There cannot be anything bad about a sporting event. Win strongly or lose badly sporting events are always good unless tainted by drugs, fixing or outright cheating. It’s only the screaming headlines in the media that often make it out to be more than sports. Coupled with silly headlines are the endless and mindless discussions on TV channels about Cricket. For a long time all cricket matches are telecast live and yet on a daily basis there are at least 2 hours of mental masturbation on cricket on every channel. A hyper anchor with a bunch of ex-cricketers is typically bad news for any sensible discussion about a test match or a series. Recent tag lines are “India’s thunder down under” … “India’s best chance to beat Australia” and the less said about Sachin Tendulkar’s hundredth 100 the better.
Headlines Today, of course, out-does every other channel in preparation of Sachin’s hundredth with a half hour montage of all his centuries that is telecast about a hundred times a week. Sachin’s 100 can come when it has to but what exposes the idiots in the box is the manner in which India has gone down in the two tests to Australia in the current series. The second loss at SCG was even worse than in the first test. Well, all this is after the media had predicted this was India’s best chance to beat the Aussies. That also makes it six test losses in a row abroad. And it’s not over yet! Virat Kohli was unnecessarily fined for his gesture. I do believe his middle finger was directed clearly at the media or should have been.
If you heard the experts on the TV channels before the series started all that India should have done was to enter the field and Australia would have folded up. It’s just one more lesson that whatever the media hypes, expect the opposite to happen. That’s true not just for cricket, but for every event and entity that the media hypes up. It helps if the spurious campaign is launched by a foreigner from the opposing camp himself. Listen to Ian Chappell: "It is India's best chance to beat Australia in Australia. The Aussies have been inconsistent and there have been unbelievable number of injuries….” And the Indian parrots are thrilled!
Cricknext (December 12) headlined this report: “It's our best chance to beat Australia: Dhoni” “Even last time we had a very good chance and we did perform well. It is not like that the opposition is not doing well (but) it will be the best chance for us.." Dhoni said what he did with minor mention of the opposition but as captain of the team he is not expected to be pessimistic. But the headline of the article should explain the mindless hype from the media. The growth of cricket following had increased dramatically in India following the 1983 world cup win. Even that was a lucky escape from an extremely over-confident and arrogant West Indies.
Here’s another one from Deccan Chronicle: “India in with historic chance of beating Aussies at home”. That’s another issue with the media. Every 50, every 100, every match win, every series win is a “Historic” win! The term is abused so much that it loses meaning every day just as media analysis has proven to be history. Add to this the crazy rating game over teams. No1., No.2 blah, blah.. without realising it’s stupid to even make sense of any rating in a game played between 7 or 8 regular teams. That apart, the rating doesn’t count for anything in any tournament. Worse than seeing India lose a match is this mindless reasoning for losses. The only sensible one seems to be Kapil Dev who, in his usual down to earth style, states: “you lost because you played badly, that’s all” and that there can’t be any better reason. In the TV discussions and newspapers you are unlikely to find any new insight or intelligence on the game that you can’t find at your local corner shop discussion.
Over 3 decades ago when the Pakistan team toured India for the first time in ages Sunil Gavaskar, the captain, stated “they will smash us to pulp”. This is after the beating India took when they toured Pakistan earlier in 1978. This blog describes the situation well. Apart from spreading pessimism in the media Gavaskar must have also lowered expectations from the public. The end result? India beat Pakistan 2-1 in that series in 1979. In 2011 the hype about India centred around the last chance for Sachin to win a world cup title and less on the team itself. India won the world cup, in contrast to 2003 and 2007 when the media almost concluded a certain victory much before the tournament began. The exit in the very first round in 2007 had provided some learning for the media only to forget it quite quickly.
Here’s the best of the whole lot from a discussion on CNN-IBN by their sports anchor Gaurav Kalra with Harsha Bhogle and Sanjay Manjrekar. Kalra sets the tone by a leading question that already under-estimates Australia:
Kalra: Is this India’s best chance to win a series in Australia?
Bhogle: It’s 20 years since I first went to Australia and I can’t think of a better time…this time there is fear in the enemy camp … Australia is not the side they were…
Manjrekar: Australia is at its most vulnerable.. I expect Indian batting to be a stronger lot..
Manjrekar, of course, added the usual ifs and buts. But every channel and almost every newspaper got the whole shit dead wrong. That’s what happens each and every time the media hypes up something – the opposite results. Anyone who is considered an expert would have to be exceptionally stupid to have not learnt anything from India’s recent tour of England. So you might wonder why all the excessive theories of an Indian series win. Well, bad news makes headlines, but good news gets a lot more sponsors I suppose.
India has been beaten six tests in a row abroad. Well, that shouldn’t dishearten us at all from a sporting angle. Chances are we might be beaten in the next test as well. So what? After all, after his first win over Jimmy Connors didn’t the great Vitas Gerulaitis say: “And let that be a lesson to you all. Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row".