Weight and watch

The future of ODIs — a recent preoccupation among commentators — is the theme of Harsha Bhogle’s latest column as well. Only, unlike the bulk of the commentators who have oscillated between writing obituaries and suggesting organ transplants to revive the game, Harsha suggests that maybe the end of the Champions’ Trophy — a tournament that gives one days some weight, some context lacking in either the England-Australia series or the triangular in Sri Lanka playing out now — would be the best time to take the format’s temperature and check other vital signs.

I’d rather wait and see what the Champions’ Trophy, another much maligned format that is going through a makeover, throws up. With just eight teams, well, seven and a nationwide poll to find people who can bat and bowl making up the eighth, it offers much by way of competition. Sambit Bal, the editor of Cricinfo is right. You need to look at things in a certain context and the Champions’ Trophy in this format provides that context. It separates it from the otherwise wild mushrooming of one-day internationals.

Shorn of their context, one-day games are a weaker offering. Put in the right ambience, they could be thrilling. It is a bit like the great violinist being ignored when he plays outside a subway station but being flattered with expensive tickets and applause when he plays in a theatre. Before writing an obituary we need to give the patient a good shot at survival.

Tangential aside for those that may have missed it — the violinist in the subway is a reference to a thought experiment carried out by Gene Wiengarten of the Washington Post two years ago [interestingly, that experiment too was about context providing meaning and a frame].

Weingarten got Grammy-winning classical violinist Joshua Bell to play his equally famous Gibson ex Huberman, a violin made in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari while he was at his peak, in a subway — the object of the exercise being to see if a performance that would have drawn a standing ovation at Carnegie Hall would attract commuters rushing about their daily business. Here’s the story. And the clip:

Context, a frame, is clearly important — but good music can still stop you in your tracks, no matter where you hear it. I remember once, in the heck of a hurry to meet someone, dashing down into the 32nd Street subway and being arrested by the sounds of fabulous drumming.

I stopped to watch, and listen. Anyone would. A train came, but by then I was intrigued by the nagging feeling that there was something familiar about the guy I was watching. At some point during a lull, I asked his name, but the penny obstinately refused to drop until I was finally on the train and heading for my appointment: Larry Wright was none other than the grown up version of the little kid who, in the opening sequence of the Peter Weir-helmed Gerard Depardieu-Andy McDowell starrer Green Card, is seen playing the drums on a NY city street. Clips of the man in action:

And here’s an interview with the man:

Enjoy Friday.


6 thoughts on “Weight and watch

  1. Meaning and context should translate into event timing. In US they have seasons for football, baseball and basketball each having frachises and all. The result is there is year round sport on TV, build up for events and each sport has its loyal followers. One way of adopting this for cricket is to have a season for each of the three types of cricket played. This would make the rankings relevant, allows players to prepare for the format and viewers can choose what they would like to follow.

    • couldn’t disagree more. cricket can’t be seasonal. there’s no way u can keep a round the year time table for all three formats of the game, since it depends on the weather. your proposition will make it impossible for some countries to have home games ever.

  2. Oh, brilliant! The article on Joshua Bell. I read your post on Larry Wright once before when you posted it, and still go back to it whenever I wana tell someone that, how its marketed is not the only way to judge a thing. Talent, minus the marketing gimmick, is still talent. Only you have not the imagination and genuineness in you to recognize it.

    The other time is, when i bump into these utterly obsessed-with-themselves kinds and I wana tell them, dude, theres people out there on the streets with who if you had to compete, you wouldn’t make enough to buy shoelaces for yourself, so stop being so full o yourself already. Here, look at this clip of this guy on the station playin drums, n then beat it.

    But the Joshua Bell article was really nice on many levels. One is that he knows he is good, and knows what he is as a musician is because he is good, but simultaneously recognizes the fact that there is the whole ambiance in which he performs which sets the measure of the eulogies he earns. There is nothing absolute about the praise he earns, it is incident to the place he earns it from. The $100 is more a reflection of the place he is performing at, rather than in an absolute way the intrinsic worth of the quality of his music.

    That he agreed to the experiment tells so much about him. And how he perceives his ‘greatness’. Also the bit about where he says, dude stop with the genius talk already. I aint one, so please. To be good at something and not be sucked into the vortex of self-obsession is so refreshing to see.

    • Oh, and this quote from a book called “The Clown” by Heinrich Boll comes to mind, where one of the character says something like “Art is either always overrated, or always underrated”.

  3. Moribund or not, ODIs have been devalued by its own surfeit. But still, this 50-overs format remains ICC’s bread-and-bitter.

    While T20 is the toast of the mass, I’m not sure how long it’s honeymoon would last. The crux of the matter is, unless India is part of the circus, every show is bound to fall flat on its face, any other format. Ashes being the lone exception to the rule I just proposed.

    Incidentally, merely having India is not the panacea to all ills either. Scheduling has to be right as well. Take this Compaq Cup for instance. Do your really foresee people being glued to TV to watch the dull, drab and predictable matches?

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