Why IPLs are no fun without this man

12 Apr,2012

 

By Biswadeep Ghosh

 

Think of the Indian Premier League. Forget your favourite cricketers for a while. One, two, three, four… now that you have managed to push the players into the backyard of your mind, who is that one person whose association with the tournament is a fact you just cannot ignore? Rest assured, they aren’t Shibani Dandekar and Archana Vijaya, the two young ladies who do the rounds within the venues, asking unintelligent questions to intelligent cricketers when not busy matching their knowledge of the game with equally informed (or uninformed) celebrities. Despite the presence of so much glamour – which includes one Shah Rukh Khan – the man who is managing to colonise the maximum amount of attention is Navjot Singh Sidhu.

 

After having been a successful international cricketer for sixteen long years in which he metamorphosed from being a maha-boring batsman to watch – particularly in today’s T20 terms – to someone who could step out and send the ball flying for miles while dealing with the spinners in particular, Sidhu’s second innings as a commentator has been comparably notice-worthy. He has irritated purists with his style of commentating, which is based on a unique formula. He talks very little cricket, and talks too much. As if that is not enough, he showers similes, metaphors, shayaris and proverbs on the viewers, hijacking the time of his colleagues who can do nothing apart from watching him with a partly amused, partly stunned look.

 

When Sidhu joined the IPL5 commentary team as part of the Sony Max show Extraaa Innings, he had reportedly said that the show beats ‘Vidya Balan in terms of entertainment quotient’, the reference being to the actress’s affirmation that a film is about ‘entertainment’ in The Dirty Picture. Balan’s character Silk had used the word ‘entertainment’ three times, and Sidhu had promised five times more than that.

 

Somewhat confusing, no doubt about that, since exactly how much entertainment did Silk promise by uttering the word three times? Sidhu may not know that, but he will have an answer to this query for sure. He has an answer for everything.

 

What kind of rubbish does he talk? How much can he talk? How can he remember so many shayaris, proverbs and god knows what else? How does he misinterpret half the things he knows with so much confidence? As time has flown since the day he became a commentator many turbans ago – he started his career when India toured Sri Lanka in 2001 – what is amply obvious is that he has added a lot of new material to his arsenal, stuff he uses the way only he can.

 

In the studio of Extraaa Innings, Sidhu, who says ‘gurrru’ whenever presented with an opportunity, came up with an outstanding statement the other day: outstanding since not even George Bush could have given rise to so much unintentional humour. Sachin Tendulkar, he said, is a genius, just as Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini were. Hence, the Master Blaster is meant to be admired. Sourav Ganguly, on the contrary, is a man of character. So, he is meant to be trusted.

 

Presenting, some possible conclusions drawn from what Sidhu said:

*Tendulkar is characterless, and hence, not supposed to be trusted.

*Ganguly is not a genius and, therefore, should not be admired.

*Tendulkar’s genius has parallels in Hitler and Mussolini.

*A man of character cannot be a genius, and vice-versa.

*Hitler and Mussolini are meant to be admired.

 

Poor Harsha Bhogle, who sits right next to the man. Having been reminded of his hair transplant by Sidhu – for the consumption of the entire world, by the garrulous Sardar, who else? – he keeps staring at our protagonist, doing hee-hee-hee, distinctly clumsy and uneasy, acutely aware, one is sure, that he has been condemned to become one part of the ‘Jai and Veeru’ pair in the present edition of Extraaa Innings.

 

That Harsha and Sidhu have become Jai and Veeru – the legendary characters played by Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan in the curry Western Sholay – tells us two things. Firstly, Extraaa Innings is not meant for the cricket connoisseur: which is fine, since neither is T20. Secondly, a character like Sidhu can only make its TRPs shoot heavenward, many watching the show seek the sort of humour that he has come to epitomize.

 

That Sidhu’s prattle is not a 24-hour-reality in our lives is what works for the man. In a serious moment, when a batsman has failed to negotiate delivery after delivery, he has been known to irritate the hell out of a listener by comparing the batsman to a ‘one-legged man in a bum-kicking competition’. (He is not doing that in this edition of IPL, having been confined to the studios, but he has made many such comparisons in the past). But the thing is, the ‘idea’ of Sidhu has become an addiction with the passage of time. As his loyal fans will tell you, it is not an addiction which is subversive, like heroin, but a habit which makes one smile even when one gets completely exasperated.

 

As a person talking cricket, Sidhu, having been a top-level cricketer himself, makes a lot more sense than, say, Mandira Bedi, who possibly believed that the leg stump was tied to a batsman’s leg when she had started out. Unlike serious commentators, however, nobody hears him for his reflections on the game. Sidhu’s USP is the ‘out-of-placeness’ of his thoughts, a carefully manicured image he has developed by insisting that the Indian team ‘without Sachin is like giving a kiss without a squeeze.’

 

As someone who seesaws between being a purist and a lover of baseball cricket’s entertainment – the former, when I watch test matches and the latter, when T20 hits the mart – I am among many who lose it when he starts burying voices around him, and cracking meandering jokes in the middle of a serious discussion. But, my anger subsides when Sidhu says what he thinks is funny and introspective by combining humour with deep thought. He is at his best when devotedly absurd: an entertainer who puts up a whole-hearted performance. He is what every T20 player on the cricket field ought to be. Now, is that a Sidhuism?

 

 

Born in Patna but based in Pune, independent writer-journalist Biswadeep Ghosh enjoys writing on films, literature and music. But, yes, cricket is his passion, and he (even) follows matches featuring Canada and Namibia whenever he can.

 

Photograph: Fotocorp

 

Post a Comment 

2 responses to “Why IPLs are no fun without this man”

  1. Sardar Singh says:

    Funny piece on a funny man. Great reading.

  2. ramesh krishnamoorthy says:

    While I agree with Mr Ghosh partially on the ‘exasperated smile’ Sidhu brings to our faces, humour also does need some style.
    Sidhu has bulldozed into a cricket watcher’s life, much like he did to Shane Warne, the bowler, in matches.

    For anyone who watched the post match ‘Extra Innings’ with Sunil Gavaskar yesterday, it was a pleasure. When he spoke like a Guyanese or a Trinidadian, it was absolutely brilliant.

    There was humour in the Gavaskar spoke and irrefutable logic… when he described Ganguly’s keeness or ‘do or die’ attitude to perform in T-20 as it is his only option to play international cricket now compared to current players — something few cricket experts have voiced so eloquently.

    I will not miss Sidhu if he is not there in a particular match. Sunnybhai, I certainly will.

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