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Australian media has shown its true colors
by Boria Majumdar
Jan 13, 2008
By Boria Majumdar - Dreamcricket Special Columnist

Let us first put a few things in context. The Daily Telegraph of 13 January calls the Indians the worst behaved in world cricket. The same report goes on to implicate Saurav Ganguly, the only Indian to have praised the desperate Australian desire to win in Sydney, as the worst behaved of all current cricketers. It has also carried an exclusive Andrew Symonds interview where he says racial banter from friends are okay but if such comments come from opposition or rivals they are unacceptable. On the same day, The Australian has castigated Peter Roebuck for having demanded Ponting’s sacking. It has dedicated a full page to proving to its readers how Roebuck is himself a loser. The nationalist Australian media, finally, has come back to its own.

It was a pleasant surprise to see the Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph report that the general consensus among Australians after the Sydney Test was that their team is arrogant and their captain isn’t a good ambassador for the game. However, that such a stance was an aberration has now been proved. In sticking with their usual line, the partisan and jingoistic Australian media has indeed shown its true colours, a sad hardline reflected and also endorsed by their team on the field.

With two days to go for the Perth Test, there’s little doubt that such reportage will continue to inflame passions and add fuel to the fire. It will ensure that the growing acrimony between the two teams, which had peaked in Sydney, continues to simmer and isn’t allowed to cool down. It also makes for a scintillating Test match off the field as well. Already in the press conference at the end of the Sydney Test, we have seen prospects of fireworks between scribes from both nations. Such irresponsible and disgustingly partisan journalism will ensure that such tensions heighten before Perth.

It is this off the field Test match that yet again brings into question the issue of ethics. When the players are in breach of ethics, we have the ICC and the media to castigate them. But when scribes are clearly in breach of ethical behavior, who is to issue the necessary reprimand? Who is to say that such writers need to be banned for they have brought the game into disrepute? That they are, if anything, a disgrace for the game? When such prejudiced reports continue to be published, ones that will surely damage the image of an already tainted series even further, where will the controlling hand come from? Who is to be the Ranjan Madugalle to make sure that scribes don’t continue to overstep their limits?

Having read cricket history for a doctoral dissertation, I have read reportage on the game spanning more than a century. It is impossible to remember one comparable series where the journalists have acted with such lack of grace. In fact, in this respect, if not for the cricket, this Indian tour of Australia will forever be etched in cricket history. Already, Australian academics have started planning panels in conferences aimed at dissecting this ugly series. It is time to tell them that such panels need to dissect the role played by the Australian media as well.

As journalists covering the cricket, we often complain of media gags imposed on players. If they aren’t talking to the touring party of journalists how are these professionals to generate their stories? For once, however, it seems that such a gag will mark a welcome departure. This is because cricket journalists are not covering the tour. Rather, sensationalists and irresponsible pen wielders are making a mockery of the profession.

A discussion with my close colleague Brian Stoddart deserves a mention in this context. Brian, one of the most respected among Australian historians of sport, in a recent column called for the need to understand India better to make sure relations don’t degenerate further. He rightly says, “Being aware of cultural differences anywhere is important, but especially so in India. Australians, typically, have been poor at that.” What he has left unsaid is that the Australian media continues to be disinterested in trying to undertand the differences. Why else would The Daily Telegraph get after Ganguly when he has been the only one, post Sydney, to have given the Australians credit for their focussed detemination to win? Instead of seeing the Ganguly of the present, The Telegraph journalist has spent hours in digging out the number of times Ganguly has been found guilty of breaching the ICC code in the past! Not without reason is it said that statistics, more often than not, is an ass.

To round off, we need one simple thing done at this point to restore sanity before Perth. We need to, all of us included, shut up.

 
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