Few things throw light on the state of our journalism than the quality of cricket writing in the newspapers and magazines, English and otherwise. Here is a fine game almost designed for rousing prose. And yet, all we get on our sports pages is unadulterated bullshit, if bullshit can be unadulterated that is.
We are stuck with correspondents of the ‘after-winning-the-toss-and-batting-first’ variety. We are stuck with “writers” who are PR men for the stars of their home-states. We are stuck with players-turned-columnists who give both Wren and Martin a run for their grammar within the first 100 words.
Gone in all this blather is the colour and flavour of God’s Favourite Game. Barring honourable exceptions like a Prem Panicker, a Rohit Brijnath or an Ayaz Memon when was the last time you saw a fine profile, a stirring interview, a great mood scene?
When the last time you read something that somebody—a player, an advertiser, an agent—hadn’t planned or paid for with the aim of selling something to you, your spouse, your parent or child?
So, who killed cricket writing. Is it the quality of journalists entering the profession? Is it their bosses who look at cricket like Jagmohan Dalmiya did, with dollar signs in their thighs? Is it the marketing geniuses who treat cricket not as a game but as a mandi?
Is it you, the reader, who no longer cares as long as you get your dose of pseudo-patriotic puff and fluff?
Or is it the cricketers themselves, who think the only job of cricket writers and their publications is to pump up their advertising appeal and modelling rates?
David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker, who also did a landmark book on boxing, has been giving interviews to promote his new book titled “Reporting”. He has this to say why he got into writing about boxing:
“Because it’s very naked and exposed. It’s very much harder to get close to ball players than it was 30 years ago; they’re so rich and they don’t need you, and they’re so insulated by agents and the rest. The best you can do nine times out of 10 is very superficial reporting. Boxing is the one exception because these guys are very alone and have stories to tell, and, what’s more, are willing to [tell] them.”
So, who killed good cricket writing in the land of K.N. Prabhu and Rajan Bala and R. Mohan? And why are all our best cricket writers non-cricket journalists and columnists like Ramachandra Guha and Mukul Kesavan?