Ranjona Banerji: All eyes on cricket’s royal mess

17 May,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Cricket is under the scanner once more and the media is understandably all over it. Did I just say “understandably”? Ever since Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal started on their anti-corruption journey a couple of years ago, politics had become India’s biggest spectator sport leaving the usual suspects – cricket and cinema – to play second-fiddle.

 

Three IPL players suspended for spot-fixing, all belonging to the Rajasthan Royals team, the team captained by the upright and universally admired Rahul Dravid and the one of the three suspected cheats being the controversial Sreesanth – it’s hardly surprising that this consumed everything else including the Tehelka expose on how Varun Gandhi manipulated people and evidence to get acquitted in his hate speech case.

 

The Indian Premier League has always carried controversy around like a proud badge but cheating perhaps crosses a limit that it will have to work hard to recover from. The Times of India perhaps wins the headline contest with ‘A billion betrayed for lakhs’; quite aptly summing up the effect which this latest spot-fixing mess will have on cricket. However, perhaps the paper could have done better than asking Boria Majumdar to write its edit page piece on the subject – whatever his knowledge of the game, his writing style is wanting.

 

Hindustan Times since it has long replaced edit page analyses with fixed columns had an edit on the subject. Indian Express had an excellent story on how Rahul Dravid allowed his teammates to let off steam against the three Rajasthan Royals players under arrest. Mid-Day gave us an account of the thrilling chase down Bandra’s Carter Road that led to Sreesanth’s arrest.

 

Have to confess that I was on an aeroplane at primetime so missed all the drama on TV. By the time I got home, I found John Abraham giving us grooming or hair tips or something and so gave up. This morning, he was still there but there was lots of cricket, some Cannes and little else.

 

People on Twitter however were extremely sarcastic about the spot-fixing scandal and Sreesanth. His father’s allegations that some India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and spinner-slapper Harbhajan Singh were responsible for what happened to his son got scathing flak. The towel used as the signal for a spot of fixing was also the target of several jokes. Others were equally sarcastic about how Varun Gandhi had to be grateful to Sreesanth for overshadowing the Tehelka story on him.

 

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There was other news too – film star and Bombay bomb blasts convict Sanjay Dutt finally surrendering with all the details about his breakfast, lunch and dinner menus in jail. He was roughed up by fans, he looked sad, he was accompanied by his entire extended family – a prerogative denied to other convicts – was all there.

 

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The fact that Hindustan Times has launched its own version of Medianet called Brand Promotions has also flown under the media radar. When The Times of India introduced the despised (understandably and this time I mean it) Medianet, senior editorial worthies including Vir Sanghvi who was then editor of Hindustan Times tore shreds off TOI for destroying editorial credibility. Since then of course, many editorial mighties have fallen and now as we all know, some form of Medianet exists almost everywhere. More fool us.

 

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