Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Inimitable Bobilli

The Times of India's sports section is a source of hilarity each morning, thanks to the writings of Bobilli Vijay Kumar. Mr. Bobilli's approach to the English language resembles the batting of some tailenders who, undetered by their lack of eye-hand coordination, keep spectators entertained with extravagant heaves, swipes and slashes.
As the Indian cricket team's tour of New Zealand reaches its damp conclusion, let us cast our eyes back on some of BVK's memorable insights into the contest. These are not, I should stress, carefully chosen highlights: those who trawl TOI's user-hostile archives will doubtless land a richer catch.

14 February: Dhoni's men will be setting off in pursuit of the game's Holy Grail itself, on a mission many deem nigh impossible.
Yes, New Zealand, for all its beauty and purity, has always been a dreaded place for cricketing tourists: its spongy wickets, windy conditions, tenacious players (not to speak of blinkered umpires, not too long ago) made it an ideal holiday spot for pesky mothers-in-law.
Playing away has, of course, rarely been as enjoyable as a walk in the rain: but over the years, thanks partly to the shrinking of the globe, such an idea doesn't give the shivers anymore...
Only five players have experienced the travails of New Zealand. A lot will depend on how well Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman convert that into an advantage. The others, even if they are in the pink of form, will have to grope and cope around them.
In the end, it will all come down to overcoming the conditions. Can India interpret the omens on their way correctly? Can they unravel the Holy Grail and come back triumphant?

Some might argue that lifting the World Cup or beating Australia in Australia would be a more substantial achievement than winning a series in New Zealand. What I really want to know, though, is how grails are unraveled.

26 February: The problem is, the next game is in less than 24 hours; there is absolutely no time to pull out Plan B.

Memo to Gary Kirsten: incorporate intensive training in pulling out Plan B, there is clearly room for improvement in that area.

7 March: The Indian cricket team was left swinging on a tricky question after the second one-dayer was officially abandoned at around 8.30pm on Friday night...
In a game that saw more stops than starts, or indeed wickets, India were ahead right from the time the dubious coin twirled in the air.

Which means that, on at least one occasion, play stopped without first having started, right? And why was the coin 'dubious'? Did it have two heads or two tails?

14 March: If the square is shorter than a fine lady's leg on the one side, on the other, the cover boundary looks even sweeter. The NZ bowlers must already be feeling bare and helpless: in fact, gang-rape can't be far from their fears...
It's their bowling that needs urgent aid from Red Cross: and India will not want to be that benevolent soul.

Bet you didn't know that fine ladies have short legs.

15 March: Sehwag faced four deliveries and couldn’t manage even one run: the ball beat his gasping willow and seamed maniacally, almost in celebration, after that...
Daniel Vettori stuck to his much-mauled seamers and reaped their dividends.

Allow your bowlers to reap their own dividends, Daniel, it's the considerate thing to do, specially in these harsh times.

30 March: Resuming the day on 252 for two, with danger still looming nearby, the overnight pair (Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar), had to bury their heads into the ground and forget about everything else.

The myth that ostriches bury their heads in sand when faced with predators is used as a metaphor for the human tendency to ignore bad news. "Dig in" is the phrase usually utilised in the situation in which Tendulkar and Gambhir found themselves. It's derived from trench warfare, and refers to resolute defence in the face of sustained attack.

7 April: (I have provided more extensive annotations to articles published this morning) Rahul Dravid barely needed seven overs into the tour here to claim his 181st Test catch. The edge from Martin Guptill, in the first test at Hamilton, helped him sit on par with Mark Waugh, who needed all of his 128 matches to become the best catcher in the game.

Does having the most catches mean being the best catcher? Even if it does, Mark Waugh got to the world record long before his final test. Near the end of his career he dropped a few sitters.

But then the long wait began. India
took 29 wickets since then but Dravid didn’t get his record-breaking catch... It didn’t help that in the second Test at Napier, he had to stand at third slip as Yuvraj Singh was handed that position. ..

Does this mean both players stood at third slip? Must have been cramped.

The 182nd catch deserved special treatment; he slowly got up and pumped his fists like Hercules.

Strangely, in books I've read related to Greek mythology, Hercules never once pumps his fists.

Zaheer Khan bowled 15 straight overs, either side of lunch, but couldn’t expose the top order.

That's like saying, 'he dug and he dug, but couldn't expose the soil's surface'. The job of new ball bowlers is to remove the top order, thus exposing the middle, and potentially lower, order.

He accounted for McIntosh and Flynn; but NZ are not all about apples: they have a few decent bats as well.

I get the connection between apple and McIntosh, but where does Flynn come into that equation?

Harbhajan, who had started bowling a few overs before lunch, was almost unplayable. Using the breeze, he got the ball to dip and turn or bounce after pitching. Suddenly, the Kiwis looked like they were on a burning tin roof.

Tin roofs get hot in the sun, but aren't flammable as far as I know.

I intend updating this post periodically with effusions from the keyboard of the inimitable Bobilli. If you come upon a passage worth a mention, do point me to it, I'll add it along with any comment you may have.

UPDATE 1: Gautam Gambhir completes his century: He punched the air, came out of his helmet and thanked the skies above. (thanks, pp)

2: After strutting around for more than 15 years, Australia have finally started walking with their tails tucked under the legs.
Are they really being ensnared by that monster called vicious cycle? Or are they just the latest victims of the malaise not-so-popularly known as the champion's syndrome? (thank you, av)

3. Sunday, April 19: Unfortunately, it looks like Bobilli isn't covering the IPL for the Times. However, we still have his column to look forward to. This from today's piece, make of it what you will: The cricket captain in some ways is larger than life, if not the game itself: unlike in other sports, he is not just the leader on the field whose job is to keep the flock together; he can't be only mother, father, brother, teacher for each and every player.

4: Monday, June 8, following Federer's victory over Soderling in the French Open final: ... the brave Swede just couldn’t pin Federer to his backhand, allowing himself to be demolished as delicately as a craftsman can. The grammar indicates that the 'craftsman' is Soderling, though of course Bobilli is referring to Federer when he uses that term. Craftsmen, it is worth mentioning, are not associated with demolitions, however delicate.

5: Sunday, July 12: Almost two years ago, when the Dilip Vengsarkar-led selection panel decided that it was time for hot blood, it seemed that Dravid's career was going cold too: his form had gone for a walk and his bat was behaving like an invisible stick; not too surprisingly, impulsive minds started ringing.


jaimit said...

Exactly… a lot of us might be writing bad but we aren’t writing for the Times of India. This guy is really bad and it’s irritating to read his articles especially if you have missed the action on TV and want to know what happened. I would take good old fashioned boring reporting any day over these atrocious Bobillism. Give him enough time; he will make Sidhu look good.
If the reporting is not enough they also devote precious newsprint to his New Zealand diaries called ‘Haka Doodles’. With a name like that it’s probably our fault that we read it.

Girish Shahane said...

Jaimit, I agree Sidhu is annoying, but he isn't grammatically challenged. Even someone like myself who doesn't hold the Times of India in esteem finds it hard to believe that a guy who writes as atrociously as BVK could be in charge of the paper's sports section.

Anonymous said...

atleast the guy watchs the match. sandeep d in indian express wrote of dhoni winning the toss at basin reserve !!! S Anand

anantha said...

Bobilli, I must say is proving to be a worthy rival for that legendary cricket fan Perumselva Pandiyan from rec.sports.cricket. If you want today's dose of WTF! brand of fun, feel free to search on rec.sport.cricket for the name.

baskar said...

We are like this only.

All you guys are doing is bottling the uncorking of Indian English.

We are not Elizabethans, you know?

mads said...

sure we aren't elizabethans, but can we use that a an excuse to condone such glaring errors in a leading daily?
why not ask the gentleman to write for a regional paper in a language that he's comfortable?
The TOI is known countrywide for it's puritan approach to the language.
They might end up losing followers.
Worse still, people who look at it as a benchmark might actually accept this form of the language and emulate.
scary, wot say?

Anonymous said...

The TOI is known countrywide for it's puritan approach to the language.
Wait what? are we talking about the same paper here ?

And I am pretty sure baskar was making a sarcastic comment - a really good one at that ...

baskar said...

Actually I was only half-sarcastic.

When people like Gabriel Garcia Marquez play around with reality, we praise it as magical realism.

But when this kind of language comes up we snigger.

This happened:

There was a student in Mangalore talking with a lady from Arkansas. They conversed for more than a hour.

After the boy went away, an old man, a retired stenographer actually, came up to the lady and asked her, "How was that boy's English?"

The lady answered, "It's okay. But he has a strong accent."

She was totally unconscious that some people would find her Arkansas English accented.

There is no correct English.

We have to be confident to do it our away. If it means we mix up idioms, so be it.

Girish Shahane said...

Comparing Bobilli's use of English to Gabriel Garcia Marquez's experiments with novelistic form: priceless.
Twisted nationalism has been used to excuse all kinds of things, even genocide, so why not bad writing?
A point might be made, since you bring up Marquez, that Rushdie's experiments with Indianised English have been widely praised across the globe. Most people, unlike you, appear to be able to distinguish between a creative extension of the possibilities of a language and a clumsy failure to adequately employ its basic tools.

baskar said...

Okay, may be Marquez comparison is wrong, but what about James Joyce- Finnegan's Wake etc etc- anyone understood it?

Girish Shahane said...

The difficulty of certain books is not an argument in favour of or against them. Quality is independent of ease of comprehension. In other words, accessible writing can be great or terrible, and the same is true of abstruse composition.
Most who have read Joyce attentively will agree that his mastery of the language is virtually unparalleled. He could write simple and spare, yet beautiful, prose, as evidenced by the short stories in Dubliners.
Of course, Finnegans Wake is an extremely abstruse book, but that's because Joyce became interested in multilingual puns, extending the boundaries of language in that direction further than anybody before him or since.
To give just one example: take the novel's title. 'Wake' means to rise, but also refers to a funeral service. Finnegan can be divided as 'fin' meaning an end, and 'again' meaning a new beginning. I could go on about how the phrase cites Irish mythology and history and so on. But really, what's the point? One shouldn't discuss the publications of James Joyce anywhere in the vicinity of Bobilli's writing. I mean, zameen asmaan does not adequately describe the difference in the expressive abilities of these two individuals. If you can't see that, that's your bad luck. Or perhaps your good fortune, since you will have many opportunities in the future to be entranced by Bobilli's wordplay. Ignorance can be bliss.

baskar said...

Thanks a lot, I really enjoyed this discussion. I only think you could go a bit easy on these kinds of 'mistakes'...


Baskar said...

Thinking back, this is just another instance of shooting first and mumbling later...

No problem.

We are like this only.

satish said...

Priceless! :) I had swtiched from TOI to Hindu a couple of years ago, but this makes a serious case to get it back at home, atleast during the cricket season!

Anonymous said...

What a hoot !! Didnt know I was missing such good fun when I stopped the TOI ! Bobbilli was infuriating to read, guess I was completely missing the humor !

Anonymous said...

I work for TOI and I can't fathom why the management puts up with the guy. Believe me, I too cringe when I read those reports. Let him murder the language in his columns, but at least leave those match reports alone. Sadly...no one in TOI will listen to me

Yogesh S said...

Girish, I can't remember the last time I laughed out loud so much (thank you)! I too was an avid follower of the great BVK during the NZ tour, and had got into this routine of rushing to read his daily gems - along with my morning tea - and then reading the choicest bits, of which there were many everyday, to my wife. I loved the extremely convoluted sentence contructs, far fetched analogies, bombastic language, and the first few inane lines of each report which almost always left you wondering what the rest of the article could possibly be about. I miss him sorely as IPL-II takes off! Can't the last (anonymous) commentor on this blog please convince TOI to bring him back to cover the IPL? Please??

Anonymous said...

For all Bob fans, this one is a must read too.

There are some very inventive phrases in it, and I am sure you would love them.

Girish Shahane said...

You beat me to it! I wanted to upload a quote from that piece, but was being lazy. I've just done it, but the entire article is a great read.

Unknown said...

I'd try to mimic Bobilli while paying my respects to him-
Looks like this wretched patient of verbal diarrhea, debilitated baboon called Bobilli, has some deep-rooted enmity with the language; hence his attempts at molesting it! LOL!
By the way, looks like old fart Bobilli sees too much porn, you can see the effect in his mumblings on Tiger Woods and his 14th March blog!