Cricket in India is the most popular sport by a country mile and the lack of cricket during the last three months has caused a lot of disappointment throughout the nation. As of now, it is hard to predict when Indian cricket will resume due to the on-going lockdown.
Star India Shares Ideas To Improve Viewership
Star India which is the host broadcaster for all cricket in India is airing a number of old games to keep the fans happy. Star India signed a 5 year host broadcaster deal in 2018 with the BCCI for $944 million to be the exclusive broadcaster for all cricket media rights in the country.
They are also the exclusive broadcaster of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and signed a deal in 2017 for $2.55 billion. The lack of cricketing action has not only hurt the BCCI’s finances but also Star India.
Star & Disney India Chairman Uday Shankar is keen to see things get back to normal. He recently shared his views of how the BCCI could further boost the popularity of the game in India and get more viewers engaged and entertained.
Color Commentary Team Must Be Added
Shankar said that he believes that Indian cricket fans don’t have as much fun as they should watching cricket games on TV because the television commentary team don’t do enough to keep viewers entertained between balls. He felt that cricket commentary was too ‘sanitised’ and that the sport is not being described in a lively and entertaining manner.
If you have been a fan of Indian cricket for the last two decades, you can certainly relate to what Shankar is saying. Some of the commentators who have covered Indian cricket in the past like Sir Geoffrey Boycott, the late Tony Greig and Henry Blofeld used to add that element of spice to the broadcast which caused fans to tune in and listen diligently between deliveries.
The two Indian commentators who added some of that flavour to the broadcast was Ravi Shastri who is now the head coach of the Indian cricket team and Navjot Singh Sidhu who is now into politics.
The current commentary team mostly consists of ex-players such as Sunil Gavaskar, VVS Laxman, M Kartik and Aakash Chopra who are experts in describing the action. Harsha Bhogle has been part of the commentary panel for decades and tries to fill in as a color commentator but his humour is dry and the cricketing public have gone accustomed to hearing him for years.
Commentary Team Controlled By BCCI
One of the reasons why Indian cricket commentary is so dry is because the commentators are paid by the BCCI and are asked to follow a strict set of rules when it comes to the dos and don’ts of what they can say. Sanjay Manjrekar found out the hard way in early 2020 when the BCCI decided not to renew his contract because he criticized Ravindra Jadeja on air.
The same thing happened to Harsha Bhogle a few years ago because he directed some criticism towards MS Dhoni. The BCCI brought back Bhogle after keeping him out of the commentary team for a couple of years. Commentators are keen to toe the line as the BCCI pays them very well.
Shankar was quick to point out that whoever decides to do color commentary must stay within the lines of the BCCI. He said commentators need to remember that they are not journalists as the two roles and responsibilities were very different.
More Room For Emotions To Be Broadcast
Shankar also feels that there is too much control being imposed on what can and cannot be broadcasted to the viewers. He would ideally like viewers to get live broadcasts uninterrupted from the stump mike, helmet cam and what happens on the field as this will bring in a lot more engagement with the fans.
However, players have been caught on camera swearing and sledging which is why broadcasters are given restricted access to broadcast what the players are saying out on the pitch.
Shankar believes that it is important for the viewers to connect with the players and share in the emotion of the sport. He thinks it is better for all players to express themselves on the cricket field instead of hiding their emotion. His suggestion is to get players to go through a house training protocol that will help them know where to draw the line.