Not something that’s needed only by spy agencies; something every single one of us needs every passing day. But you’ve got to be able to differentiate between what information is useful and what’s utterly unnecessary, unless you live to kill time. For example- many oranges are green is something that may seem like an interesting fact, but it won’t change the taste of oranges.
Just like knowing the fact that a group of hippos, called a bloat, won’t actually cause you bloating.
But what could and is increasingly leading to the bloating of the mind is consuming stuff being published in the name of cricket journalism (especially here in India) when it is anything but.
Gone is that age where cricket journalism concerned itself with the intricacies of the sport; the manner of runs scored, wickets taken, the great comebacks, tales about an out-of-form batsman scoring a double hundred, of an underdog team trouncing an ICC table-topper.
Today, what’s being pushed out perhaps to fill up empty columns that lack a purpose and fail to delve deep into a game that is an obsession for innumerable fans, is stuff that deals with the mundane, the ‘not-needed.’
Ultimately, content that’s popcorn journalism. Stuff that deals with theatrics. Not substance. Content you should consume whilst watching a movie, not when following a serious game like cricket.
Need proof? There’s lots of it.
And I swear on Rahul Dravid, a man of unsullied integrity and character, someone I consider a role model that I wouldn’t lie to you.
A couple of days back, a major news website in India, I won’t name it, for that’s not the purpose, published a full-fledged article with a title, “Smriti Mandhana reveals the name of the messiest room-mate!”
The article, as suggested by the heading, neither dealt with any recent performance of the batter, nor concerned itself with anything cricket in nature.
Perhaps in a failed attempt to surprise the reader- and there were thousands of “Likes” the post attracted- it was revealed the left-hander considers herself messy.
Not Lionel though! The joke sucks, right?
Well, so does such content being pushed in the name of Cricket journalism.
A day before, Smriti Mandhana was trending on social media again. Though, she’d made a brilliant fifty on a testing English surface in the recent drawn Test, why she was trending had nothing to do with her watchful batting.
It focused on a picture of the 24-year-old that called one of the most successful Indian batswomen ‘hot and spicy!’
A week before, on Facebook appeared a video of Yuzvendra Chahal dancing, if what he was doing could be called that, to a Snoop Dogg track that went viral.
Though it would compel Michael Jackson to turn inside his grave given Chahal’s dance, rather the lack of it- there was nothing substantial that the cricket fan was being fed by the exclusive channel that claims to focus on pure cricketing content.
Earlier this year, what became a rage on social media was Hardik Pandya’s newly-bought Lamborghini Huracan, reported by mainstream Indian news channels.
There’ve also been days when pre-eminent news platforms have published pictures from Anushka and Virat’s holidays, encouraging fans to have what they call “couple goals.”
There is no problem to publish off-beat stories related to cricketing stars. One can’t read serious content everyday. But the problem persists when websites whose jobs were to educate fans about the great game of cricket turn habitually into gossip columns.
At exactly the same time where a young intern or a random writer at a sports desk is being told by his editor to plug into what brand of shoes Harmanpreet Kaur wears or what gym gear Kohli and Rohit deck up in, all in the wake of attracting TRP’s, there are journalists like Bharat Sundresan, Melinda Farrell, Gideon Haigh, Isabelle Westbury, Vijay Lokapally, Annie Chave, Firdose Moonda, Sarah Waris, George Dobell, Sclyd Berry and countless others who are writing stuff that matters.
Content that must be consumed for not only it is enriching to the mind but uplifting to the soul.
And must we remember, every time we’ll be interested in how big a house does an AB de Villiers live in and which latest holiday destination did the Pandya brothers visit, we’ll be distancing ourselves from the real journalists who stay awake often until midnight to complete match reports that need to be read, analysis that stems from hours at work, tributes that raise the bar of cricket writing besides producing information that truly highlights cricket like straight A’s in a student report card.
Though make no mistake.
Kohli, AB, Pandya aren’t at fault.
Perhaps it’s about time, we looked in the mirror to see what we’ve become?
Frankly, there’s not much of a difference between eating junk food and consuming junk information. Both are poisonous.
At every given opportunity where you eschew the healthy and go with the easy, decide to munch away instead of being mindful of what to consume, you cause a detriment to your own well-being.
You’ve heard of food for the body. So how about food for the soul?
And it’s about time that as readers we asked, provided we care, that just what is being fed to us and why.
Who’s really to be blamed?
Do we actually have nothing better to do instead of appreciating how ‘hot’ Smriti looks when it’s her 4,500 plus international runs, 4 ODI centuries that beckon greater attention?
Are we solely interested in a cricketer’s bank balance and not his most definitive knocks?
Is there someone who’s feeding on our psyche that habitually meanders toward the needless? Are we being led that way deliberately for we are running scant on meaningful content.
Questions, there are many, but the answers can only come from us.
Those news sites whose job is to, some way or the other, keep your interest glued on a star-cricketer and his vanities will, at the end of the day, thrive on the number of hits the gossipy article generates.
Their mission, unlike Tom Cruise’s improbable ones in the Mission Impossible movies, is a very doable one. It’s to put stuff out there that lowers one’s IQ, not add to it by way of publishing content for the purist.
For instance, no one earned a dime or became a public intellectual by reading endless articles about Jasprit Bumrah marrying Sanjana Ganesan, two fine personalities, at the end of the day.
But you could’ve used all that time into reading about, for instance, the very first Test match that was ever played or finding out the fact that even before the men’s world cup took place, the women- subjected to sexism even today- had already played cricket’s magnum opus.
All the time you spent admiring Pandya’s car collection could’ve been put into reading about legends like Rachael Hayhoe Flint, Learie Constantine, Wally Hammond, Freddie Calthorpe and the likes who shaped the identity of the sport that the E-sport loving, betting-hungry, social-media obsessed, frequently-Instragramming generation of today know nothing about.
The fault clearly lies with us just the way it lies with publications who are determined about sharing nothing about the sport’s glorious history whilst focusing only on histrionics.
Information that’s about as useless as counting the number of hair on Colin de Grandhomme or Jason Gillespie‘s scalp.
There’s still time to revive the lost art of cricket journalism. There’s still time to focus on the game, instead of focusing on the theatrics that make it seem like a cheap item number in a Bollywood movie that lacks substance.
But, the sad part is for as long as the reader will stay committed to consuming information which is bullshit and knowing which doesn’t increase the price of fish, not even the world’s greatest cricket writers can save the spiral decline of cricket journalism.
(note- Caught At Point, from now on, will take not a sly but a direct dig at every possible piece of cricket news that dabbles with the absolutely needless information published in the name of cricket writing. We are shameless; we won’t spare those who bring a bad name to cricket by lowering journalistic integrity)