Dubai: It seems to be a tough life if you are a TV pundit when the Indian team is in action these days, or let slip a flippant remark about one of the reigning deities of the game in the Indian Premier League (IPL). Yes, even if you are Sunil Gavaskar.
While Delhi Daredevils and Chennai Super Kings were locked in a IPL match on Friday, the trending topic was the face-off between the legendary Indian opener and Anushka Sharma’s retort over the former bringing up her name up as her husband Virat Kohli fell short with the bat during Royal Challengers Bangalore’s game against Kings XI Punjab the day before. It was a flippant remark alright - but little did Gavaskar realise that a so-called lighthearted comment made in the Hindi segment would whip up such a storm.
The original Little Master was somewhat on the defensive when he clarified his side of the story in an interview later in the day, arguing his case that his remarks were not sexist. His point was that like most other Indian big names who were deprived of a hit during the proloned lockdown, the Indian captain was also not an exception and the only ‘‘practice’’ which he had was when Anushka was rolling her arm over at the terrace of their flat in Mumbai - which was filmed by a neighbour and made on the social media.
A close scrutiny of his comments makes you wonder if Gavaskar had actually crossed the line. His comment actually was nowhere near the objectionable remarks made by former Indian wicketkeeper Farookh Engineer in the aftermath of India’s exit in the semi-finals of last year’s ICC World Cup. Taking a dig at the lack of depth in the then selection committee, Engineer said he found the erstwhile committee chairman MSK Prasad was busy serving tea to Anushka Sharma in the VIP enclosure. An extremely uncalled-for remark, to which Anushka immediately posted a suitable riposte.
Now, where does that leave the TV pundit covering Indian cricket today ? An aside can invoke such a strong backlash in the social media that it even calls for Gavaskar’s exit from the panel, while any hint of criticism about on-field performance of a leading Indian player may sideline you indefinitely - irrespective of however big the name is. Ask Sanjay Manjrekar.
The former Indian middle order batsman, a long serving name on the comm box, first earned the wrath of Ravindra Jadeja during the 2019 World Cup for calling him a ‘bits-and-pieces player,’ perceived as a common usage for wannabe allrounders. He, of course, got into a needless argument with Harsha Bhogle during the day-night Test against Bangladesh last November with co-commentator Harsha Bhogle - for which he had apologised profusely on twitter for having lost his cool.
Manjrekar was dropped from the commentators’ panel for the IPL this year, a lucrative assignment. He then apologised to the BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and asked the board to reconsider their decision, but it’s clear that he has to now wait for now.
Incidentally, Bhogle himself was at the receiving end a few years ago. During the 2016 T20 World Cup in India, he was reortedly critical of Indian team’s performance during his on-air comments. Amitabh Bachchan, the Bollywood icon, threw his weight behind the Indian team on twitter and Mahendra Singh Dhoni - the then Indian captain - retweeted it to silently affirm that even he was not happy.
It was then Bhogle’s turn to stay on the sidelines for more than a year before before he was re-instated. It’s then no easy job, then, to survive as the TV commentator by pleasing your bosses.
Mind what you say next, gentleman!