Perfect catch

Written by Boria Majumdar | Updated: Apr 27 2008, 06:55am hrs
The IPL, just a little more than a week old, most agree is one of the biggest reality shows on Indian television. Entertainment personified, it has added a new dimension to cricket watching. While theres consensus on the above, theres little known about the men and women who have worked tirelessly for days and months to make IPL what it is. We want to stay away from the limelight while giving people the limelight, says Sneha Rajani, the super efficient chief of Set Max. When asked how many hours she puts in a day, Sneha, a modest but forthright corporate, chuckles. Not me alone. The entire team has been putting in 20-22 hours a day for over a month now. We barely get to sleep but none of us regret what we are doing.

The 100 plus Sony Team working on the project are in it to make history, says Sneha. Their only goal, as she suggests candidly, is to see IPL successful. If the inaugural days ratings are anything to go by (a very impressive 8.2), her team has every reason to be pleased.

Working behind the scenes in diverse conditions, trying to put on a high-end cricket television production together is like wicket-keeping in a tense contest. You get noticed only if you drop a catch or miss a stumping. For putting together a perfect show, there are no credits. It is part of the job. Only if theres a hitch, something similar to the flood light fiasco at the Eden Gardens during the Kolkata Knight Riders versus Deccan Chargers encounter, does the world wake up to start the castigation. Interestingly, Sneha knows this and isnt perturbed. I dont mind the world not knowing me. As long as I am satisfied, I am happy. You can call me selfish but for me, its my family, my friends and I. If they think I am doing good work, I am satisfied.

Theres little doubt that Set Max has pleasantly surprised us all in its inaugural week of coverage. While most expected them to go back to the Mandira formula, a tried and tested success story, they have done exactly the opposite. This was a conscious decision, says an upbeat Sneha. We wanted to target the youth. This prompted us to risk three new rookies to host our studio shows. 65% of this country is below 30.

Why give Mandira a miss Max has their reasons. When we got Mandira to cricket, the world laughed at us. Within three weeks, it was clear to all that we had heralded a revolution of sorts. Everyone started following us. However, since then cricket coverage hasnt seen much innovation. While the news channels have done much to improve things, sports channels have followed a particular formula. We have once again thought out of the box and are confident this is the second stage in creating a perfect receipt for cricket on television.

Whether or not they are correct, only time can tell. What we do know, however, is that their coverage has attracted an unprecedented number of women and children to it. So much so that IPL has successfully started competing against the Saas Bahu reality shows, the staple of Indian television for years.

While doing their best to retain the captured eyeballs, the Max team, to their credit, hasnt lost perspective. They know full well that ratings are bound to drop in the coming weeks. Across a 44 day tournament, it is impossible to sustain ratings over seven. That does not deter them from trying. Even if theres a dip in the middle, interest will pick up as the tournament enters its final phase. It is this ability to be positive that differentiates Sneha and her team. Heres wishing them all the best in their quest to create history.

(Sports historian Boria Majumdar is senior research fellow at La Trobe University in Melbourne)