Most Indians view their cricket very passionately. Both young and old are glued to TV or radio sets whenever a match is on. The addiction has been simplified with technology in mobile TV and FM radio transmission. Gone are the days when it was it was necessary to book tickets well in advance to witness a test match hosted only in metros.
Television transmission started in India in the 70s and became very popular during the 1983 World Cup which India won. In the good old days it was the radio receiver which brought the game alive in our homes. BBC Radio first broadcast a ball-by-ball commentary of a test match in 1927. Post-Independence, All India Radio took over the mantle and transmitted English commentaries of test matches played in India and abroad. Subsequently, Hindi and other languages were introduced for the benefit of the masses.
I recall my boyhood in the early 60s when we had a Murphy valve radio set at home with a high outdoor antenna mast. We young boys were keen followers of the cricket commentary that came over the air. Our enthusiasm was such that we were often chided by our parents to turn off the radio since we forgot our homework and other chores. There were no stump microphones and other gadgets to catch live action.
It is believed the commentators used a metal cup and ball to create a sound effect of the bat striking the ball to enliven their comments. Valve radios were soon replaced with portable transistors and tiny pocket radios which followed were a big hit. A few enthusiasts even dared to carry these miniature sets to office, discreetly listening to the commentary with the aid of an earphone and were admonished by their superiors when caught. Some of the cricket grounds in England even sold the pocket radios for the spectators to use while witnessing test matches and get live updates as the match progressed.
I’d prefer to sit at home and leisurely watch the match on television, with action replays and the commentators bringing out detail. I watched the recent T20 World Cup thriller between India and Pakistan on a high definition TV. The picture clarity and commentary were so good that I enjoyed the game better than being present on the ground. I once watched an India-Pakistan tie in Kochi. The stadium was jam-packed and whenever a boundary was scored most of the youngsters would rise to cheer much to the annoyance of those seated.
Many stars who have retired are among the band of well-known commentators whose expertise comes in handy when they describe live action. With the arrival of interactive television there will be a big boost in viewership and the viewers will have the choice of selecting parts of the match they would like to see in all details.