The Mandirization of Cricket

BY mannika| IN Media Practice | 17/03/2003
Its the new girls club. In the macho world of cricket these bat babes stand out like the Yana Gupta item number in Dum.


Reprinted with permission from the Statesman, March 14, 2003


 Mannika Chopra


Some day, very, very far into the future, the world of cricket might thank Sony Max for its contribution to portraying women commentators as vapid, giggly, goofy, hot numbers, but that time is not now. Hopefully, all thinking women /girls are seething with rage each time they see the network`s skimpily dressed sony kudi`s (who can forget Mandira Bedi`s scarlet crisscross number seen in Wednesday` face-off between Zimbabwe and Kenya) or video jockey Mario Coretti`s under cover as she zooms across South Africa questioning bemused looking spectators. Who cannot writhe in agony as a clueless Manjushree appears on the cricket chat show shown on DD Sports and re-aired at 11 p.m. on the national network? 


In the macho world of cricket these bat babes stand out like Yana Gupta`s item number in `Dum`. It`s the new girls club. They are there for sizzling relief and cosmetic value, to act as a voyeuristic magnet for those male viewers overdosing on too much crickinfo. Bedi might claim in various interviews that she got 22 out of 30 questions spot on in her Sony viva, but she has been firmly slotted, and has accepted her Gee Whiz slot on Extraa Innings on Sony Max with completely equanimity. That`s why no one, not even their co-panelists, takes her seriously.


Charu Sharma, the main anchor, barely acknowledges her. Last week Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi treated Bedi with zonked out detachment. This week Tony Grieg was `magnanimous` enough to indulge her with some light, and tasteless banter. He suggested to Bedi, appearing undercover in the aforementioned crisscross outfit, that she should appear topless during the India-New Zealand match scheduled for Friday. At which point, Bedi, that marvel of minimalist prose and dress, coyly requested Grieg to change the subject. One can only be thankful that Geoff Boycott, wasn`t sitting next to Sony`s wonder woman. 


Sony, whose TRP`s are shooting skywards, is more than happy with these new fixtures. The network claims that viewership for this World Cup has increased dramatically and that the presence of these item numbers has helped. Their theory is that too much of information and analysis is a turn off, even for men, even in cricket. There is a certain kind of appeal in not knowing too much. The thinking goes that foie de gras sounds alluring as a menu item simply because nobody really knows what it is. Deconstructing it as a ruptured goose liver spread can be, well, let`s just say not good for the foi de gras market. There`s a inherent need to trivialize and play down things. Hence the dumbing down or the Mandirization of the game. Isn`t it unbelievable that as March 8, the day universally acknowledged as the International Day for Women, whooshed by, commentators like Bedi have somehow become the standard bearers for womanhood on TV?  


Of course not all women sports anchors/reporters are as frothy or fulsome as Bedi and Co. Donna Simmons, the sole women commentator from the Caribbean is knowledgeable and witty. Why isn`t she being used more for the studio discussions? I read somewhere that she shifted from being a tennis commentator to covering cricket because she liked the slower pace of the game. Sonali Chander, Sujatha Padmanaban and Priyranja Dutta, easily the most competent bi-lingual sports correspondent on TV today, do a fairly efficient job on Star News.


But the larger question is whether women sports reporters have credibility in the collective male world of cricket? Ask experienced sports reporters, both male and female, and they will pause. They say the fault, lies not in the gender divide, it lies in the system which rules the small screen. In sports, as in other fields of reporting, if you are not experienced it shows. In a studio format, when women sports reporters are primed beforehand, they are fairly adept at asking the right questions.


 But place them in a `live` situation, in the field, answering questions bounced from the studios and they get frazzled. Not having played the game or covered sports over a period of time their knowledge appears to be superficially and hastily acquired and these days when everyone has become an expert on cricket overnight, journalists need to do their homework well. For instance, reporting from South Africa this week, Star News` Gaurika Chopra`s insights on the upcoming Sri Lanka and India play off wouldn`t have filled a teaspoon. In comparison, Nishant Arora who has recently shifted from Aaj Tak to Star News and has, I believe, played state level cricket, is far more well informed.  


So does that mean that there are no women worthy of anchoring or commenting on cricket, who know the difference between a willow and a minnow? Of course not. Just like men there are women who have played the game and are effective chroniclers of cricket lore. We are not talking of humourless nags but sassy cricket players at par with the Kapil Devs, Arun Lals and Sherry-in-a-Hurry Sidhu. Women like Diana Eduljee, Shanta Rangaswamy and Anjum Chopra, captains of the Indian women`s cricket team who can validate their achievements. Where are they and why haven`t they been used? One doesn`t even have to hazard a guess.


Mannika Chopra is the television critic of the Statesman. Contact:









Subscribe To The Newsletter
The new term for self censorship is voluntary censorship, as proposed by companies like Netflix and Hotstar. ET reports that streaming video service Amazon Prime is opposing a move by its peers to adopt a voluntary censorship code in anticipation of the Indian government coming up with its own rules. Amazon is resisting because it fears that it may alienate paying subscribers.                   

Clearly, the run to the 2019 elections is on. A journalist received a call from someone saying they were from Aajtak channel and were conducting a survey, asking whom she was going to vote for in 2019. On being told that her vote was secret, the caller assumed she wasn't going to vote for 'Modiji'. The caller, a woman, also didn't identify herself. A month or two earlier the same journalist received a call, this time from a man, asking if she was going to vote for the BSP.                 

View More