Ranjona Banerji: Game, Set and Match, Star Sports!

18 Jul,2017

​By Ranjona Banerji​


In the 1970s, in some parts of India, the only television we had was Doordarshan. The rumour is that Delhi had TV before the rest of India – is that true? Okay, okay I know it did. National capital after all and while it was not dubbed a “region” in those days, truth be told, it was pretty regional – a series of villages collected around the seat of power. Anyway, that’s not the point though a little Delhi-bashing is always good for the soul! The point is that all we had was Doordarshan and all we had were Black & ​White EC TVs because the government also made TV sets.

Doordarshan opened our eyes to the world. We watched old American and British sitcoms and serials, usually high on culture – The Invisible Man, Shakespeare, Jane Austen. We watched cricket and it was so different from listening to commentary on the radio. And then we were privileged to watch the Wimbledon finals. If you were lucky to have your own TV, you invited friends and neighbours. If not, you invaded someone else’s house. It was the “done” thing. Or we did it, at any rate.

To watch Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert even in scratchy ​Black ​& ​White (the screen shook every time a crow sat on the antenna) – such joy! But no matter what, if the match went on to beyond 8 pm, the News came on. It could have been match point, it could have been in the middle of the victory speech, it could have been mid-serve. Wherever you were in India, it was time for the news.

Has anything changed? Do you tear your hair out any less now that we are privatised and spoilt for choice with several dedicated sports channels? I know the instinct is to blame cricket for every problem in India but I can assure you that no matter how important the tournament or the point, the channel concerned will at some point switch to a car or motorcycle race. And more often than not, the channel will show every match except the semi-final and final.

I speak of course as a diehard tennis fan. This year, we watched Wimbledon on Star Sports Select 1 and 2. There were also two additional channels, part of Wimbledon’s own package which showed play on the smaller courts and also what was happening along the grounds. The feed was the BBC feed – like the old Doordarshan days – so no Vijay Amritraj and Alan Wilkins sitting in a studio pretending they were on court. (Once I think they commentated on the Australian Open sitting in Singapore!)

With at least three dedicated channels to one tennis tournament, there was not much pain when the mandatory switch to cars and motorcycles happened (of course it did, it’s a tradition like strawberries and cream at Wimbledon!). Listening to John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Kim Clijsters, Tim Henman and even Vijay Amritraj on the non-show courts was a privilege. Not to mention the expert opinions of Boris Becker and our own Enrico Piperno.

I have to say I was more than satisfied. I watched so many women’s matches which was a treat since the WTA gets short shrift on TV now that Ten Sports seems to have abandoned women’s tennis. I watched every major match except when the rain played havoc with the dish antenna. And I greatly enjoyed the half-hour special on Roger Federer which was aired on Monday evening.

It’s a good feeling not having to complain! Game, set and match Star Sports for this one.


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