Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s acerbic lashing out at a journalist after India’s pulsating match against Bangladesh was reassuring because it confirmed that he was wired exactly like the rest of us.
Doubts arose owing to the downright surreal calm demeanor of his during the finishing stages of the match at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. The rest of us in the stadium, players, spectators, media and even security personnel were ranting, raving, screaming, yelling, jumping up and down during those amazing final moments while Captain Cool seemed completely untouched, in control of his emotions and, to use a cliché, cool as a cucumber. Certainly this man was from Mars, or so we thought.
But then all those bottled up emotions came surging out in the media briefing after the match when a journalist asked a rather innocuous question: “Are you satisfied with the manner of the win when all the talk earlier was about improving the net run rate.”
Dhoni went ballistic: “Your question and tone says you are not happy with the result.”
Looking pointedly at the journalist and with his eyes flashing in anger he lashed out: “Nothing is scripted. You have to analyse how after losing the toss, on what wicket we batted, why we didn’t make a lot of runs. If you don’t analyse all these things off the field, then you shouldn’t ask these questions.”
It must be remembered that Dhoni took a lot of flak in England, Australia and at home after his franchise owner’s team CSK was in the eye of the IPL betting storm. Questions on CSK were flung at him even when he was on national duty where the focus was not IPL. But Dhoni remained his unflappable self right through the ordeal.
Dhoni is not the first sportsman to tangle with the media. Nor will he be the last. The media believes it is doing its job, however intrusive it might seem, while the sportsmen are bewildered by some of its spin and thrust.
Will someone get this buffoon out of here?
After the 78-run defeat to South Africa in the 1996 World Cup, England captain Michael Atherton could not understand Pakistan journalist Asghar Ali’s questions. Artherton, who was dismissed for zero was already frustrated over his poor form and the defeat. When he couldn’t follow Ali’s diction or questions he snapped: “Can someone get this buffoon out of here?”
The copy made headlines and although Artherton sent some sort of an apology, Ali would have none of it. Four years later, when England under Artherton returned to play in Pakistan, he filed a case which was admitted for hearing.
“My personal life, my professional life and my financial life has been affected,” said Ali, adding that his fiancee had called off their marriage because she “did not want to be the wife of a ‘buffoon’.”
The case was withdrawn after ECB too apologized.
Don’t blush, baby
Chris Gayle was fined $10,000 by his club Melbourne Renegades for “inappropriate behaviour” after he tried to flirt with the interviewer, Network Ten journalist Mel McLaughlin, just days before this ICC T20 World Cup.
“I wanted to be interviewed by you. That’s the reason why I’m here, just to see your eyes for the first time. It’s nice. So hopefully when I win this game, we can have a drink after. Don’t blush, baby,” he told the scribe during the interview and rightfully copped an avalanche of criticism.
Gayle claimed it was innocuous but Cricket Australia’s chief James Sutherland said Gayle’s comments could be equated with workplace harassment.
“It’s not a nightclub, and I think one of the things that perhaps hasn’t dawned on everyone is it’s actually a workplace,” he said.
Virat Kohli’s beef
Last year, in Australia, after an Indian team training session, star batsman and team vice-captain Virat Kohli was heading towards the dressing room when he spotted a Delhi journalist and showered him with the choicest of abuses.
Indian team members and the media watched in horror as Kohli let off steam at the clueless journalist. It later transpired that it was a case of mistaken identity. A Delhi newspaper had written something about Kohli and his then girlfriend Anushka Sharma and the player reckoned that it was the journalist who had done so.
Kohli later apologised but the journalist wrote to the BCCI and ICC, asking them to look into the incident.
No time for stupid questions:
Pakistan had just scored a 29-run (D/L) win over a very strong South African side thanks to a quick-fire 49 by wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed. At the post-match media conference, a Pakistani scribe asked coach Waqar Younis why Sarfraz was not played earlier and Nasir Jamshed persisted with despite his string of poor scores. The journalist inquired if the selection was based on politics and not merit and whether the coach should be made accountable.
Waqar walked out of the media briefing saying he “had no time for stupid questions.”
Let’s settle this here
England captain on the tour of West Indies in 1981, Ian Botham, was accused of getting physical with veteran journalist Henry Blofeld after the latter reckoned Botham’s captaincy was worse than childish.
He captains like a baby, Blofeld wrote.
On transit at the Bermuda airport, Botham is said to have pushed and held Blofeld against the wall, jabbed at him and said “let’s settle this here and now.”
You don’t have to lay an egg to know if it’s good or bad
One confrontation which has been doing the rounds is the one between two legends, writer Neville Cardus and Aussie all rounder Keith Miller. The Australian cricketer is said to have accosted Cardus who had criticized his batting and asked him in colourful language as to what he knew about a square cut. Cardus, never short for words, is said to have politely replied: “Mr Miller, you don’t have to lay an egg to know if it’s good or bad.”
Finally, to understand not just these confrontations but the media’s own pressure, Roger Martindale Patching’s thesis, The private lives of Australian cricket Stars: A study of newspaper coverage 1945 – 2010, puts the modern media coverage of celebrities in perspective even as he quotes various studies: Once upon a time, celebrities had to die before we learned that they were not quite the consummate professional they were made out to be in the hype-heavy media. Now when celebs embarrass themselves, we know it almost immediately, and we watch it unfold, more or less in real time.
What had changed to cause celebrity news to dominate the news agenda? Everything. There’s no such thing as a gatekeeper. There are bazillions of media outlets, and any one of them at any time can catapult a story into national play. Anyone will chase the slightest whiff of news reported by anyone else, for fear of being the only one without it. For competitive reasons alone you can’t afford to be left out, his study revealed.