E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Prof Ratnakar Shetty had a tough task ahead. Following the unbridled success of the Indian Premier League, BCCI president Sharad Pawar offered him the job of making Tests and one-dayers as successful as the IPL.
Naturally, he would be designated commissioner of Tests And One-Dayers (TOAD).
The TOAD commissioner was sitting in his office wearing headphones and a blissful expression when I went to see him at the appointed hour. He was ready to take questions.
“How are you going to put more bums on seats for Test matches?” I asked.
“Music flows like blood in the veins of an Indian. Also all Indians wear cricket in their hearts. For me, the line between cricket and music is already getting blurred. Part of the success of IPL is due to the song and dance act of Lalit Modi.”
“What precisely are your TOAD plans, Mr Commissioner?”
“Test cricket is a serious affair and needs classical music. We are going to have Pandit Bhimsen Joshi doing aalap in Hamsadvani during the toss. Later, as the tempo picks up, he will sing raag Basant and Bilawal. He and his troupe will be sitting next to the special stage next to the pavilion.”
“But surely you can’t make him sing the whole day?”
“No, no. During the drinks break, we will change the artistes. If a partnership is developing, we will have a jugalbandi of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia on the bansuri and Pandit Shivkumar Sharma on the santoor. This will be like the great partnership of V.V.S. Laxman and Rahul Dravid at the Eden Gardens.”
“What about other centres?”
“Our treasurer N. Srinivasan has given a contract to the Music Academy for matches in Madras. Lalgudi Jayaraman will play violin with his daughter and son at Chepauk.”
“It’s then a family affair in Madras?”
“Others like Unnikrishnan, Sudha Raghunathan and Sanjay Subramanyam will also be there. Like IPL players, they will perform and go, to be replaced by others. You know something? Just like Chappell, Morkel and the Pathan brothers there are Hyderabad brothers, Saralaya sisters and the famous Dagar brothers in music too. We will have Rabindra sangeet at Eden Gardens and sufi music in Delhi. We will get all of them in different grounds.”
“Will they all sing the same ragaas?”
“I am afraid your knowledge of ragaas is poor. There are ragas for every hour of the day. Ahir bhairav, Bhoopali todi and Sohni are song for the morning hours, while Madhuvanti, Bheem palasi and Shuddh sarang are sung in the afternoon. While Yaman kalyan and Maru bihag are sung in the evening, Malkauns, Kalavathi and Kedar are sung at night. We will specify which ragas are to be sung or played during the course of the day depending on the situation of the game. Even for the drinks interval and tea breaks I have chosen specific ragas.”
“What about one-dayers, professor?”
“Here I can relax a bit. I am planning to get Sonu Nigam, Shaan with Shreya Ghoshal. We will replace them with Udit Narayan, Abhijit and Sunidhi Chauhan. We will use local talent at various centres. Vijay Mallya doesn’t care which music we are going to play in Bangalore as long as they are called ‘***** Challengers’. Pawar saab has suggested use of lawani dancers and Mr Bindra wants bhangra. I have yet to decide on that.”
“What about Cheer Girls to cheer the players here?” I asked.
The professor got very angry.
“They are not cheer girls. I call them ‘Chee Chee’ girls! I will resign but I am not going to have them here for the Tests. Test cricket is pure and I will not let it soiled by other things. What will the purists think?”
“Any other innovations, Prof. Shetty?”
“When Ravi Shastri announces the man of the match awards, I am thinking of playing shehnai and nadaswaram. As we gain more experience we might get Zubin Mehta to conduct his philharmonic orchestra. Pavarotti would have been great, unfortunately he is no more. Daler Mehndi and Sivamani on tabla and drums would make a nice jugalbandi but people might feel I could have used it for the Bhajii-Sreesanth jugalbandi. You’ve got to be careful and not over do anything.”
“You are absolutely right professor Shetty,” I agreed.