Pitching for stories

Published: 25 December, 2019 07:00 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

A chat with television host Gaurav Kapur who has launched a cracking new podcast that is a treasure trove of untold cricketing stories

The show offers an account of Kapil Dev's heroics
The show offers an account of Kapil Dev's heroics

Kapil Dev's knock of 175 not out against Zimbabwe in the 1983 cricket World Cup in England is often regarded as the greatest innings ever played. India was in a do-or-die match. Both the openers — Sunil Gavaskar and Krishnamachari Srikanth — had been dismissed for a duck. The scoreboard read 9/4. Enter Dev. He took a little while to settle in, even as wickets kept tumbling till a woeful 78/7. That's when the captain decided to take matters into his own hands. Like a man possessed, he went after the hapless Zimbabwe bowlers, hitting the ball out of the park, quite literally. India eventually reached a respectful 266. Zimbabwe was bundled out for 235. What happened later in the World Cup is, of course, the stuff of history. But there is no recorded evidence of Dev's seminal innings since both the TV and radio departments of BBC were on strike that day. Only the 7,000-odd spectators at Tunbridge Wells have a complete idea of the mayhem he unleashed.

One of those spectators was former mid-day editor, Ayaz Memon, and you can now hear his account of the innings on 22 Yarns, a podcast that Gaurav Kapur launched recently. The whole idea behind the show is to highlight these untold bits of cricketing folklore. Kapur brings on one guest in each episode, who is an expert on a certain aspect of cricket, such as Memon for journalism and Harsha Bhogle for broadcasting. The two then have a freewheeling chat in which Kapur digs his guest for stories. He tells us, "When we were working on the captaincy episode with Joy Bhattacharya, for example, we asked ourselves, 'Have we got everything?' That's when we realised that it's impossible to get 'everything' when you have just around 40 minutes. So we thought, let's just make sure that the stories we tell are compelling; that you go, 'What the hell! I didn't know that,' at least two or three times in every episode."


That's why the one with Memon also has the following nugget. Back in the late '70s, when he'd just started his career, the writer went to Sandip Patil's Shivaji Park home to conduct his first interview, since the cricketer had just been included in the national team. There, he found that Patil had an actual small aircraft kept on his terrace. Not a model, but a real plane lying defunct on a roof. And when a naturally curious Memon asked Patil what it was doing there, the latter replied that he uses the plane as a bar when he throws parties. Imagine that.

Kapur adds that the difference between hosting a podcast and a TV show is that in the former, the conversation can take any direction you want and is thus more no-holds-barred and fluid. "We try to tell stories on TV too, but those are more contextual and based in the present," he says, pointing out that an added advantage a podcast has is that it affects only one sense — that of hearing. "So, it lets you absorb a lot more and allows for a calmer state of mind. I think that that's also one of the reasons why audio is coming back in a big way. People have had enough of gazing at the screen," Kapur explains.

The takeaways he thus hopes that listeners will have from his show is to fall in love a little more with cricket. It's quite fascinating really to hear Memon recount exactly what transpired on that fateful day in Turnbridge Wells (when he'd walked into the ground, the scoreboard read 9/4 but the first thing that Gundappa Vishvanath, who was sitting in a porch outside the pavilion, prophesised to him was, "Nothing to worry about"). It provides a sepia-tinted picture of a simpler era when there were less frills attached to the sport. And it's incidents like the one about Dev's heroics that offer the sort of nostalgia that Kapur wants to stir up with his show.

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