Radio killed the television star

Radio
Disheartened by Vivian Richards crashing the ball to all parts as the West Indies chased down India's modest 183, Kapil Dev and Madan Lal's wives, who were sitting together and watching from the stands, left Lord's in anguish, and gave away their tickets to a couple of West Indian fans outside the stadium.

Fifteen minutes later, when Mrs. Dev and Mrs. Lal reached their hotel, they realised that the West Indies were five down, and that their husbands had combined memorably to dismiss Richards. They had just missed witnessing the moment that would define India's 1983 World Cup triumph, and had become subjects of an anecdote that would regale audiences at after-dinner speeches for decades to come.

But on September 11, this anecdote caused listeners around India to grind their teeth in frustration. It might have made for a funny story, but Kapil was narrating it while doing radio commentary for the fourth ODI at Lord's. For three overs, listeners had no idea what was happening during the Dhoni-Raina partnership that briefly looked like reviving Team India's dismal batting performance, except for a hurriedly-uttered score at the end of the over before resuming the story after the ad break.

For the first two Tests of India's tour of England, radio aficionados in India had to do without commentary. This was due to a stand-off between Channel 2, a Dubai-based company that held the rights for the series, and Prasar Bharati, over revenue sharing. The impasse was resolved after an intervention by Ambika Soni, I&B Minister, and fans could tune in from the third Test onwards.

But the quality of broadcasts has caused its share of disgruntlement. Kapil, a director at Channel 2, roped in plenty of big names for the series, including Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Ajay Jadeja, Farokh Engineer and Clive Lloyd. But their lack of experience in radio was exposed, with the commentators often failing to switch from TV mode. "They don't understand that in radio, the listeners have to see through the eye of the commentator," says an AIR commentator.

So while listeners might have been treated to more expert opinion than before, they have often been left scratching their heads over whether Ajinkya Rahane's last single came from a nudge to square leg or a dab behind point.

Not for the masses

Moreover, a large chunk of the radio audience in India has a greater grasp of Hindi than English, and this demographic has been ill-served during the Hindi segments, with commentators either lapsing into English or, in the case of Gavaskar and Shastri, letting slip an inadvertent word or two of Marathi. The Hindi has been more conversational than normal commentary — not a bad thing in itself — but on one occasion, a commentator stopped just short of uttering an expletive. With the Indian team going through a lean patch, the broadcasts haven't been short of personal attacks on players either.

The entry of superstars like Kapil and Gavaskar was supposed to spark new life into Indian radio. But their debut has been marred by a lack of understanding of the medium, or its

consumers.

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