From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.35 :: NO.14 :: Apr. 05, 2012

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CRICKET / ASIA CUP DIARY

A few TV channels target poor Ajmal

The media manifests itself in many ways. Usually it is a mirror that reflects truth but when the glass is distorted, reality acquires other shades. It happened in the manner in which a few television channels handled the Saeed Ajmal issue. By K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

At 23 years, Virat Kohli is burdened with the passing of the baton. He is expected to fill in for Rahul Dravid in Tests and simultaneously be the team's momentum dispenser during tight chases under lights. After his 183 stunned Pakistan, Kohli addressed the press with a fine blend of an old man's diplomacy and a youngster's sense of wonder.

A Pakistani scribe asked him: “Your celebrations after getting the hundred said something, did anything happen on the field?” Kohli's answer was seconds away from being an explosive breaking news item but he played with a straight bat. “Ah nothing really, haven't performed well in my previous matches against Pakistan, so I was keen to do well. There was nothing on the field. Yes in international matches, teams compete hard but I have friends in the Pakistan team too,” he said.

His eyes brightened when asked about a probable 200. “To be honest, it did cross my mind once. And I thought ‘no, this can't be real' and I just concentrated on the ball,” Kohli said. His best line was reserved for the last as he said: “It is mission impossible.” It was a reply lost in laughter after a journalist asked him whether he is dreaming about scaling Tendulkar's century of tons!

The mirror that cracked

The media manifests itself in many ways. Usually it is a mirror that reflects truth but when the glass is distorted, reality acquires other shades. It happened in the manner in which a few television channels handled the Saeed Ajmal issue.

The controversy started perhaps with the Men in Blue's machinations that led to a story being planted among the Indian scribes: Ajmal's action has been questioned and an informal complaint has been lodged with the International Cricket Council officials.

On a wretched day when no one would come on record except for team manager Arindam Ganguly's line about the issue being discussed, it was all about clutching at straws. The ICC also slipped in to denial-mode, as conveniently the august body had not received anything in writing.

Like an open secret that no one will acknowledge, the speculation hung uneasy in the air. Soon the man in question – Ajmal – was asked about his reaction to the whisper-campaign. The Pakistan off-spinner initially declined to talk but gradually opened up and said that his action has been cleared by the ICC and when asked about Sachin Tendulkar, he graciously and in a very respectful tone said: “He is a Sir. He is nearing the end of his career but he is still a very big player.”

Within minutes, a few television channels ran the story: Ajmal mocks at Tendulkar. The tweaker's Punjabi drawl was misinterpreted as sarcasm and it proved to be a needless attempt to trigger tension between the rival camps ahead of the expected Indo-Pak final. The cricketing gods were obviously miffed and once Bangladesh trumped Sri Lanka and qualified for the summit clash, the talk about Ajmal died down but the damage was done.

One man, many moods

Mahela Jayawardene has a boyish charm and a quaint Sinhalese accent that often masks the intense competitor, who resides within him. During the course of a forgettable Asia Cup for him and Sri Lanka, the man displayed varied emotions ranging from anger to exasperation.

At a press conference, a sports hack from Colombo, repeatedly asked Jayawardene about the losing spree that started from the Commonwealth Bank Series finals in Australia. The Sri Lankan skipper answered patiently but once the media interaction concluded, he stepped down from the podium and had a heated exchange of words in Sinhala with the concerned scribe. Later it was gathered that Jayawardene had told his interrogator that the team is trying its best and questions that ‘mock' the squad is not in good taste.

More was to follow once Sri Lanka crashed out following the defeat against Bangladesh. A Pakistani journalist bluntly asked Jayawardene about whether his men's performance was a reflection of ‘poor captaincy.' A bemused skipper said: “Amazing isn't it, two weeks of cricket does that to you, eh? Well I don't know, it is tough to answer that question. I have been beaten five times in a row before so I probably was in the dumps then! We played Australia in the (CB Series) finals and I can't be a bad captain overnight. A captain is as good as his team and there are no secrets to it, just that he handles certain situations. We haven't played good cricket, there are excuses for that. We were up against some quality teams – India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – and we haven't played good cricket and that happens but we will move on.”

That Indian restaurant...

The yearning for home food forced a bunch of sports correspondents to race around town in an auto-rickshaw that presumed Dhaka's packed roads were indeed F1 tracks! Muttering prayers and holding their hearts in their mouth, the hacks finally stepped in to a restaurant named ‘X-Indian.' It was the biggest blooper of the tour. The food joint turned out to be a Chinese and Thai outlet. The misleading nomenclature was raised with the waiters and one said:

“Well its Xindian, meaning China!” And then the tired bunch of pen pushers cracked weak jokes like ‘Yeah, it is actually ex-Indian so it makes sense that they don't serve our food.' Finally hunger triumphed and a mix of soups and noodles were ordered in haste.

Weak smiles, wet eyes

Bangladesh's dream run that concluded in a so-close-yet-so-far despair evoked a standing ovation from the press corps when a shattered coach Stuart Law and captain Mushfiqur Rahim walked in for the post-final media session. It was a moment that reflected the duo's fierce self-belief and also revealed that even hardened journalists can at times forget their brief about being lizards on the wall and occasionally allow their hearts to dictate their responses. Law and Rahim kept nodding their heads with tired smiles and moist eyes at a time when Bangladesh had truly turned a corner.



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