Harbhajan Singh, the media & a million idiots

Last Updated: Fri, Mar 12, 2010 11:14 hrs

One visual stood out when India held on to their Test No. 1 ranking at the end of the  second India-South Africa Test.

Harbhajan Singh’s over-the-top celebrations and his gesticulations at the media box.

Later, he said he was happy that the media was at the “receiving end”.

That anything Indian should be at the receiving end of an Indian victory speaks a lot about what cricketers think of the media, especially TV news channels.

Bhajji then went on to describe how he was disturbed by the depiction of chief selector K Srikkanth, captain MS Dhoni and himself as “3 Idiots” on TV.

He had a point there.

Dhoni had a streak of being unbeaten as captain in his first 11 tests. India still hadn’t lost its No. 1 position.

But one defeat and the whole media came crashing down on them like a ton of bricks.

Also see: An 'idiot' does not play 13 years for his country, says Harbhajan

This Despite a Golden Run…If you looked at the news channels after India lost early at the 2007 ODI World Cup, you could be forgiven for thinking that Armageddon was round the corner.

All the stalwarts were brought crashing down, Dhoni was demonised and clips of cricketers’ ads and partying were shown repeatedly to imply that they were too busy doing other things, instead of playing the game.

Everything, it seemed, was wrong in cricket. The players’ attitude. Training. Strategy. Selection. Shot selection…

But since that debacle, it’s mostly been uphill. We won the T20 WC. We’ve achieved the No. 1 status in all 3 forms of the game: T20s, ODIs and Tests. We beat the Aussies 2-0 in both Tests and ODIs. There have been many bilateral series victories.

In a nation that worships batsmen, we had the No.1 ranking for both Test and ODI batsmen. What more could one ask for? But for the Indian fan and the regular TV channel, it’s just never enough!

Over-the-top-media: Indian cricketers are criticised so much that many players have publicly stated that they have stopped reading newspapers and watching news channels.

Every defeat is analysed threadbare. Every player’s weaknesses are magnified. A clip of every error on and off the field is shown in a continuous loop.

Tell me any profession in India that gets such a microscopic treatment. Not even the politicians are analysed in that manner.

It must be tough to be on your guard 24X7 and a cricketer must feel like a zoo animal.

Once when Sehwag wasn’t playing in a match due to an injury, he took a late night walk outside his hotel room. Soon followed a story on how isolated Sehwag was from the team and his captain!

Earlier column by Sunil Rajguru: Curse of Australia's challengers

Making a mountain out of nothing: You would have thought that at least after the second Test of the India-SA series, all would be have been hunky dory.

But viewers were flummoxed to see a headline which said that Sehwag and Dhoni were at loggerheads with each other on the day of the great victory.

What were the grounds for that? Sehwag had said after the match that he wanted to bat down the order like Dhoni.

That’s it. Nothing more!

Such a harmless statement was enough fodder to last for a few hours. Right from the time he was promoted up the batting order years back by Sourav Ganguly, Sehwag has been saying that he wanted to bat down the order in Tests. So the news item then was nothing but a cent per cent troublemaker.

But the most amazing piece of analysis was a headline which read: Gambhir ne Dhoni ko tamacha maara. (Gambhir slapped Dhoni).

The headline was repeatedly flashed while a clip was shown of Gambhir running up to Dhoni and being frozen when he reached him. It appeared that Gambhir was about to slap him in the very next frame.

After a few minutes the “sensational” news was revealed. Gambhir had not hit Dhoni. Gambhir had not blasted Dhoni. Gambhir had not even criticised Dhoni. Then what had happened?

The TV channel displayed gave a long statement made by Gambhir that he had just received a national award and would be proud to collect it.

No mention of Dhoni in the statement. So then what was going on?

The channel reminded us that Dhoni had failed to be present to collect his national award. So in true TV transformation, “Gambhir is proud to receive a national award” became “Gambhir slaps Dhoni”.

In America, that would have immediately invited a multi-million dollar lawsuit.

Even when they win! The exasperating part is that things don’t change even in victory. After the thrilling one-run win in the first India-SA ODI match recently, one channel ran a debate: Should we celebrate the victory?

The reason? Since it was a match we should have won convincingly, should we actually celebrate because we ended up winning it so narrowly!

In the last Test tour of the West Indies, India won 1-0. That was thanks to two gritty half centuries by captain Rahul Dravid in the final Test. This was only the second time when India had achieved this feat and that too after more than 30 years. So imagine the captain’s plight when he was asked by a TV reporter: But weren’t you supposed to have won 3-0 in the first place?

Then there was a show called Match ka mujrim (The culprit of the match). Whenever we lost, there would be live polling as to who cost us the match with a heated debate blasting all the players.

It was really in bad taste, but the sad part was that at times the rubbishing continued even if India won the match convincingly!

Imitating Reality: The truth is that all of us are guilty of blasting each and every cricketer, coach, selector, strategy, shot… regularly in the comfort of our living rooms...

Every Indian citizen (and of course journalist) is a cricket expert and knows exactly how to fix and run the game. That’s the scene at every pub, restaurant, adda…

Just ask a few random cricket fans whenever we face defeat and you’ll get a few tones of bile.

Living room talk is one thing. Irresponsible news coverage that magnifies every little thing and creates demons where none exist is something different altogether.

Till the next defeat and the next witch hunt then!