By Madan Mohan
The media has not made a mountain out of a molehill with regard to Gautam Gambhir’s comments after India’s victory over Australia on Sunday. Rather, it has relaunched NASA’s space shuttle programme from the summit of said mountain. It seems to be the norm rather than the exception that ‘delicious’ passages from a player’s comments in the post-match conference are carefully chosen and peppered with some spice and sauce to create the next story to go ‘viral’ with. And in our increasingly attention-deficient lives, we don’t seem to have the time to confirm the true picture and perhaps prefer to go with the flow; even if it means joining the mob demanding justice for non existent crimes!
Gambhir’s innocent but ill-chosen words
Gambhir addressed the media after India prevailed in a cliff-hanger over Australia last Sunday. He said: “We shouldn’t have taken the game to the 50th over, that’s my personal observation.” He also said in a separate context, “It’s not about names, it’s about people who can go out there and have the belief from No1 to No 11….You don’t want names, you want people who can deliver.”
Unsurprisingly, the media made merry with these comments, wondering whether Gambhir doubted Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s capabilities as one of the top finishers in overs-limit cricket. I need say nothing about Gambhir’s second statement I have reproduced. So, it seems, Sachin Tendulkar is just a name and not somebody who can deliver; such was the spin put on Gambhir’s statement.
Analysis of the full picture
I would highly recommend anybody who believes that the above is indeed what Gambhir implied, to read the full report on Gambhir’s post-match conference or see the video of that conference. You may find that Gambhir’s words are not really as controversial as they have been made to appear.
Gambhir acknowledged Dhoni as the designated finisher in his conference. He also said: “Cometh the hour, I think the most important shot of the match was made by him. Six balls, 13 runs, with the kind of shot he played, he has done a fantastic job, he has always been a finisher, but that’s his game plan.”
He made it quite clear that he was referring to what he would have felt more comfortable with as opposed to somebody else’s style, “ We are different human beings, we think differently, we have different gameplans.”
Thus, it is quite clear from his words that he does not doubt Dhoni’s abilities as a finisher. Logically, even Dhoni would prefer to win the game at the earliest, something he confirmed while addressing the media on Tuesday. And, once again, you don’t have to take my word for it; have a read yourself.
On Sachin Tendulkar
On Tendulkar…well, having gone through the detailed report (I also saw video excerpt of the post-match conference), I regret to inform that I could not find the name Tendulkar mentioned in either. If Gambhir has indeed cast aspersions on Tendulkar’s match-winning abilities, it must be in a heavily-veiled light.
I am just a viewer and I confess I cannot see the fascination with wanting to look beyond the veil (especially where there may be none to begin with). My own conclusion was simply that Gambhir was irked by remarks from some commentators like Tony Grieg and Ravi Shastri, condemning rotation and suggesting that spectators should be refunded their ticket price if teams don’t field their best XI.
As Gambhir rightly pointed out, a team is more than the sum of its parts and does not revolve around the presence of one or two individuals. The so-called best XI is chosen from a pool of 15 or so players and ideally, any of the 15 ought to be good enough to be in the best XI. One should, on the other hand, take umbrage to the obsession of commentators with certain star players.
Is it not extremely presumptive on their part to conclude, in essence, the Indian team cannot win a match without Tendulkar or some other star player? Haven’t we urged all along that the team ought to function collectively as an effective unit rather than depending heavily on a few individuals to shine? And yet, the audience would apparently be deprived of the spectacle they want to see if some players are not played in the unit. So why this hypocrisy, di?
What is the need for post-match conferences?
This raises the larger question of why exactly do we need post-match conferences anymore. The reason players talk to the media after a match is so that we get an insight to what they were thinking and how they looked at the same situation in the middle (rather than from the comforting armchair). It is pretty darn obvious that most players are not gifted orators and are not playing political chess games with their statements. They only try to respond in whatever manner they feel is appropriate to the questions put to them.
Is it not time to ask then whether public relations and political correctness have somewhere become more important than the very purpose of post-match conferences? If seemingly innocent statements, like Gambhir’s on Sunday, can potentially fracture unity in the team (hopefully it did not!), we also lose the right to complain that players make for very boring and dull copy at press conferences and repeat the most obvious clichés like “bowl in the right areas”. Because we have seen that a touch of irreverence is all it takes to upset the uncomfortable equilibrium of player-media relations.
We don’t need no conferences
With the advent of reality television and its impact on programming, in particular, players’ comments are not so much understood and reported as sniped and cut into shapes that could spark sensationalist news items for the TV channels as well as newspapers. Post-match conferences have essentially lost their relevance and ought to be done away with. But I doubt either the boards or the television partners would like that idea.
(Madan Mohan is a 26-year old chartered accountant from Mumbai. The writing bug bit him when he was eight and to date, he has not been cured of it. He loves music, cricket, tennis and cinema and writing on cricket is like the icing on the cake. He also writes a blog if he is not feeling too lazy at http://rothrocks.wordpress.com/)