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September 21, 2008

Samir Chopra

It happened one night

Samir Chopra

It is commonplace amongst Indian commentators to trace the beginning of a particular kind of cricket mania to June 25th, 1983. I tend to agree, but only partially. My preferred date is March 3rd, 1985, when India played Australia at the MCG in the final Group A match of the Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket, held to commemorate the Victorian Cricket Association's Centenary. For that was the day that Indian cricket viewers first watched the live telecast of a cricket game from Australia (and since my memory isn't perfect, the first by Channel 9). And that was the day that cricket presented itself as a perfectly packaged televised spectacle, with plenty of glitter and gloss, 100 overs long, with a definite result at the end of it.

Those of us settling down on that rather chilly morning (Delhi winters sometimes packed a late punch) had little inkling of what was in store. It began innocently enough as Kapil sprinted to bowl the first delivery to Graeme Wood. As he did so, a scraping, knocking sound issued from our television sets, followed by the unmistakable sound of bat on ball. What had happened? It took us a few seconds to figure out that this was the famous "stump microphone" that we had read about. A few minutes later Robbie Kerr was gone, bowled Kapil Dev, and the sound his stumps made as they rattled was a sweet one indeed. Cricket had gone from being a game played far away on the ground to one that had a sudden, dynamic, physical immediacy. We were at the ground, in the midst of the action.

We watched the endless replays, the clarity of the images, the varied and multiple angles that covered the dismissals, and the clever graphics (prompted by Geoff Lawson's duck). We had not realized that all of this could be possibly associated with a cricket game. When India had won the World Cup in 1983, it had made cricketing success in one form of the game possible. What this Australian telecast did was make cricket into a form of entertainment that could be enjoyed by a much wider demographic; it made the far away spectacle of a game played by men in whites into a living-room tamasha of brightly attired athletic performers, displaying a perfectly tuned entertainer's sensibility. And of course, all of this on the magnificent stage of the cavernous MCG.

There were purely cricketing reasons too that day. India's 'quicks' smashed through the Aussie top-order, leaving them tottering at 4-17. Was it really possible that Indian opening bowlers could do this, in such brilliant clarity, to an opposing side? Especially one like the Australians (never mind that the Australian team that year was not particularly strong, it still held a certain fascination for Indian fans). A partial recovery saw the Aussies to 160. But with a mixture of Srikkanth-freneticism and Shastri-phlegmatism India strolled to that target. They had beaten Australia in Australia, on Australian television. The telecast magnified all of this. Our cricketers, in slo-mo, in close-up, viewed from various angles, praised to the high heavens by all these seemingly knowledgeable international cricketers whose names we had only read about, turned into demigods.

A week later, India beat Pakistan by the same comfortable margin in the final. The razzle-dazzle of the awards ceremony, the victory lap on the Audi, put the final touches to the pictures drawn for us that week. From now on, the game would always be linked with the televised spectacle, and Indian fans knew what they wanted to see on the tube.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Posted by aarkayne on (March 9, 2011, 21:28 GMT)

Continuing my previous comment here :

Still remember that semi-final against an inspired New Zealand side lead by the cunning and canny Jeremy Coney! Vengsarker and Kapil Dev's BRILLIANT partnership that won us that game.

The final with Pakistan that had both Imran and Javed Miandad in the team and how clinically we beat them. And of course the lap in the AUdi.

The current team needs to understand and get that sense of cohesiveness back, without which we are no world cup winners!!!!

Posted by aarkayne on (March 9, 2011, 21:26 GMT)

Thanks for taking me down memory lane....I was an engineering student and had to be a travelling nomad to be able to get into somebody's house each day of the match to watch the game, since we did not have one in the hostel. While on one day it would mean catching the action in b&w on other especially lucky days, it would be in color.

What I remember most even till date is Ian Chappell insisting on CHannel 9 that for the sake of Indain cricket, Gavaskar should continue on with the captaincy since he had done such an outstanding job. There were rumours of his feud with Kapil Dev, but none of that seemed to come to the front when INdia played in that tournament. Binny, Sivaramakrishnan(was it his debut?), Vishwanat(behind stumps), Azharuddin, Srikkant, Shashtri, Vengsarkar and Kapil were all playing in perfect complement of each other.

Posted by Devang on (April 16, 2010, 6:09 GMT)

I'm trying to find highlights of games from this series (1985 Benson and Hedges) - any pointers?

Posted by Rahul on (October 19, 2008, 11:57 GMT)

I remember it, as it was the first Live Telecast on TV from Australia.Me and my dad used to wake early in the morning to watch it.The sound of the ball hitting the stumps and the sound it would make, beautiful outfields (and so big stadiums)would be enhanced when seen on TV.I was 8 years old then and I think that was the first telecast of any sports that I saw on TV. Later that year India toured Australia again for Test and Tri-series and it was telecast again. Compare that to the telecast of DD in those days and u would think of what I mean.

Posted by Agni on (September 22, 2008, 6:15 GMT)

Just like previous poster Pushkar M,I had turned clock back 23 years, still remember vividly when we woke up early in the morning around 530 AM picking milk packets from the front gate,actually never saw the milkman before that day ( we never woke up so early as on that day--I was still in school ,12 or 13 yr lad)commentators (keith stackpole i think) giving away the batting stats of L Sivaramakrishnan when Siva was taking wickets with his gentle full tosses...... Thanks Samir......

Posted by Ashish on (September 22, 2008, 5:36 GMT)

I remember that telecast vividly. Until then, the cricket telecasts in India were shown from only one end of the pitch, i.e, after seeing one over from one end with the batsman facing the camera, we would then have to bear another over seeing only his back (and the wicketkeeper's too). I remember seeing the channel nine coverage and wondering for the first few overs whether they were using only one end of the pitch for bowling, as the camera angle kept switching and we were always watching with the batsman facing us. Just shows how far channel 9 was in those days compared to DD.

Posted by Swaminath on (September 22, 2008, 4:29 GMT)

Nice and nostalgic article. The WCC 1985 was a spectacular victory for India. They didnt put a foot wrong in the tournament. And to watch all that action in Australia, under floodlights, stump microphones and white balls took me to a whole new world. Sadanand Viswhvanath's work behind the stumps against England, Srikkanth's batting, the commentary by channel nine commentators etc was captivating. It started a love affair with watching cricket in general, and watching cricket in Australia especially.

Posted by Jaideep on (September 21, 2008, 16:18 GMT)

Good article. First telecast from Pakistan in 1978 - famous for Zaheer Abbas's run scoring. England - 1983 World Cup semi final India vs England. There was 1982 Wimbledon finals in the previous year telecast live. Live telecast from other countries like West Indies, New Zealand came much later. Gavaskar was presented with Maruti 800 in Madras in 1983.

Posted by Jason Radley on (September 21, 2008, 14:20 GMT)

In Britain, the first live games from Australia that I remember were broacast on the BBC from England's 1986-87 Ashes tour. It felt so exotic!

Posted by Navin on (September 21, 2008, 13:53 GMT)

The first telecast I remember as I was child ( I was six then) was Gavaskar's 236* in Madras(Chennai). If I remember correctly he was presented with a Fiat for overtaking Bradman's 29 tons. Then this tournament was the first tournament which I saw live on Colour TV( We bought Colour Tv just a few days back). I never knew this was the first telecast from Australia but we really enjoyed the telecast. But Doordasrshan of old always had some problem with feeds and sometimes we had to be content with a placard saying " SORRY FOR THE INTERRUPTION". The following year India toured again and the tri-series was shown live on TV for matches featuring India. Nowadays ESPN gives its own graphics and audio though they are good but are no match in comparison to Channel 9. Which we enjoy when India is not on tour to Australia.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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