And on this Sunday, when it is raining and there are no cricket matches on TV, I’ve rekindled my acquaintance with the good old radio.
Or, more precisely, the transistor. I come from a generation that grew up before television was there in our living rooms.
It began at 6.30 a.m. and ended at midnight with a programme called ‘Bela Ke Phool.’ Throughout the day, it broadcast programmes with titles like ‘Chhayageet,’ ‘Manoranjan,’ and ‘Chitrapat Sangeet.’ These primarily included songs from Hindi films and were hosted by Ameen Sayani. He was the King of RJs, and he addressed listeners as “Bhaiyo aur Behno” in a cheerfully modulated and welcoming manner. When he moved to Radio Ceylon, Ameen Sayani brought us ‘Binaca Geetmala’ – the first radio countdown show – from across the Palk Straits. Our Vividh Bharti sang songs for homesick servicemen in Poonch and lonely bachelors in Jhumri Telaiya. Which I subsequently discovered was a mining town in Jharkhand.
The English requests show was called ‘Saturday Date,’ and it was a rocking show that aired from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday nights, playing English pop tunes. When Elvis Presley died in August 1977, the show was dedicated to him, and the RJ finished it respectfully with Elvis’ gospel ballad ‘Precious Lord Take My Hand.’
There was no Doordarshan with its inconsistent black-and-white telecasts of matches played back in the day, so it was cricket commentary that was followed on the radio rather than music. Cricket was five-day Tests back then, and the ODI and T20 formats were not even on the ICC’s radar. The ball-by-ball analysis made for interesting audio. It popularised cricket among the general public.
Carrying the game’s highs and lows. The loudness of the stadium between runs and the stillness between wickets convey. There was also the wry wit of critics such as Anant Setalvad and Suresh Saraiya, as well as the jaded wisdom of AIR’s panel of experts, which included Vijay Merchant and Bobby Talyerkhan. There was also Lala Amarnath, who could be as boring and uninteresting as anyone. During a match, his specialty was grandiosely talking about subjects other than cricket for long amounts of time. The audience was not aware of what was going on in the game. How many additional runs became a part of the game.
And if a wicket had fallen. Thankfully, after Doordarshan arrived and showed the game live, you could muffle the comments of commentators like Narottam Puri, who was as rambling on television as Lala Amarnath was on the radio. As some cricket fans watching the World Cup on Star TV do when Sanjay Manjrekar or Harsha Bhogle takes the mic.
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