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Sight Screen

Thursday, October 06, 2005

What does 'gag' mean?

I thought I knew; now I know I don't. There is, we are told, a gag in place prohibiting captain, coach, players, managers, committee members and all else from discussing the recent imbroglio in any and all particular.
Check off the list, and you find that pretty much everyone has talked -- the manager, the captain, two committee members, the physio, assorted players -- with Yuvraj Singh the latest to sound off.
Not complaining, mind -- I am chronically opposed to ukases that tell people when to talk and when not to; such things are best left to China. But it does make you wonder -- most journos don't take the BCCI seriously, the fans most certainly don't, and it appears the cricketers and related personnell don't give a fig either.
It's a wake up call -- another one -- for the BCCI, if only it had the sense to listen to the subtext.
Oh and by the way, Kapil Dev is very illuminating, in this story.
"People have different personalities. But country comes first. It's a part and parcel of the game but it should not affect the country's image.

On a completely unrelated note, have you ever wondered whether future Indian cricketers are taught, at a very young age, the art of talking a lot and saying nothing?


  • Prem

    Most of the players have certainly been talking a lot recently.
    Dont know if much of it is making sense.

    On an unrelated note, where do you think SG is headed in the next couple of years(I dont want to draw you into another pro/anti SG debate).

    Just wanted to know your opinion.

    By Blogger Sid, at 11:31  

  • Prem,

    There's another side to this talking-a-lot-and-saying-nothing story. I think it comes out of the media's need to have *something* to write about. I am sure there are times when players/ex-players don't want to say anything concrete and end up saying lame and redundant things that have absolutely no news-worthiness. The pity is that the media ends up reporting anything and everything regardless of its news-worthiness. Its actually quite hilarious at times when one little story/interview is published on 10 different sites on 10 consecutive days with just a little tinkering of the title and contents.

    By Blogger Rahul, at 11:47  

  • rahul: The media shares the blame, yes, but IMHO in a different sort of sense: we ask ridiculous questions, most of the time.
    With no intent to blow my own trumpet, I recall this particular instance: In September of 1998, there was this coaching camp in Chennai I was covering. Kapil arrived there, and was immediately swamped by the media. After about five minutes of softball questions, KD kind of lost it and said enough, and started walking away.
    I have always had a reluctance to ask questions during media briefings -- I prefer one on ones, frankly. So I had been hovering on the fringes, waiting for him to be free.
    When he walked away, I followed and asked him for a couple of minutes. His response was, chodo yaar, ab kya puchoge, is Tendulkar the best player in the world?
    Just for the hell of it, I said how's your golf swing doing these days, can you hit it further than Tiger Woods? He laughed, and began talking golf. After a bit, I asked if I could interview him, and this is the result.


    Sure, there's the odd say nothing quote in here, too -- but IMHO, there is also much sense; and all it took to bring it out was some homework, some thought in framing the questions, some patience.

    So yeah, sometimes, when I read these, sorry to be harsh, asinine reports, I wonder at this paint-by-numbers journalism.

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 12:00  

  • sid: I don't know where he is headed, frankly. I remember dad once telling me, when I was going through a rut, that each of us has infinite possibilities -- and whether we realize it or not is up to us.
    Sounds cliched, but it does work, I think. Here is what I hope he will do: I hope he will shut himself up someplace, with pencil and paper in hand, and draw up an unvarnished balance sheet of his cricketing life as it stands today -- all the pros, all the cons, listed without soft peddling; and without the constant circle of 'well meaning friends' suggesting non-existent silver linings to put in the pro column, or the equally well meaning opponents digging up cons.
    I hope he will at the end of the exercise jot down, in one line, where he wants to be two years down the line, in terms of his cricket; what legacy he wants to leave behind.
    At the end of the exercise, I hope he has the nous to do exactly what it takes, no matter how hard it is, to achieve that self-defined goal. If it means playing on, absorbing all the heat and continuing regardless, so be it. If it means putting his hand up and saying, right, I am stepping away to work on my game in isolation; I will let you know when I am ready to return, and then in privacy and away from this incessant glare, doing the hard yards and coming back when he feels physically and mentally ready, that works too.
    Bottomline, I hope he acquires the nous to stop living life day to day, and plots the narrative arc of his future, then goes for it.
    And postscript: What I said here is exactly what I think; anyone who wishes to interpret this into pro or anti stances are welcome, but I frankly have nothing to add to this.:-)

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 12:06  

  • I couldn't agree more on the gag orders. Why is there so much secrecy? If we've brought up the issue in public, why don't we just thrash it out and solve the problem? I'd like to hear Dravid, Laxman, and Kumble talk. I'd rather not set much store by the comments of these Johnny-come-latelys (Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Sehwag), who are motivated more by their place in the side. It's clear that the guys who stand to get hurt by a stricter fitness program (Bhajji, Sehwag) have come out against Chappell and the ones who stand to gain (directly and by pushing out the unfit ones) have come out for him (Pathan, Yuvraj).

    As for Rahul's comment on the media, I do think we give the media a lot of grief. If they are desperate to write something, it is only because we are information-hungry and that is the sign of an aware populace. You found 10 different sites with the same news item because you went to those 10 different sites looking for information. An aggressive press is a good sign as they are likely to find stuff that would otherwise have gotten pushed under the carpet. It would seek to subvert more of such gag-orders. I do find that our media, atleast the print-media, is among the best in the world. I read American, Australian and English news-sites quite often, and none of them has the same level of objectivity that most Indian journalists do (exceptions like Sanjay Jha notwithstanding). The Americans are all heavily driven by their political polarization, the Australians are steeped in outrageous nationalism, and British vaciallate between outrageous nationalism cloaked in artless euphemisms and a very pompous, lofty self-hatred.

    By Blogger Sudo Nima, at 12:12  

  • alvin: Feel like applauding that bit -- about Indian journos versus the rest. Is strange -- when I was first given this assignment, I wasn't too keen on it per se; the factor that swung my decision was, I thought heck, the US is the media capital of the world, maybe by working in that space, I can learn things I don't know.
    Since getting here, I've learnt to respect Indian journalism, in the mass, more than I did before.

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 12:15  

  • alvin,

    I rarely notice the nation of origin or the news-sites I visit (most of my filtering is done by google news.. so..). So, I haven't noticed any major difference in quality based on nation of origin, but you might be right. Also, your point about agressive media is well taken. My main emphasis, however, was not on 10 different sites.. it was on 10 consecutive days.. :) aggressive press is one thing (one good thing even), but to take one little interview and try to present it as 10 different stories is just plain ridiculous.

    By Blogger Rahul, at 12:25  

  • Prem,

    That Kapil Interview was really great and that is one of the reasons we really miss you @ rediff. I dont know about others but I like it when Kapil talks, his ideas about the game, his honest approach and all, I really feel that he could do a lot for the Indian cricket. But its sad that BCCI has been hijacked.

    By Blogger Oracle Guy, at 12:46  

  • Prem, if you don't mind my asking, what is your current assignment? As I've mentioned before, I've been following your writing since the tour down under in 99-00, but there was a time when I stopped visiting rediff (part of a general moratorium on cricket-news hunting in order to get a half-decent thesis out the door) and the next thing I knew you were in NYC and not writing for Rediff as often as you were, except you were still on Panix Station talking about discussing cricket over a few beers with some of your readers. What did I miss?

    As for journalism, I've always had a lot of respect for the profession. I would have pursued it myself, except for not having the courage to break out of the traditional medicine-engineering axis of "good" professions. I also find it strange that some writers get a lot of criticism for not "writing good English", when he or she has constructed the article beautifully. I seem to recall that the basics of article-writing, as learnt in high school, as being cohesion and flow (something I've obviously long since forgotten), and the secondary attributes of a good article including the usage of short, simple sentences. By that token, I see a lot of good journalism in India (though the website of TOI makes me cringe when I remember the quality of writing featured in the print edition of that newspaper in the past) in general.

    The only criticism I have is that at times the media gets too cynical. That's partly understandable since we're a developing country and are cynical as a population. However, I would think part of the media's job should be to not just inform opinion, but also try to cultivate it. I remember reading an article about ten years ago (by, I think, Raju Bharathan) about Tendulkar and the the likes of Gavaskar, Vengsarkar, Shastri etc. He was talking about how these latter were "middle-class batsmen who played like middle-class batsmen" and how Tendulkar was a "middle-class batsman who played with the swagger of royalty". I thought that was one of the most insightful things ever written (it may have since been repeated ad nauseum) as that is the most defining difference between the likes of Sehwag, Yuvraj, Dhoni etc. and the Gavaskars and Vengsarkars. It also impacted my way of thinking and impressed upon me the importance of a swagger in sports as well as in life. So, if journalists can have such an impact, I'd rather they write some faith-affirming stories along with their cynicism-affirming ones. The one thing I liked about the American media is that any story of human triumph, however unremarkable, never fails to find mention in the local media. It most often is about good samaritans, or groups of them, doing something that improves the quality of life for themselves or others in some little way. While these stories may not really seem much useful, they do help in lifting the collective morale of a community/city/nation.

    Just my 2 cents on the road not taken.

    By Blogger Sudo Nima, at 12:49  

  • oracle: Very frankly, I don't miss being cricket writer for Rediff.

    Throughout those ten years, it has always been "Oh, he is in the pay of Dravid, that is why he keeps promoting him"; "Oh, he is anti-Muslim, that is why he is against Azhar"; "Oh, he is a Maharashtrian (!!!) which is why he supports Sachin"; "Oh, he is a Keralite, that is why he wants Sachin to give up the captaincy and that Marxist, Saurav, to get it (OH, that was said too, believe me)"; "Oh, he is against Saurav because he doesn't get access/is in Dravid's pay/"...

    The joke is, that seems to be about all that happens on this blog, too. *L* There is a saying in my native Malayalam that covers this, but I'll spare you.

    Gotta work, pal, later.

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 12:52  

  • Prem,

    If you haven't noticed, the only person who seems to be honoring the "gag order" is the coach. Chappell has clamped up completely after the meeting in response to BCCI's order and I think he deserves respect. See the report from the Irani Trophy game on Express India:
    "The Indian coach knows how to honour an official fiat, but does the Board?
    Coach Greg Chappell takes the Indian board more seriously than the board itself, it seems. When mum’s the word all-around, the Aussie adheres to the spirit of the order. In New Delhi to observe proceedings at the Irani Cup, the coach kept the media at arm’s length, even while freely discussing cricket with the players. In London, almost at the same time, board president Ranbir Singh Mahendra was regurgitating the Sourav Ganguly-Chapell episode."

    By Blogger justanydesi, at 12:53  

  • Rahul,

    Fair enough. I think the repetition of stories stems from the fact that most newspapers have to be complete since it is possible that some of their readers might only be reading them. In that case, they won't know what's happened until it appears on their favorite (and only) newspaper. Your experience is something that all news-junkies have to contend with. While we go digging around to find something that website A has not covered (and may not for another day) and that may be on website B, it is inevitable that we mist find that same story on website A the following day and go "why are they repeating this?".

    However, if the same paper were to repackage stories, that is not a good thing and would usually indicate the absence of any proactive journalists, who can go out and find stories.

    By Blogger Sudo Nima, at 12:55  

  • Alvin: Saw that on my way out the door. Simply answered: Rediff bought a newspaper in the US, four years ago -- India Abroad. It was a big brand, has been around 35 years now, but was slipping. We bought it to add a print arm to our portfolio here; I was sent here to help put it back into gear and earlier this year, was promoted to the paper's editor. Which defines my job -- conceptualizing, and bringing out, the newspaper each week. Also tells me, tomorrow is press deadline and there is a 56-page newspaper that needs to be put together, so... out. Talk to you later, pal

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 12:55  

  • I loved that Raju Bharatan comment, I find that Bharatan is one amongst a diminishing breed in cricket writers. His unique writing style of adjectives to illustrate different contexts into an issue is fantastic.
    On an un-related note - I came upon the Vengsarkar-Patil discussion yesterday, so I am compelled to post this here. Not sure of this belongs here, but I don’t know if the other thread is being actively monitored, so here goes.

    This comment is related to the discussion in another thread yesterday about the Dilip Vengsarkar/Sandeep Patil discussions in some thread yesterday. Patil and Vengsarkar used to best buddies going back to their school days in St George, Dadar and were earmarked for India success from their earliest days. However they did have a falling out and as per Patil – he was stabbed in the back by Vengsarkar as he (Vengsarkar) chose to join the Tata’s versus Nirlon, as both had initially decided. Patil supposedly was the first who had been offered the Tata contract but turned it down on Vengsarkar’s say-so. All of this happened prior to both of them hitting the big leagues. Of course it’s a different story that Vengsarkar was the one who went on to make a long-time India career, while Patil’s fizzled out – shades of Kambli-Tendulkar here.

    As some of you may know, office cricket was big in the 70’s and 80s in Bombay, as it allowed cricket stars to be on their payroll and appear for occasional matches in the very hard fought office tourneys. And it earned the players a little bit of money in those pre-historic pre-contract/pre-endorsement days.

    All this is public knowledge, but only Patil’s POV is known. I must also add a disclaimer, this is as per my memory allows but is re-produced from Patil’s book - Sandy Storm - a copy of which I own but unfortunately not with me in personal possession.
    Vengsarkar has always remained a recluse from a personal stand-point, so his thoughts/views have always been hard to come by. I do believe that Patil, Vengsarkar did make at a later point in their careers, but they remain acquaintances as opposed to bosom buddies, unlike Kambli-Tendulkar.

    By Blogger Rajeev, at 14:17  

  • >>>oracle: Very frankly, I don't miss being cricket writer for Rediff.<<<

    Common Prem, We Love you and you know that, Otherwise why would we be hanging out over here, arguing with you, waiting for hours to hear/read even one post/response from you ? Do You think that tomorrow If Ashish Magotra, Faisal Sharif (or even Harsha Bhogle) etc are to open a blog, there would be same kind of response ? No way Sir. I dont even read Rediff match reports now a days.

    May be at times some of us (including me) have crossed the limit and that is mostly because of our own prejudices.

    By Blogger Oracle Guy, at 16:58  

  • Great stuff, Rajeev. I had heard something to that effect (friends-turned-foes) but didnt know the actual stories. I believe even in the Indian team, Vengsarkar got along with very few people and kept mostly to himself, whereas SP was more of the party animal alongside Srikkanth and Shastri.

    By Blogger Sudo Nima, at 18:03  

  • A dying man needs to die, as a sleepy man needs to sleep, and there comes a time when it is wrong, as well as useless, to resist.
    Stewart Alsop- Posters.

    By Blogger Blog World, at 03:16  

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