Cricket journalism is still alive in a country that cannot function without the sport the same way a batsman cannot operate without an L guard. Well, that’s unless he’s hell bent on self-destructing the way some journalists- who take pride in calling themselves that- are determined about destroying the fabric of Cricket writing.
Though chances are, if the content being produced in the name of cricket journalism, which is anything but continues to flourish the way it is, we could soon see Cricket writing being put on life support.
So how far is the above true? Is it misleading?
Let’s take an example. Today, we are hardly being told stories about the rise of Ranji stars, many of whom have become famous faces of the national cricket team. Most probably, you and I don’t really know the tale of struggle of a Radha Yadav or a Rajeshwari Gayakwad.
We aren’t being told anything as such about Ajay Kumar Reddy.
So who’s he? Sounds random?
The 30-year-old, who’s got nothing to do with the famous Dr. Reddy’s brand, is the captain of the Indian Blind Cricket team, with a list of achievements that are as high as the length of the K2 mountain.
Moreover, there’s a good chance that not many of us are even aware that many moons ago, Sir Don, the man with cricket’s most staggering batting average of 99 visited India, albeit in an utterly unplanned way, when the Great Britain-bound jet he was on, stopped on its way to Kolkata for refuelling.
Though, the moment he entered the Dum Dum airport, Sir Don was as surrounded by swarms of fans as was Michael Jackson when on the stage. Sir Don would later pull up the airline for what he called was ‘breach of privacy.’
By the way, did you know that upon his birth, the legendary Sir Sunny Gavaskar got swapped with a fisherman’s son and may well have gone on to lead a different life altogether?
So while we can be fed interesting tales that may not necessarily deal with runs scored and wickets shattered, and are still, largely-cricket related, our craving for the game is being filled with a diet of junk as found commonly nowadays.
Hardik’s new sports car, Gayle’s mansion, Rohit’s brand of socks and what not.
It’s like when you are craving for a proper meal prepared by your mum, she conveniently places the pizza pamphlet in your hand and a bottle of cola on the table.
Wow, how nutritious?
Perhaps not as nutritious as knowing the fact that two days ago, Virat Kohli- the world’s finest current batsman- was having a cup of coffee and some cookies with his wife, Anushka Sharma.
The problem isn’t with Virat or Anushka having whatever they were. They are citizens of a free world and can consume an entire branch of a Banyan tree if they want, provided it doesn’t belong to someone’s private property.
The concern, provided you think it is one, is that during these off-periods with no Indian Cricket on, the lack of cricketing action is being replaced by utter junk that doesn’t contribute to anyone’s IQ.
Well, for several Indian fans out there, a day without live Indian men’s cricket on TV could well mean that there’s just no cricket happening anywhere, even as the Proteas could be touring the Caribbean, as some may note.
And tales like what a cricketer had for breakfast or at what club did one seek recreation only change the definition of IQ, making it “Intelligence in Question.”
Real evidence of Virat Kohli’s breakfast meal being made into a piece of cricketing journalism can be gathered by the fact that it wasn’t even an article in the first place.
It was, believe it or not, an Instagram post on Ms. Sharma’s profile where she’d posted a harmless picture of what she and her hubby were enjoying at some quaint part of England.
That it was converted into a 250-300 word post suggests the so-called cricket writers, many of whom are employed by established, preeminent publications, are bringing a strange name to the culture of cricket journalism.
They’re, conveniently forgetting, that this is no random field of vocation; it’s a terrific career path to which both established legends, famous names and up-and-coming writers belong.
Look no further than the grace of Mr. Vijay Lokapally. Be amazed at the cricketing bank of knowledge that is Mr. Arunabha Sengupta, a man who’s spent years bringing you astounding tales of the game’s history. Never ignore the there’s the very sophisticated Mr. Ayaz Memon with his in-depth analysis. Forget not that in Sharda Ugra, a one of a kind woman, India has someone whose writing is both brave and purposeful. Don’t discount someone like Bharat Sundaresan, who many would note for his excellent “The Dhoni Touch,” traveled miles into the Caribbean to track down the forgotten Patrick Patterson.
Take pride in the likes of Anand Vasu and the late, great Rajan Bala, and a host of young names who’re bringing you great stories, be it Sarah Waris, Juili Ballal, Sritama Panda, Rohit Sankar, Mendra Dorjey, Suvajit Mustafi, Sandip G, Jigar Mehta, Umang Pabari, Rustom Deboo and several others.
Yet, what seems to be happening is that for the fan, flummoxed as much by a Smith and Williamson’s dazzling numbers as by the dearth of real stuff that can be qualified to be called Cricket journalism, there exist two different worlds.
And each shows its back to the other akin to the once-existing Berlin Wall.
On the one hand, you have the stuff the purist would love. Feature stories on a Wisden, interviews on a Women’s CricZone, analysis on Cricbuzz, and match reports on EspnCRICINFO.
Then on the other hand, you have stuff being pushed out with cosmetic make-up, stories that are like a Japanese sex doll, full of human features but devoid of a human being.
It’s both amazing and distracting that in the exact same cricketing universe where there exists a Firdose Moonda and George Dobell, who’d go to great lengths to bring you stories that fascinate, there are also several young lives being pushed into the world of clickbait journalism whose efforts would make you suffocate.
It doesn’t increase the price of fish honestly to know what car Hardik Pandya drives at present and how many subscribers has Chahal’s YouTube channel amassed.
Knowing what new song is DJ Bravo working on won’t create new jobs, just like reading content on the worst sledges exchanged between India and Pakistan won’t bring back the two in a bi-lateral series anytime soon.
What matters is that in this information age where data, perhaps for the sake of histrionics, is being called the new oil (wow, how fashionable), there’s heaps of ways to seek knowledge.
Though the struggle is, we need to work on our filters.
What to consume and what to flush out.
And it’s something that can come only from us. Today, they’re telling you about what coffee Kohli drank, tomorrow there could be opinion pieces if someone like a Krunal Pandya launches a whiskey brand.
But if you continue to dwell on the path that doesn’t really amount to anything cricket in nature, then what will happen to the tireless efforts of those who are converting days into nights and nights into days by authoring original, well-researched cricket pieces?
Just what will we gain by knowing who Warne dated? Did that increase the worth of the game? Can we remove the ‘less’ from the actual ‘worth’ and render into an unwanted space, that part of Cricketing journalism that’s actually worthless?
Remember, somewhere down the line, as fans you have the moral responsibility to differentiate between class and crass.