‘Nationalism in place of cricket journalism’

India’s best-known sports writer, now a happy resident of Australia, has torn into the output of cricket correspondents covering the ill-tempered series down under. Rohit Brijnath, formerly of Sportsworld and India Today, writes on the BBC website:

“Cricket is crying out for independent voices (and certainly for the well-crafted cricket piece).

“Commentators who romance clichés seem not to have heard the one about “without fear or favour” and some writers seem to be crafting nationalistic speeches rather than objective match reports.

“Hostility bounds out of sentences and bias drips from paragraphs. The job of the journalist is not to mend fences or cool emotions, but neither is it to incite.

“At the end of the second final, an Indian television reporter more or less told Harbhajan Singh, now you can say whatever you want. Next he will be handing players a flag.

“Some of the Indian writing was unworthy, unabashed, chest-beating jingoism; some of the Australian writing was worse, a one-eyed, arrogant, player-baiting, character-bashing orgy.”

Read the full article: Caution amid India’s cricket euphoria

Also read: Debate: who killed (good) cricket writing?

Cross-posted on churumuri

1 Comment

  1. This was a mail I wrote to a sports editor way back in May 2007

    As I shot an SMS last night about county coverage, I haven’t read anywhere that RP Singh is actually playing for Leicestershire. I read about it in March 2007, when the club signed him up, even then, nothing sprang up in the newspapers. As you rightly said, there are valid reasons for it, mainly the World Cup. Murali Kartik’s season long deal with Middlesex hardly received any coverage, though I think HT carried it when he signed the deal way back in October or so. For a media which was Mongia worshippers or even when Aakash Chopra scored a ton in the Lancashire league, it would come up. I think we need to encourage more and more county coverage, because people will at least know where these guys are based and it would help in a long way.

    One of the serious observations I have made through my reading and understanding of the media coverage is the obsession with the former players’ union (as John Wright) calls it. I think we need to understand that some of these guys make audacious observations and comments, which do not quite have any approval with facts. Somehow I tend to empathise with journalists, covering cricket that in quest for satisfying deadlines, we tend to go for the easier option of “call up Madan Lal or call up Yashpal Sharma and get a quote”. Instead of this, we must involve the cricket intelligentsia. Guys like Ramachandra Guha or Boria Mazumdar or Ashis Ray or Vedam Jaishankar should be on the “sources” radar than these former players, who get away by making some weird and unjustified statements. No doubt they are World Cup winners, well heralded in Indian cricket, but the position from where they come is largely yesteryear cricket, which in many ways is different from the modern game. This to a large extent, dumbs down content. They are hardcore regionalists – Madan Lal and Yashpal Sharma for example always, I say always vouch for the inclusion of a Delhi or a North Zone player. Lesser scope for analysis. I think we need people with a thorough understanding of the game, a pan-India view so that we dont restrict ourselves to satisfy our own regional wishes. My dream is to see the cricket intelligentsia waking up and coming with meaningful observations and analysis. Remember, cricket historians make good analysts too :). The Hindu makes use of these guys, especially Ram Guha.

    Unfortunately, with India not winning the World Cup enough, these former players pop out and the longer the players delay, the more screen-space or columns will they occupy.

    It would be great if you guys i.e . HT take up an initiative to look at the grassroot level of cricket in the country. By that I mean infrastructure, facilities etc. Its all good to say that our system is flawed, but as responsible journalists, its our prime duty to let them know where they are going wrong. And if they dont seem to take notice of it, even God in his omniscient form cannot save Indian cricket. But, at least an initiative is needed. I cant see anyone talking about it unfortunately. We prefer digging our hands into other countries than look at our own system. And other former greats like Sunil Gavaskar, who make jingoistic statements to register their presence in public get away with making them. Weird but true.

    As we spoke last night, I think other nations must also be given good amount of coverage. Its all so good to talk India, India, India all the time, but by doing that, we are writing what Mandira Bedi is paid to do. YES ! We do that. I have been following Sri Lankan cricket for the past ten years and what I observe in the media, is to cover all nations equally. Yes readership matters, but I think quality content is something thats of a concern to most Indian cricket media today. We tend to revisit some South African school that Graeme Smith went to when India tours South Africa. Instead, why dont we talk about the success factors of Sri Lankan cricket or even Bangladesh for that matter ? A strong school structure that even beats Australia or for that matter England. Why treat them as the little ones down there ? That view by some of the newspapers, thankfully not HT and Hindu is sheer disgusting.

    Also, we emphasize more on personalities. I mean if Sharad Pawar says something stupid, it becomes news. Addressing the issue must be our priority, not assign a personality to it. Sharad Pawar gets away with making audacious statements about the farmers in Vidharba, while every move that he does as BCCI President is considered news. The BCCI has become a beat by itself in Indian cricket journalism. Unfortunate. And there again, you have people with good media presence like Rajiv Shukla and Niranjan Sa, who come up with statements that are contradictory to the board’s stance. I think we need to question the board and not celebrate its riches.

    To conclude, I dont know if Ive made sense in this longer than love letter mail of sorts. If I can help in anyway, I will do so. It’ll be my privilege to help you guys with some content when I will be in Sri Lanka. Interviews, features and other things that you want from there. Its a challenge of sorts for me, but if I am not geared for it now, I never will be.

    Regards,

    Venkat

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