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Happy, yet disappointed

By Deepti Patwardhan in Nagpur
October 29, 2004 21:08 IST
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The 'enemy' camp is not really hostile.

As the Indian batsmen succumbed one by one to the pace and control of Australia's bowlers in the post-lunch session, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio room, at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur, reverberated with the well-toned voices of Jim Maxwell and Glenn Mitchell, clearly tinged with a dash of disappointment. Cricket lovers first, the duo wanted to see a fight.

From the beams of the air-conditioned glass enclosure hung a white cloth to keep the sun out; a wooden Ganesh idol, ten inches tall, sat on the radio transmission box.

"I had brought that idol from Kolkata during the last series [2001]," Maxwell said. "And I put it on the box on the day when [Rahul] Dravid and [V V S] Laxman played out the fourth day.

"I never put it there again, except in Adelaide last year, when again India beat Australia."

The Ganesh idol was back on the box in Nagpur after a series of power failures on the first day of the third Test. It brought Maxwell and Mitchell luck; the electricity was co-operative ever since.

The Indian team too must have been looking for some source of inspiration or a good luck charm as they went in to tea on Day 4, five wickets down for very few.

"There was huge expectation from this series," said Mitchell, who too was part of the ABC radio team on the 2001 tour. "It was huge; but, honestly, it was never going to be the same [as 2001]."

Maxwell agreed with his junior colleague. "Australia have definitely prepared better this time," he said. "[But] though we expected the result, we wanted to see more resistance and resilience from the Indian side."

The Indian batting, Mitchell reckoned, has been woefully out of touch, "and Harbhajan's injury here hasn't helped them either".

Mitchell, a Western Australian, has been on air for five of his ten years' service with the federal broadcasting company. "For a selfish reason, cricket is the favourite, because I get to tour so many countries," he confessed.

"I mean, to be for five weeks in a country like India, go around the sidewalks and enjoy the culture. Working with Jim's been really good. He's such a senior commentator."

Maxwell has been on air for 27 years. In this period, he has covered 18 Australian tours and more than 170 Test matches. He has covered other sports too, but cricket and presenting it to the public remain his undying love. "I have covered rugby union, some golf, yachting, snooker, but cricket's been the staple diet," he said. "Enthusiasm is the most important quality [for the job]; accuracy, a good sense of anticipation, knowing your audiences and giving them what they want, and not being too self-indulgent. Giving them a combination of information and entertainment."

Mitchell interjected, "We are virtually the eyes of the people. We have to paint a word picture. Since cricket is sometimes a slow game, with maiden overs or teams trying to drag to a draw, we have to fill it in with anecdotes and stories to make it interesting for the listeners."

True. The two Aussies didn't take long to find their vocabulary, as the Indian batsmen tumbled in a heap. "Jason Gillespie's gone through Dravid's defence. 'The Wall' has broken," said Maxwell. "India stutter and stumble and fall; they are five for 37."

It may be an aberration for India to go down so cheaply in a home series, but aren't the words, the jargon, a bit repetitive for the people on air?

"That's the challenge," agreed Maxwell, "to try and colour your conversation with a variety of words. It's important for commentators to read something like Shakespeare to add to the variety of words."

The veteran rated the Kolkata Test of 2001 as his most enjoyable moment on the job. "I think we commentators are like actors on the stage, or like the players," he said. "We need crowds to keep us going. In Kolkata, it was an open-air commentary box and we had the crowd in our face for most of the match, and that made it pretty special."

The Nagpur crowd was not bad either. Despite a disappointing performance by the Indians they came out in large numbers and lustily cheered both teams.

"The crowd has grown in the afternoon, especially in the stand to the left – the one pitched right in between the two television towers," Mitchell told him listeners, painting his word pictures in between overs.

While Maxwell chose "shocking" to describe India's performance in Nagpur, his technician tapped on the table, indicating 'today', after one of the organisers insisted the match would stretch into the last day, Saturday.

Tap, tap again; no prizes for guessing who won that little joust.

Lord Ganesh proved lucky for Max and Mitch this time.

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Deepti Patwardhan in Nagpur

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