Amitabh Bachchan – Cricket Commentary

I have long stopped following cricket; I find that it was taking up far too much emotional space in my life. I decided to free myself of the affective efforts associated whenever India plays its cricket matches so that I could retain the focus in my mind on affairs at hand. Hence it is nearly after four decades that I sit in front of the television to watch a India-Pakistan match, part of the current Cricket World Cup season. The reason is simple. Amitabh Bachchan is in the commentary box, yet another chip added to his highly diversified portfolio. I follow Amitabh Bachchan for the compulsions of academic research and hence out flies my notebook and ball pen ready to pick up points that might help me to consolidate the idea of his persona.
The commentary is interesting because it helps me look inside Amitbah’s head; the way he looks at the world, the points he picks up, the images he constructs out of the labyrinth of what streams out as images apparently available to all uniformly and universally. It is here that I see how what Amitabh sees in a game of cricket. There are others in the commentary box as well; namely Kapil Dev and a professional commentator. I admit that I have not been following cricket for long now so I have lost touch with the names of commentators and the journalists. Kapil Dev’s commentary is much like that of the professional commentator because both are insiders of the game. They describe what unravels in front of them in terms of the strokes and balls, the fielding and the umpiring. They underscore what is there to be seen, they add background for the viewers of television the careers of the players, records of matches and explain to lay persons of the game why some shots are difficult and what kind of scores are comfortable and which are worrisome. They discuss strategies of games, in terms of the order of batsmen and comment on the quality of the cricket pitch. In short, they are in the game. Let me add that despite my gender and notwithstanding the fact that I never quite watched cricket after Gavaskar and Viswanath, Prasanna and Bedi, Solkar and Engineer, I am quite a connoisseur of cricket.
Amitabh’s comments are on a different plane. He of course reckons the statistics of players and knows through the laws of numbers the right kind of runs a team needs to make in each over of bowling. He also keeps track of historic data of past wins and losses. But he does something more. He analyses each player in terms of his mind, his habits, how he has trained, what his natural tendencies are and what he does with those. He also analyses performances of players in terms of their tendencies to perform under stress, he maintains secret diaries and noting on how people can perform under stress. He knows from the way Rohan Sharma holds his bat and plays his strokes if he has made up his mind to be in the game or is in a haste to score big runs. He guesses absolutely correctly that Shikhar Dhawan despite his discomfort with full toss deliveries the player intends to scrore sixerrs in order to overcome his own weakness and also to communicate his intentions to play the very same lollies which are so uncomfortable to him. Amitabh’s study of players are individuals in their various states of mind, their psychologies, their innate dispositions draws me to the game of cricket more as a field of study of capabilities, of skills and attitudes with which individuals sublimate themselves as parts of a larger whole, namely the team .
Amitabh quickly makes an assessment of the kind of physical fitness which cricket requires; more power and vigour in shoulder and arms for the bowlers and greater flexibility and strength in the hips for the batsmen because they have to stoop for such long hours. He compares the requirements of body tone of a cricketer to that of a film star and concludes that in terms of body fitness, the game demands more than his art and hence cricket is “superior” to cinema. Cricket is also psychologically more challenging than cinema because it holds players in a constant mode of competition with a pressure to win.
The stadium at Adelaide is packed with Indians and Pakistanis; in one corner a group of spectators of the match are holding up the tricolour with the overwriting “Indian Army”; indeed the cricket team is a metaphor for a battalion which has to win a war against the Pakistani attackers and save the nation. The cricket team of Indians is also called as the “India”, reinforcing the idea of the team as belonging to the imagined concept of the nation. I realize that viewing a game like a war pumps all that adrenalin inside my body and eventually turns me off from such supreme emotional investments. But Amitabh rescues the game from such strings and tie ups and raises the match is a plethora of human initiatives, their minds, and their spirits. The match ceases to be a war and graduates instead to an activity in which the human endeavours are extended to their limits. Cricket returns to me as a challenge. It is no longer a war in which a cricket team becomes a substitute for the Indian Army trying to reclaim territories lost to Pakistani infiltrators.
The commentators ask whether Amitabh supports India to which he replies resignedly that he has to because he stays in India; the superstar mentions that he may as well belong to Pakistan because that is where his mother hails from and were it not for the Partition, Pakistan may well have been his home. I am guilt free to appreciate and clap for Misbah, who has been my favourite for quite sometime now.

About secondsaturn

Independent Scholar. Polymath.
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