Thursday, January 10, 2013

On Couch Talk

The two finest cricket interviews I heard in 2012 are of Mike Young and Simon Taufel. They were recorded by Subash Jayaraman of The Cricket Couch sitting in a small town in Pennsylvania. Since his first show, a two part inteview with the former cricinfo journalist Siddhartha Vaidyanathan, Subash has built a body of work that ought to be the envy of every contemporary cricket publication. It is a tribute to his persistence and his persuasive powers that Test cricketers, journalists, bloggers, umpires, coaches, CEOs, humorists, ball-by-ball commentators and authors have appeared on Couch Talk.



I have participated twice on Couch Talk to discuss DRS. Subash often gives me previews of guests that he is planning to invite, and of ones that he is trying to invite. I have also contributed questions for some of his guests when he generously solicits them from listeners. I am not looking from afar here. Be it DRS, women reporters, women cricketers, Umpiring, First Class cricketers, cricket in the United States, new publications or more serious and consequential matters like the reception of gay cricketers and the problem of mental illness and depression among cricketers, there is an admirable consistency to Subash's method. He prepares a core set of questions before hand. These questions are designed to produce a response at length from the guest. Subash also has a few follow up questions prepared, but often ends up asking follow ups that probe an unforeseen point further. All this is done with restraint. I know as a matter of fact that Subash scrupulously follows prior agreements to not broach certain topics (for example, the topic of DRS with Umpire Taufel who I understand is contractually bound to stay away from the subject in the public record). Yet, I have learned more from his interviews than from various professional publications. His interest in the lives of the travelling journalist (Siddhartha Vaidyanathan, Jarrod Kimber), in the business of cricket media in the age of the internet (see his interviews with Daniel Norcross, Dileep Premachandran, Andrew Miller, Gaurav Kalra and Nitin Sundar for different aspects) has driven some wonderful interviews. It is to his credit that many of his guests return for multiple visits, and as is the case with long running interview shows (The Charlie Rose Show on PBS in the US comes to mind), will hopefully become regulars. It is a measure of how well regarded Subash is that the editors of Wisden India, Cricinfo, Wisden and The Cricketer have been guests, some of them often.

If you follow cricket regularly, you would be forgiven for believing that it was a man's game, run by men, played by men and reported on by men. Subash has interviewed women cricket bloggers, journalists and the former India captain Anjum Chopra, Cricinfo's South African journalist Firdose Moonda, twice, Welsh writer Stacey Harris about her book  Point to Fine Leg, Henna Khan of Test Match Sofa (with Aatif Nawaaz), Ant Sims from South Africa (who subsequently guest hosted an interview on Couch Talk with Neils Momberg of Cricket South Africa's Youth Development program) and Sana Kazmi, a cricket fan from Karachi. For this reason alone, Couch Talk is a force for the good.

There have, of course, been international cricketers on the show. Henry Olonga spoke to Subash for a whole wonderful hour. There have been the star players - Rahul Dravid and Wasim Akram. Harsha Bhogle also appeared on the show. The shows featuring Venkatesh Prasad, Iain O'Brien, Dirk Nannes, Eddie Cowan and Aakash Chopra are arguably more illuminating.

Gideon Haigh (a two time guest on Couch Talk) used to write a column for Cricinfo about "cricketers who didn't fit into the Great Man Theory of Cricket History, but who to my mind are overdue a few words"  titled Odd Men In. The host of Couch Talk has an eye for contemporary oddities in Cricket. You will find a different game in these podcasts -  a richer, more interesting game - a game presented with love.

Find episodes listed here. You can listen to them from the link on this page, or download them for free on iTunes, Tunein Radio and Youtube. The transcripts for episodes 31 to 65 have been painstakingly (especially considering the length and frequency of Subash's interviews and the many strange accents found in the cricket world!) prepared by Bharathram Pattabiraman (find him on twitter @bagrat15 ).

2 comments:

  1. I've only recently come across Subash's work but concur with your generous tribute. His restraint has got the best out of interviewees such as Gideon Haigh. I'd also credit him with persistence - firstly for securing his guests, but also for ensuring his core questions get properly answered. I would add Ian Bishop to your list of favourites.

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  2. The best cricket show going around now is the Cricket Club on google plus with myself and Stu Macgill would love you to come on our show at some stage and talk cricket... just jump on our page on google plus and let us know it would be a pleasure.. Thanks Damien ( old ex cricketer )

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