REMEMBERING RADIO BROADCASTER JASDEV SINGH
“MY CHILDHOOD IDOL VISWANATH’S IMAGE WAS BUILT BY RADIO”
Indian cricket legend, Kapil Dev said radio commentators of yore played a big role in making the image of star players larger than life for fans across the country before the advent of television.
“Gundappa Viswanth was my childhood cricket idol and his image was projected by the commentary I heard on the radio. It was several years before I saw him bat with my own eyes,” Kapil said while launching the autobiography of India’s most eminent Hindi sports commentator, late Jasdev Singh, titled “On The Wings of Radio Waves – A Broadcaster’s Journey”. The book is the English version of the autobiography in Hindi, “Main Jasdev Singh Bol Raha Hoon”, compiled, edited and transcribed by his son Er. Gurdev Singh.
JASDEV GAVE A LIVE COMMENTARY ON ALSAM SHER’S WEDDING
Olympian Aslam Sher Khan revealed that not only Jasdev Singh came to Bhopal for “my wedding but also gave a running commentary of the rituals”. Another Olympian Gurbux Singh recalled an episode when during an international India-Pakistan hockey match, the two teams had a scuffle. The Indian team had eight Punjabis and Pakistan had all-playing Eleven from West Punjab. “Their choicest invectives (galis) in chaste Punjabi were heard all over the hockey playing world. A very senior politician of Pakistan was present during the match”, he quipped. “Jasdev Sahib made me cry more than once while covering the funeral processions,” said former MP and IPL chairman Rajiv Shukla.
“It was while listening to the running commentary on the radio that I built the image of wristy batsman Viswanath in my mind. Taking clues from the way the commentators used to describe his personality and his batting made him the biggest player in world cricket for me,” said Kapil. “Just like me, that was how lots of youngsters began idolising sportsmen even before television pictures brought sport directly to their home.”
Viswanath was a prominent member of the Indian team when Kapil proceeded to make his Test debut in 1978 and they played together for several years.
Kapil also got to know Jasdev Singh during some foreign cricket tours.
“The image of sportspersons are often built on their description by the commentators. Sometimes, we players sit back and even think if we are as good as projected by them,” Kapil said, complimenting sports commentators.
Kapil said the Late Jasdev Singh possessed a God-gifted talent for commentary which made him a household name. “The was a legend and will always remain a legend. Jasdevji made us players big by the way he described us.”
India’s hockey Olympic gold medallist Gurbux Singh and World Cup winning team member Aslam Sher Khan also paid tributes to the memory of Jasdev Singh, whose brisk description of hockey matches used to keep pace with the speed of the game.
“We used to be amazed at the speed of his commentary that kept pace with speed of action in the middle, and hockey has always been played at a brisk pace,” said Gurbux Singh, who was a member of the Indian teams that won gold medal at the 1964 Olympics and the 1966 Asian Games. Gurbax was the joint captain of the team that won a bronze in the 1968 Olympics.
Recalling an episode Gurbux told the gathering that during an international India-Pakistan hockey match, the two teams had a scuffle. The Indian team had eight Punjabis and Pakistan had all-playing Eleven from West Punjab. “Their choicest invectives (galis) in chaste Punjabi were heard all over the hockey playing world. A very senior politician of Pakistan was present during the match”, he quipped
Aslam Sher Khan, the substitute turned hero of the 1975 World Cup semi-final against Malaysia, said he was sidelined during many international outings, including World Cups, and Jasdev Singh in person would call me and give a pep talk saying “Your day would come. And it came to Kuala Lumpur”, he said while adding Jasdev was a great master at broadcasting and still a great human being.
Not only did he come for my wedding to Bhopal, “Jasdevji gave a running commentary of the rituals at the marriage to the thrill of the capacity crowd there,” he added.
Dr Narrotam Puri and Ambassador G. Pathasarthy said he (Jasdev) was a true Indian whose commentary would be treated for the ear of any Hindi knowing person anywhere and his capsules depicted true India, an amalgamation of all cultures.
Sports Administrator and politician Rajiv Shukla said: “His commentaries took you to the venue of the events and made you part of the proceedings/action. Jasdev Singh made me cry on more than one occasion, while covering funeral processions of some of the leaders of the country.” Journalist Vinod Sharma called him the Mohd Rafi of Indian commentary.
(Prof. Avinash Singh has contributed vital inputs in the article)