Preity Zinta’s brutal takedown of a Mumbai tabloid which she claimed had peddled fake news was understandable. She believed a normal conversation between her and her team’s mentor Virender Sehwag had been blown out of proportion and that she had been made to appear as a villain by the news report.
The irony is that the tabloid which splashed news of the alleged spat, which Zinta hash-tagged in her tweet as “fake news”, is owned by a reputed media group whose top honcho recently claimed would launch a war on fake news!
The media group had recently been besmirched by a photoshopped headline and its livid boss rightly claimed that they would use their considerable resources to go after the perpetrators of ‘fake news’.
Had the reporter concerned been physically present in the vicinity of the alleged spat or had a recording of it, it would have lent credibility to his report. Otherwise, it would be Zinta’s scathing rebuttal that would carry the day.
It should be pointed out that the Indian Premier League is the world’s foremost cricket league and that there is tremendous passion, pride, cash and interest riding on it. These factors ensure that team owners, in particular, and coaches greatly value winning. Winning, for them, is far more critical than process, even if it is admitted that obsessive desire to win often limits innovation and represses creativity.
To put the importance of winning for stakeholders in perspective, one need not look beyond Brazil and its 2002 World Cup winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. Being a massive proponent of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, he sacrificed Brazil’s famed flair and style of play for effectiveness (read: winning). The coach copped plenty of hatred and criticism for abandoning Brazil’s beautiful way of playing the game; yet when they ended up champions he was hailed for his pathbreaking strategy of “winning ugly”.
Likewise, winning is the only thing for many, including IPL franchise owners. And why not?
It is not just a question of the time and money that they have invested in the sport, there is also pride and their exalted standing in society to contend with. All of them are achievers, who have done brilliantly in their field. They have the mindset of champions, albeit in a different arena. They bring to the table the same attitude and determination that made them such a formidable force in their line of work. If anything, they feel helpless sitting in the stands and watching their team under-perform. In their world they would have rolled up their sleeves, taken charge and launched an attack or defence as the situation might have demanded.
Instead, they have to tolerate the many videos on social media of franchise owners praying, looking furious or breaking down. Actually these emotions are natural for it shows that they truly care for the success of their team and any slip-up hurts them hard. It is sad that some media and fans do not understand this angst.
Kings XI Punjab, for instance, were not willing to take the criticism of their team principal lying down. They promptly sent out a clarification: “...we at Kings XI Punjab would like to clearly state that as part of our management process, (as well as other franchisees) we review our performance on and off the field after each game through both, formal and informal discussions.
"This is part of our standard operations review process which helps us to analyse our results and allow us to focus on the improvement required after each game, both on and off the field so that we can continue to improve in all aspects. The culture in Kings XI is one that is open and non-hierarchical, and is one which encourages open and frank debate by one and all across all levels with the common goal of continuous improvement.
"It is unfortunate that this open and transparent culture has been misconstrued and highlighted in a negative manner, so as to tarnish and damage our image as well as that of the IPL."
Unfortunately this is not the first time, nor will it be the last time, that media will view franchise owners with less than ideal lens. That’s because they are obsessed with franchise owners’ reaction to losses and their consequent handling of coaches and other top management. To once again quote Scolari’s favourite manual and its author Sun Tzu, "Too frequent rewards indicate that the general is at the end of his resources; too frequent punishments that he is in acute distress."
Media which loves the concept of reward and punishment of coaches had better read it right every time. Else get ready for more hauls over coal!