Posts Tagged ‘ESPN’

India vs England series, and ESPN’s crass TV ads

13 November 2012

KRISHNAKUMAR P. writes from Bombay: Is the Indian cricket fan so cheap?

Do only cheap tricks appeal to the Indian cricket fan?

When ESPNStar won the broadcast rights for India’s home matches for the next six years, Indian fans rejoiced.

First, there was hope of better telecast quality. Second, there was the promise of some erudite commentary. And third, there was the hope that the viewer would now get to watch the first and last balls of each over.

Above all, being a pure sports broadcaster with years of experience covering cricket, ESPNStar was expected to deliver a rich viewing experience as opposed to the kitschy fare delivered by earlier broadcasters.

In short, here was a golden opportunity for ESPNStar to begin the Channel9-isation of Indian cricket broadcast, by injecting some much-needed professionalism at a time when cricket has been packaged and promoted more as entertainment than sport.

But the manner in which the broadcaster has been promoting the India-England series starting on November 15 comes as a sad reminder that not much has changed from the time we were told that ‘it was tough being a West Indian or a Sri Lankan in India.’

The running theme in the ESPN Star TV commercials—‘Angrezon kit toh bajaa di!’ using, in different spots, a pungi, a dafli, a band, and basuri—is as bad, if not worse, as Neo Sports’s racist ads targeting the West Indians or the Sri Lankans.

Understandably, ESPNStar has just come back into the subcontinent and would want to garner as much attention as possible. And admittedly, these ads are just to tell the viewer that the coverage of the series is available with Hindi commentary.

But rather than absolve the broadcaster, this only raises another disturbing question: Does ESPNStar think that the Hindi speaking/listening fan cannot understand the nuances of the game and the only way to connect with those fans is to appeal to their basest instincts?

And does it think that fans are only interested in seeing the Angrez getting bajao-ed and would not be interested in watching a hard fought, evenly matched series of cricket?

What is even more disappointing is that, unlike the Neo sports campaign, which was in the innocent pre-IPL days, this comes in the age of the shrinking dressing rooms and when player camaraderie that cuts across nations and clubs.

Could ESPNStar not have celebrated this newfound camaraderie to promote a big series in India, the home of the IPL?

It is not like STAR cricket doesn’t know how to promote a marquee series on its cricketing merits with a dash of good natured humour and wit. You just have to wait for another ad break between overs to see the ads promoting another cracker of a series being played a couple of time zones removed.

A South African fan asks his Aussie counterpart, ‘Hey Bru, what do you call a world-class Aussie cricketer?’ and goes on to answer: ‘A retired cricketer’. Another spot has the Aussie fan returning the complement, saying the best chance South African fans have of seeing a Dale Steyn wicket on this tour is when he walks in to bat.

Back then, Neo Sports found itself taken to court for its racist ads.

Considering that this time around it is our former colonial masters that are subjected to some old-fashioned bajao-ing, ESPNStar may well get away with it. But make no mistake — these ads are crass, tasteless and offensive.

Are Gavaskar & Shastri India’s only cricketers?

27 April 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: As I went around the now-abandoned Chinnaswamy stadium, no thanks to the Bangalore police, I spotted the Ace Sports Specialist (ASS) sitting in the clubhouse restaurant.

I joined him for coffee and thought I could get my doubts cleared on some cricketing aspects.

“How come only a few names come out of the BCCI’s hat whenever the membership or chairmanship of any committee comes up? One or two occupying multiple positions of power in not uncommon. Is it a case of ‘Favored Few’? Or do others not qualify or they are not interested?” I started off.

“You are talking in riddles. Why don’t you be specific?” asked ASS.

Sunil Gavaskar is one of the most articulate and knowledgeable cricketers apart from being one of the all-time greats of the game. Naturally his services are sought by the ICC, the BCCI as well as sports channels like ESPN, Star Cricket, etc.”

“It is but natural,” ASS agreed.

“Sometime back when he was the chairman of the ICC technical committee, he had criticized ICC during a Test match as Star Sports commentator. There was a clear conflict of interest. ICC bluntly gave him an alternative, ‘either be with ICC or quit commentating’.”

“That’s right. He resigned from the ICC and kept the more lucrative commentator’s job.”

“Doesn’t ICC’s rule apply for BCCI too?  He is the chairman of BCCI technical committee and he continues to be the commentator for the cricket channels as well as an expert for the news channels? Isn’t there a conflict of interest? Even the captain or a member of the team is barred from writing when a match is on.”

“You’re right. I never thought of this before. BCCI always operates in an ad hoc manner most times,” blurted ASS.

Ravi Shastri was a ‘Champion of Champions’ once and hit 6 sixes off Tilak Raj in a Ranji trophy match.”

“Not bad kannaiah, Ramu! You have kept track of all the great records.”

I ignored ASS’S backhanded compliment.

“Aren’t Shastri and Gavaskar members of the IPL governing council too?” I asked.

“Yes, they are, along with Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi.”

“Don’t we have other cricketers of calibre who could have been given this job, like Mohinder Amarnath, Kapil Dev, Bishen Singh Bedi, Syed Kirmani, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Dilip Doshi et al since Gavaskar is already chairman of technical committee and Shastri is chairman of the NCA in Bangalore? Why doesn’t BCCI even consider other senior cricketers as they too have served the country with distinction?”

“There is something like being in ‘good books’ of BCCI; the names that you mention probably come under ‘bad books’,” ASS explained.

“I see. What about Arun Lal, Brijesh Patel, Shivlal Yadav,  Narendra Hirwani, Raju Mukherji?” I persisted.

“Look. BCCI must have forgotten most of these names. Sharad Pawar and Shashank Manohar may not even know who Hirwani is.”

“Again, how come only Ravi Shastri and Gavaskar were along with S. Venkataraghavan in a committee to select the coach for the Indian team? Shouldn’t senior cricketers like Chandu Borde, Ajit Wadekar and Gundappa Vishwanath be on such committees? Their credentials as players are any day better than that of Shastri.”

“The cricketers you mentioned may perhaps be too old to understand modern cricket, especially one-day cricket and Twenty 20 cricket.”

ASS had brought the newer forms of cricket into play.

“Look,” I said, “both Gavaskar and Shastri didn’t exactly set the Meethi river on fire in the shorter versions. Remember, Gavaskar scored 36 not out in 60 overs in the first World Cup! What about Syed Kirmani, Yashpal Sharma or Kirti Azad, the heroes of the 1983 World Cup final or Sadanand Vishwanth or W.V. Raman?”

“The names you mention are not from the western region.”

“I can’t understand. First you have to be in the ‘good books’ of the Board and then you have to be also from the western region to be eligible for plum positions! BCCI should encourage past cricketers from all regions and give them the chance to shoulder various responsibilities instead of choosing only its blue-eyed boys in all committees and academies etc. Are we talking of the board of control for cricket in India, the BCCI, after all?”

“Yes, but BCCI, which runs cricket in the country, is mostly BCCIWI,” said the ASS.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Board of control for cricket in India from western India!’ The other regions simply do not matter to them in the least,” replied the ASS is we left the Chinnaswamy stadium.

Where were you when Fedex was serving an ace?

8 July 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Roger Federer and Andy Roddick played perhaps one of the greatest Wimbledon finals ever on Sunday.

Federer, who had never broken Roddick’s service during the four-hour, five- set match, did so only once to win the championship. It was a match memorable for the event as also played in front of some greatest tennis players of the game Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver, Manuel Santana, Ilie Nastase along with Sampras.

When the whole world was watching the match, what were Indians watching?

Our sports minister Manohar Singh Gill probably had a ringside seat at centre court like last year. How did his countrymen who depend on Doordarshan watch the match?

They didn’t.

It is a crying shame that the Wimbledon men’s finals was not scheduled to be shown at all on our so-called “National Network”.

What was scheduled was the live telecast of the 4th one-day international between India and West Indies. India already had a 2-1 lead in the series and even if they had lost the match, would have leveled the series at 2-2.

Tennis was shown on DD only because play was stopped in the rain-affected ODI, and finally the cricket match was abandoned. This is the fate of international tennis final vis-a- vis an inconsequential cricket match.

It is true that sports channels like ESPN or Star Sports show these matches live. But should those who do not subscribe to the cable network miss such matches because of shortsighted policy of DD mandarins? Who decides on such issues anyway?

DD has a ‘dedicated’ sports channel which was showing some badminton match from the files.

In all fairness, DD had telecast live the ladies single the previous evening. But when it comes to cricket, every other sport, has to suffer the ignominy of playing second fiddle.

What if Leander Paes had reached the finals?


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