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Credibility of the cricket press
by Gulu Ezekiel
Apr 14, 2007
One of the most disappointing fall-outs of India’s shock early exit from the ongoing World Cup in the West Indies has been the spate of rumours, half-baked stories and planted stories that have wormed their way into the cricket media here.

As a professional journalist myself, it pains me to turn the spotlight so harshly on my own profession. But over the last few weeks it has become an inescapable fact that India’s cricket journalists have matched our cricketers in their abysmal performance.

It was sad to watch such an intelligent and dignified cricketer as Anil Kumble react with such bitterness and hostility directed at the media when he was interviewed on TV last week.

But Kumble was spot-on in his assessment, even if he did at times show a thin skin at some of the criticism.

It now appears that Sachin Tendulkar coming out at such haste and with so much venom directed at (now former) coach Greg Chappell was an ill-advised move in which he was overly influenced by the media.

Chappell’s report on the World Cup debacle which he presented to the BCCI last week certainly did not contain such harsh terms as “mafia”, “bullying” and “abuse” which the press leaked out in reference to the behaviour of the senior players ganging up against the younger lot.

Whether all this was part of a motivated disinformation campaign or just the figment of somebody’s fevered imagination is hard to say. But the credibility of the cricket press has certainly taken a battering.

It is with some justification that the print media in India looks down on their counterparts in TV with a certain amount of contempt.

Certainly the electronic media had been guilty before the World Cup of over-hyping the team’s chances. And then when it all came crashing down, of whipping up hysterical elements within the nation’s notoriously fickle cricket fan base.

However, it has been noticed this time around that newspapers have also planted themselves in various camps and have blatantly displayed their loyalties at the cost of both credibility and unbiased reporting. The ‘exclusive’ tag has been much used and abused on our various feverish 24-hour TV news channel. Now we have newspapers too picking up on this ugly trend. And most disturbing of all, almost all these ‘exclusives’ are attributed to unnamed sources!

Many of these ‘plants’ emanate from within the team itself. While Chappell has been roundly castigated for sending mails and SMS messages to his favourite journalists, it is a habit he probably picked up from some Indian cricketers who have been past masters at this sort of campaign by stealth.

That the media, both print and electronic, fall for this hook-line-and-sinker and in fact are often willing dupes in the whole game make them no less guilty. It is a sad and self-destructive business and Indian cricket has suffered irreparable damage as a result.

 
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