Happy Birthday, Viru Paaji and Thank You for Bringing Some Comic Relief to the Commentary Box


Happy Birthday, Viru Paaji and Thank You for Bringing Some Comic Relief to the Commentary Box

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

It’s been a few years since Virender Sehwag retired from cricket. When Sehwag came out to bat, he always had a smile on his face. He played on the front foot and was always willing to have a go. A thorough entertainer, if there ever was one. After retirement, Viru graced the commentary box with the same enthusiasm and simplified approach. On his 42nd birthday, one can safely assert that he has changed Hindi commentary for the good, in the same way he revolutionised opening batsmanship.

When Virender Sehwag enters the com-box, viewers know there is fun in store, whether it is India playing Australia or Kenya playing Bangladesh. Viru doesn’t pretend to be an expert, who is going to explain the technicalities of the game or describe events formally like a newsreader. It’s like having a friend in the commentary box, with whom one can casually discuss the game. The fact that he converses in aam aadmi’s Hindi is the icing on the cake.

As reported by Hindustan Times, research on cricket commentary commissioned by broadcasters indicated that most viewers had never witnessed a “live” game, their knowledge of cricket was scratchy and they had no desire to get into complicated technicalities. Given the results of this research, broadcasters decided to make changes – more Hindi, less tuition on technique, and emphasis on information instead of instruction.

Viru’s commentary has been a revelation. Viewers tune in to know about “inside stories” from the dressing room. When he’s on air, fans are guaranteed some incredible banter with fellow commentators. Some of Viru’s most iconic moments in the box have been with fellow players like Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, as they discuss hilarious incidents from the past and who was the “best bowler” among them.

Sehwag is also never shy of taking friendly jibes at players, knowing fully well, they’ll take it in the right spirit. Everyone knows of Sehwag’s jovial nature and that gives him a lot of leeway that wouldn’t be extended to many associated with the game. No one ever gets offended by Viru paaji’s comments, as they lovingly address him.

Virender Sehwag has stunning consistency for coming up with funny quips like “chips ka packet aur Jadeja ka over kab khatam ho jaye, pata hi nahi chalta”. Once, while praising Cheteshwar Pujara’s batting, he stated, “Pujara ji pujari ki tarah batting ki puja karte hai”, leaving everyone in the com-box and at home, in splits. He’s also open to making classic movie references like, “Ye catch itna asaan tha ki Sholay ka Thakur bhi le leta”.

Virender Sehwag has brought a frankness to the commentary box that was acutely missing. His swashbuckling nature while batting has carried forward to his narration of the game as well. But what remains constant even now, is his unparalleled ability to entertain. Dear Viru paaji, may you keep entertaining viewers from behind the microphone for decades to come.