Stump mic offers both insights and plenty of laughs
Cricket broadcasters are always on the lookout for the next new innovation. An idea—big or small—that can dramatically improve viewer experience or engagement levels while watching the game.
The stump camera, when it was introduced, was revolutionary. It gave fans a whole new perspective of the game. You could, all of a sudden, see how fast someone was bowling, or how much a ball cut in after pitching. It was like being in the batsman’s shoes...or at least a foot behind it.
More recently, attention has been focused on technology and data-driven insights. Some have been great fun. In the Big Bash League in Australia a few years ago, they had displayed a heart-rate monitor when a batsman took guard—a fun way to measure the otherwise unquantifiable stress levels out in the middle.
Some others made no sense—the much maligned “Keys To Success” in the 2015 season, for example, which analysed data collected over decades to tell viewers what a team needed to do to win, but completely mixed up causality and coincidence when crunching numbers.
During the current South Africa-India series, we’ve been treated to some fine entertainment (even outside of Virat Kohli’s stupendous batting), which is driven neither by cutting-edge technology nor big data. The stump microphone, whether by design or oversight, has been turned up quite high through several passages of play.
The first bit to go viral was Virat Kohli urging Murali Vijay to keep batting on Day 2 of the second Test. “Shaam tak khelenge, inki g***d p**t jaayegi”. They didn’t play on till evening, saving the South Africans a lot of discomfort.
There have been a few (non X-rated) gems from Mahendra Singh Dhoni as well. Andile Phehlukwayo was at the crease and Dhoni was urging Kuldeep Yadav to pitch the ball up: “Che ball samajhne mein nikal jayega. Aage aane de aage (It’ll take him six deliveries to figure out what’s happening, keep pitching it up).”
In terms of bringing viewers closer to the action, there have been few innovations recently that have so much potential. In fact, for people who have played cricket at any level, these moments are truly nostalgic, for one of the unwritten rules of playing cricket is that if you’re standing within earshot of a batsman, it’s your job to never shut up.
One of our college team favourites was “chaar number daal, chaar number” when our leg-spinner came on to bowl. Unfortunately, his “chaar number” (or fourth variation) was too often a ball that pitched too short and too wide.
Back to international cricket. Dhoni remains consistently hilarious, even if many of his sledges are directed at teammates. “Oye Sree, udhar girlfriend nahin hai, idhar aaja thoda (Sree, it’s not like your girlfriend is there... move this way a bit),” we heard him tell S. Sreesanth during a Test match against New Zealand. “Ball pe dhyan de, sone ka time baad mein milega (focus on the ball, you’ll get time to sleep later),” we heard him yell at Irfan Pathan during the tri-series in Australia in 2008.
My all-time favourite will probably remain Kumara Sangakkara stressing Shaun Pollock out during South Africa’s chase against Sri Lanka in the 2003 World Cup game at Durban. “Gonna let his whole country down now if he fails,” he chirped, and you can still see Pollock getting increasingly stressed. “The weight of all these expectations, fellas, weight of the country...42 million supporters right here depending on Shaun.”
Fifteen years later, the stump mic remains a gift that keeps on giving. So please, dear broadcasters, consider keeping it turned up.
Deepak Narayanan, a journalist for 20 years, now runs an events space, The 248 Collective, in Goa. He tweets at @deepakyen.