Spitting image

Not on our television sets, please!

sureshmenon

Suresh Menon | April 4, 2011



When television coverage of cricket first went live, the theory was that the action would be shown from the perspective of the man in the best seat in the stadium. This was usually a war veteran with fading memory who sat directly behind the bowler’s arm. The advantage was that he could follow the swinging or spinning ball when the batsman faced him. The disadvantage was, since the camera was fixed, when the bowler ran in towards him, he had to be satisfied with viewing the wicket keeper’s backside and the back of the batsman’s head.
Then someone had a brilliant idea. Why not have a camera at both ends so backsides were not such a big part of cricket appreciation? And thus it came about that you could sit at home and pretend you were a war veteran with fading memory who jumped from the top of one sight screen to the top of the other to see everything better.
And thus it remained for some years. The television people were mighty thrilled for they had stolen a march over the ground officials. This would have gone on indefinitely till yet another brilliant idea made its way into the mix.
Why just two cameras? Why not four or six or 14 or 21? Now you could see the match from the perspective of the guy behind fine leg who was trying to hide the fact that he was not at work and pretending the woman next to him was not his secretary. Ground authorities knew when they were beaten. Rather than denying permission to cover a match, they decided to give the spectator a wider perspective. This they did by putting up a giant screen, visible to everybody at the ground. Except to those sitting directly under it who went home after a match with either a crick in the neck or without once understanding what all the noise was about or both.
And now the time is ripe for yet another revolution. Today every spectator, every passing snail, every blade of grass can have its 15 seconds of fame during a match. There is no spot in the whole ground where the intrusive eye of the camera cannot reach. All very good and wholesome, no doubt, but here’s a suggestion. Let us have a small portion at either end inaccessible to camera, a kind of ‘No Camera Zone’ or private patch. And I’ll tell you why.
If you have watched the World Cup (or any sport for even a short time), you will realise that one of the most common activities sportsmen engage in is spitting. Yes, spitting. I am not qualified to comment on the hygiene involved in hairy men rubbing spit on the ball – in any case that is a matter between the player and his bodily fluids.
No, I am talking about the public spit where a player spits into the wind as an aid to thought perhaps or to express emotions that don’t easily fall into the simple pattern of the iambic pentameter.
It was bad enough on black and white television, got clearer on colour TV, and made the sensitive blanch in high definition television (remember the ad where Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s bodily fluids take over your screen?). Can you imagine the impact on 3-D television? Nothing James Cameron or any of his friends in Hollywood do can compare with the horror of the well-aimed globule of spit approaching you at an impressive rate of knots.
Spitting might have its agricultural uses. It is good for the grass in the stadium. In fact, one inveterate spitter in the south was known as ‘Tuppu Sultan’ (tuppu meaning spit) and commended for keeping the cricket stadium green throughout the year. But as a spectacle, there is little to recommend it. Television cameras in their anxiety not to miss any action bring to our living rooms more than we need, and spitting easily falls into the category of things we don’t need to see.
Yes, I know it is a part of life and reality TV is what it is all about. But can we have a ‘Spitting Zone’ where no camera is allowed and players can spit till their tonsils fall out? It could also double as a scratching zone, nose-blowing zone, wearing protective abdominal gear zone and burping-after-a-drinks-break zone. Blessed are the spitters for they have achieved salivation – but not on our television sets, please!

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