket’ as spectators roar and listeners at their radio sets are drowned in an overwhelming moment . A little later the commentator ,in Bengali, would take over and in that glorious epiphanic moment when Gary Sobers, ”the cavalier from the Caribbean” , would come to bat the commentator would be fondly reminiscing how he was privileged to have seen him at Lords and Leeds, missing out on the action on the field. While we could hear the delighted spectators , we were the frustrated listeners waiting for the game to come to us. Suddenly hearing the commotion he wakes up from his reverie to quickly tell us “There he strikes his six”.

Times have changed, the format of the game has changed . With technology at our command the Television has brought us the visual and commentary has lost its pride of place. The immediacy and intimacy of the game, is no longer there. Nothing needs to be said when everything is before your eyes. And yet, and yet …nostalgia takes over and you are back in time, reverencing the past with the great commentators who were household names and loved as much as the game itself, “when people kept their faith in the voice coming out of a box” and lives were enhanced.

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#Eden #cricket #Hindu

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