"Nothing succeeds like success," they used to say. Well, in India, nothing succeeds like cricket. Along with Cinema and Politics, it is among the top three entertainment sources available to us Indians, and if you do some elementary math, it will also show up as similarly lucrative.
That's why every medium worth half a minute of fame has a cricket program. Most are shoddily produced, with anchors who don't know where their off stump is located, or what it even is.
With so many men and women doing cricket shows, it's tough to do a best and worst of cricket personalities in India. The risk I run is simple: I limit myself to 700 words, and the list of the worst may have more than 700 names, each competing to be the top-drawer in the category.
Consequently, I thought that I would just do a pick of guys, and only a couple of gals.
Sunil Gavaskar is the best. He articulates his knowledge and understanding of the game in a manner that's definitely more engaging than the way he compiled his runs, and there's a witty touch to whatever he says.
Ravi Shastri comes next. When he predicts captains' moves from behind the mic, you think of what would have been had he captained India in more than the solitary Chennai test that he got.
Ajay Jadeja is a charmer, as always, and never fails to come up with an interesting take.
Sanjay Manjrekar and Sandeep Patil do alright for ex-cricketers, and one wonders why Tiger Pataudi and Bishen Bedi aren't regulars like Sunny and Ravi in the media.
Then there are men and women who weren't cricketers but write and speak with engaging authority and wisdom.
Harsha Bhogle, the former adman, masks his acumen with great modesty when he says that he sees himself as a lower order batsman holding one end up for the masters to score. He is a treat.
So is Pradeep Magazine, who writes for HT, Anand Vasu, and G. Rajaraman.
Another peach of a writer, Arvind Lavakare seems to have disappeared, and Rohit Brijnath now plies his trade down under. These men know the game and their observations are often more intelligent than ex-cricketers like Arun Lal.
Similarly, there is Sharda Ugra of India Today and Kadambari Murali of HT, two women who will occupy the hall of fame as commentators and writers of uncanny ability.
One hopes that Mandira Bedi will refrain from displaying her noodle-strap knowledge of the game, and that of all these guys who anchor shows on IPL will understand that being a stand-up comic is no easy job.
There's also Ramachandra Guha and Boria Majumdar—one a historian who loves cricket and the other a cricket historian. They're great guys with several interesting points of view, along with Mukul Kesavan, a novelist
I must also tell you that if you have to listen to radio commentary on cricket, and Rajesh Tiwari is wielding the mic, then switch it off. You are sure to live longer.