Ranjona Banerji: Time to be less gullible, dear sports journalist?

21 May,2013

By Ranjona Banerji

 

When the cricket match-fixing scandal broke in 2000, I was in Delhi assisting with the launch of a cricket magazine. I was therefore surrounded by eminent cricket writers and experts, established sports journalists and budding sports writers some of whom are well on their way to eminence today. Former cricketers were also a common commodity in the magazine’s offices. Not one of them had a clue about the horrors of match-fixing and how far it had contaminated the sport. This is in spite of the exposes by Anniruddha Bahal in Outlook magazine in the 1990s and the dramatic Tehelka expose with Manoj Prabhakar in 1999 (which ended dramatically with Kapil Dev weeping copious tears to Karan Thapar on live television).

 

Since then, allegations of match-fixing have given way to spot-fixing. Various Pakistani players have been exposed, especially by the British media. But the general sense of disbelief in the past week is nothing short of astounding. I have read some columns this week claiming that the writers knew what was going on in the IPL but I say that’s a load of crock. Or rather, if they knew so much why on earth didn’t they write about it before? I cannot remember a single substantial story or opinion piece about the influence of bookies in the IPL and players being corrupted by betting greed. Have you read any?

 

All this knowledge after the fact is not just pitiful posturing, it is shameful. The job of the journalist is to sniff out wrongdoing. But sports journalists have fallen short here. Every time, it has been general reporter who has found out exactly what’s happening in the world of sport. This shortfall is also seen with business journalists who cannot see – or report – on anything shady going on in their domain. Every CEO is the greatest and every business house is the best – this lasts even when said businessman is well-known as a dope and when some government agency reveals fraud. Of these speciality journalists, I would say the best informed are the film ones. They may not be able to tell the truth in print because their managements are so enamoured of the glamour world but they certainly know all the gossip.

 

Sports journalists have maximum access and it is about time they dumped their rose-tinted spectacles for some eyewear that is a bit less gullible.

 

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Having said all that (my favourite bumptious phrase), Indian news television was boringly predictable. There was Rajdeep Sardesai being earnest, Arnab Goswami being judge, jury, executioner, Rahul Kanwal being so serious, Jujjhar Singh trying to be reasonable and NDTV bucking the trend by talking about China. You know: that country close by that keeps wandering into our territory.

 

The usual BCCI bashing is now on and it will come to nothing. TV channels cannot do more than call the same old people who say the same old things. There are some who are preserved in mothballs in TV studios and brought out when anti-BCCI comments are required. I surfed my way through them all and decided discretion is the better part of valour. Anyone else out there watching Grey’s Anatomy?

 

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The Times of India did a nice little favour to tennis fans by having former great Boris Becker as guest sports editor which include a long Q & A with him. This was marred by the TOI’s formidable sports reporters not knowing how many Grand Slam titles Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have won so far. And, by what is far worse, some too-clever-by-half  (my conjecture) dimwit, declaring to Becker than serve and volley as a technique was a dying practice in Becker’s day. Becker put the questioner in his place and how shameful is that?

 

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