By Bala Shankar
Manjul Bhargava is to December music season as Sivaji Ganesan was to Olympics! Only until one heard Manjul’s excellent speech at the Music Academy. The connections he expounded between music and mathematics and between musicians and mathematics were interesting parallels and commonalities. I expected him to round off with questions on his speech – but he must have realized that just as some of his light quips went flat, so would have much of the math links. The Audience has not been conditioned to such intellectual achievers addressing them.
Now that the Academy has diversified its pool of chief guests from outside retired judges and governors, people have every right to imagine that other professions will be tapped too. Former cricketers and present-day commentators are definitely a lot to consider. We can draw several parallels, and the deliberations of the committee may well be as we imagine below.
Richie Benaud was the darling of cricket and the commentary world. His charm, grace, achievements and spoken elegance puts him on par with GNB. They share not just their debonair looks, but also their clear-cut superiority over peers during their time. They were also unique in what they did and how they did it. Unfortunately, Richie passed away in 2015 before the Academy’s invite reached him.
Not everyone in the committee would be kindly disposed towards the controversial Tony Greig. But there have been controversial participants in the past too. Greig’s south afro-english-aussie accent is not just the only odd point. His bold language, minimalistic references to cricket in his hyped up commentary and great on-field performances and charisma puts him alongside S Balachander when it comes to competing with officialdom. Greig put his foot into his mouth by characterizing the mighty West Indies condescendingly. Balachander’s long battle on the Swati Tirunal controversy is too well known. Unfortunately, Greig too passed away prematurely, before being introduced to the iconic Academy.
Michael Holding is called the Rolls Royce for his smooth, unique, unhustled run up, just like the sarvalaghu flair of Madurai Mani Iyer. Both were not after records and let their talents speak for themselves. Holding’s montone commentary is akin to the un-hyped but sincere application that Madurai Mani Iyer specialized in. Both retired from their professions prematurely.
Bill Lawry is another keen contender. He once famously batted 270 minutes and carried his bat through by scoring only 60 runs. He also invoked a press headline: ‘Lawry breaks Windies’ when he scored 210 over several sessions. That vilamba style would keenly match that of Musiri Subramanya Iyer’s slow gait, although one acquired notoriety and the other sobriety. Bill also chose to commentate at the higher octaves drawing valid comparisons to Musiri mama’s 2 ½ kattai singing. Musiri mama’s quiet and peaceful manners don’t match that of Lawry’s loud commentary but Lawry’s interest in pigeons is yet his closest association with peace.
But we have a man for all seasons. He is our Semmangudi. Ian Chappell is revered for his cricketing instincts just as Semmangudi lived on his instincts. Chappell is a highly influential person in the game and who can forget Semmangudi’s dominance in all matters music and beyond. Chappell is articulate, outspoken, sometimes controversial and omnipresent. That takes him very close to the Semmangudi persona. Chappell fought the officialdom on occasions but Semmangudi helped the officialdom fight the predators and challengers. Chappell’s repertoire of cricketing knowledge has parallels with Semmangudi’s own repertoire. We could end up listening to “The committee is pleased to welcome Sri Ian Chappell to the sadas”.