I was quite taken aback by the venom in India vice-captain Virat Kohli’s tirade of abuses against a senior cricket journalist during the World Cup. I was even more amazed when I later learnt that he has abused the journalist in similar fashion before. Cricket correspondents hastened to explain to me that there was nothing novel about it. Dealing with abusive cricketers, especially from the North, is almost an inevitable repercussion of being on the cricket beat they said.
It has been evident for a while that a majority of cricket journalism is about collusive reporting. The cricket beat allows reporters to travel abroad for long tours with generous dollar allowances. It’s the only sport that instantly makes it to page one without a fight. And, to put it succinctly, it just helps to be on the good side of the cricketers. Taking a stand against abusive behaviour doesn’t seem to be a part of the cricket reporter’s ambit. With some media houses owning a stake in the cricket pie, a reporter’s motivation to go for the jugular is sapped further. No wonder, you largely read insipid stuff on cricket. It’s mostly malarkey.
Coming back to Kohli. Apparently, he regularly launches a barrage of expletives when he reaches milestones in a match. Reports during the Australia tour pointed out that he had even gone off the handle in the dressing room, with Shikhar Dhawan at the receiving end of his ire. There have been a series of such incidents. Kohli’s conduct has not been what one would expect from a future captain of India. The BCCI, however, does not seem to be bothered. After all, abusive or uncouth, he has been considered fit enough to be ODI vice-captain and captain in the more revered format of Test cricket.
The youngsters in the team seemed to be picking up cues from captain MS Dhoni’s consistently disparaging remarks during press conferences. It has become a matter of routine for Dhoni to belittle the press in his interactions. Some remarks are tongue-in-cheek no doubt, but not all of them. Humour is good, being petty isn’t. With weak-willed media managers accompanying the team on most tours, it’s obvious no one is telling the captain that he does not have to stoop to the level of blanketing the entire media as incompetent. Just as no one is telling Kohli that it isn’t the done thing to use maabehengaalis at the drop of a bat.
Issues of conflict
There are a host of issues that confront Indian cricket. The Mudgal committee report on fixing in IPL names some players. The blatant conflict of interest of office-bearers is now in the realm of the judiciary. Former president N Srinivasan’s dogged clutch on his chair has only been relinquished on Supreme Court’s orders. The media has no access to the players while the BCCI’s paid commentators mouth platitudes on TV and have the amazing knack of writing fantastic pieces on India’s most mundane performances. It’s one giant pantomime with opium for the masses as its central theme. Indian cricket needs a dose of truth — a harsh curative dose.
The easiest cat to bell is the issue of player conduct. Isn’t the BCCI concerned about the kind of example these role models set for children who in their naivety are their biggest fans? Expletives as a legitimate form of celebration on reaching a milestone aren’t something that even Kohli’s most fanatic fan would enjoy his kids mouthing.
If India would have won the World Cup, all major concerns would have been lost in the hullabaloo of overzealous celebration. Perhaps the only good thing coming out of the loss is that not everything will be swept under the already bulging carpet. Ensuring model conduct from the ambassadors of this nation would be a good point to start from.