News is what they do!

Let's give credit to the English media for not just reporting news but also making it, writes Kadambari Murali.

india Updated: Mar 08, 2006 18:30 IST

India's being taken over by England.

And no, we're not talking just about the major mauling the collective Indian ego received when Messrs Flintoff & Co let everyone know who's not boss at the suddenly docile Nagpur wicket last week.

Or the plethora of ex-England captains turned commentators who're the new poster boys of Indian cricket commentary in this new age of commercialism ushered in by a Board on a money-making binge.

Or even the very enthusiastic Barmy Army supporters, who seemed far more visible and vocal (probably because they had more cause to be!) than local fans in Nagpur.

You have to also give credit to the English media, at least a section of it, for not just reporting the news but also making it.

For instance, the highlight of last week wasn't so much the cricket itself --- which was unexpected and interesting even on Day Five -- but Greg Chappell's now famous interview to the Guardian newspaper, in which he said you know what about you know whom.

Everyone had an opinion on the interview, including the scribe in question himself, the former England player Mike Selvey.

He even wrote a long piece thereafter in the Guardian, headlined "How I knocked George Bush off the News" on his "ordeal by media" after the interview appeared --- apparently assorted television channels, newspapers and websites hounded him for a byte, when they should have been looking elsewhere for their stories and letting him do his work.

Poor Mr Selvey was obviously very put out by the attention he got in this cricket-obsessed nation. And one can really sympathise.

It is pretty awful when the natives mob you for quote after quote when all you want to do is tell them to bugger off. As Mr Selvey said in his piece, you can get to "feel quite punchy".

I got the same feeling about four years ago, coincidentally, just before England last toured India in 2001-02.

It might be recalled that the English cricketers had huge security concerns about playing in India at that time, because terrorists had struck in the United States and there was a warlike situation in Afghanistan, which, if you looked at a map, was only separated from India by one country.

Now, in October sometime, there was a press conference at Lord's, then also the home of the ICC, before cricket's governing body decided it made more sense to be in a region where cricket was actually a priority sport.

Anyway, there I was at Lord's, even while the British media, most looking extremely worried about the state of affairs, was being told of Foreign Office advice and other similar stuff.

Many frenzied questions and hot debates later, someone asked, "So is India safe?" "I think so", I muttered from where I was skulking at the back, "I came from Delhi yesterday." I had signed my own death warrant.

Immediately, I was besieged by harried hacks wanting my views on the political situation, security measures and the like. It was madness. I was on the evening news too, after it was ascertained that my English accent could be understood by the British masses. "We'd like you to tell them it is safe," she said, even as I asked how far Belfast was from London.

Yes, the Chappell interview probably did push Dubya's visit and the whole nuclear dealing to the sidelines for a brief bit. But then, there really can't be a straight comparison.

For one, Bush, or any American president, doesn't really need to travel all the way to England to negotiate anything.

And then again, even if I were on the evening news, cricket in England not being cricket in India, I would probably, soon have been replaced by the news of David Beckham's latest hairstyle.

First Published: Mar 08, 2006 18:30 IST