The England Tour has been particularly disappointing so far, and there are not too many signs of things improving at the moment. I guess, after winning the world cup, when some people suggested it was going to be all downhill from here, this is what they meant. But leave aside the cricket, if there has been a positive to take (besides Dravid's batting), it has been the spotlight on the commentary and punditry that we get from M/s Gavaskar and Shastri. Many, many cricket fans have long been turned off by the cliched, biased and painfully boring commentary that we get from India's leading media pair. However, generally the only thing to do for them would be turn off the volume, or more recently, perhaps listen to alternative versions of commentary on sites like testmatchsofa.com or the newly opened pitchinvasion.
Thankfully and in a delightfully amusing manner, there was a tipping point during the tour, which actually brought Shastri and his commentary to the fore - before the mainstream media, and from then on, it has been fun. It was this remarkably stupid moment at the end of the day, that led to a quite brilliant confrontation between Shastri and Nasser Hussain in the commentary box the next day, and since then it has been fun, reading all the stuff written, both in India and in England. (Confession here, while generally I find listening to Shastri extremely painful -it was box office gold, when Nasser was calling him - live on air). (Here is Nasser's written rebuttal by the way.)
The Outlook seems to be the one Indian magazine that is on the case earnestly and it started with Pradeep Magazine criticising the jingoistic nature of our commentators. They have now followed it up with this more detailed piece wherein they quite simply put that both Gavaskar and Shastri are on BCCI payrolls and hence in np position to commentate as independent observers of the game.
I enjoyed this cricinfo blog from Samir Chopra where he suggests having a television coverage with only on-field sounds and no commentary.
However, there has been nothing better and I mean nothing better than this. Barney Ronay of The Guardian came up with this headline that went like a Tracer Bullet: How Ravi Shastri, the big noise of cricket, called it wrong. He followed that up, by throwing caution to the winds in the article - and this particular story really had me in splits:
I met him briefly when I was about 10. He was wearing flared beige slacks and white lisp-on loafers and he said: "Congratulations!" when he shook my hand, appearing to congratulate me simply for meeting him, and projecting even then the air of an elite astronaut or a visitor from a taller, more urgent dimension.
No better way of describing the man I guess, and while it is difficult to imagine ESPNStar kicking him out like Sky Sports did to Andy Gray (for totally different reasons), it has been fun, seeing so many people go after him. At the end of the day, it was just what the doctor ordered.