An Indian news channel trashed the team following their semi-final loss to Australia © Getty Images
An Indian news channel trashed the team following their semi-final loss to Australia © Getty Images

S Chuzzlewit presents the salient points of the pledge taken by Indian cricket journalists during their annual conclave held in New Delhi. An open letter to MS Dhoni

We, cricket journalists of India, gathered here with the intention of improving the quality of reporting, chronicling and recounting true facts of cricket (in contrast to splashing figments of individual and borrowed imagination across print and electronic media), solemnly pledge to observe the following in future:

  1. We will remove all the Facebook cover photos of our smiling faces while seated next to the famous cricketing demigods. We will endeavour not to have our pictures taken with them, unless for private and personal collections. India vs Australia Semi-Final ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 at Sydney: Highlights
  1. We will think about a tweet for at least five minutes before inflicting it on the entire population on cyberspace. The same holds true for re-tweets.
  1. We will, regardless of the weight of our names or the lack of it, refrain from using up column space on the sports pages by writing about Anushka Sharma.
  1. While reporting matches at the venue, we will focus our attention on the on-field action. Even if we spy erstwhile legends walking towards the lunch room while the game is on, we would not leave our laptops, follow them and position ourselves in close catching positions in desperate attempts to get quotable quotes. We will understand that seeing the match ourselves often results in more accurate material than opinionated comments laced with flavour dating back to distant playing days. ICC Cricket World Cup 2015: Moments that occurred for first time in a World Cup
  1. We will understand that it is our long history of unethical reporting, starting from the early days of cricket and carrying on to the ridiculous sham on Match ka Mujrim and Times Now that has often alienated cricketers and made them boycott us from time to time. We will thus try not to voice our supposed righteous indignation at being refused access to the players.
  1. A desperate need for quotes from cricketers will not lead us to biased glorification in our reports. We will endeavour to look at their careers objectively, even if that means presenting them in less than mythical splendour. That holds true for present as well as past cricketers.
  1. When we evaluate the past, it will be without the rose tints and gold dust of age that distort the picture. At the same time, we will be aware that cricket was played before 2000. There will be a balance in our accounts and recollections. We will understand that there had been great cricketers in yesteryears, but they were not infallible. And there are great cricketers now who are far from perfect. In other words, the past was very much like the present. The game is evolving, neither did it start in the current century nor is it decaying into the realms of degeneration. In this context, we will understand that it is our accounts that often shape the understanding of the past and present among common men, and we will approach the task with responsibility.Times Now, do us a favour and shut up: You are embarrassing Indian media in front of the world
  1. We will realise that the adjective ‘great’ has to be used sparingly while referring to cricketers. There are very few who qualify for that sobriquet and that is what makes them, as well as the word, exceptional.
  1. We will also realise that the phrase “Gentleman’s game” is an overused cliché with absolutely no basis. We will remember that playing for money is not a modern phenomenon, but has afflicted cricket ever since its cradle days. It is too much of an ask for us to read up about cricket before 2004, 1996, 1989 or 1971 (depending on what generation of writers we are or which icon we pay hagiographic homage to), but we will at least understand that it is normal human tendency to reap profits from exceptional talent, and irrespective of the fiction that has been popularised for generations there was never an age when players were like angels about to sprout wings.
  1. We will understand that IPL is not the root of all evils, from war in Afghanistan to global warming. Neither is it N Srinivasan. And if we maintain IPL is indeed the cause of everything that is bad for the game, we will not write 1,000-word articles on late night parties associated with the event.
  1. If a side other than India declares their innings with a batsman on 66 not out, we will resist the compulsive urge to compose tweets of the sort “Did not wait for the century  #individualoverteam”
  1. We will remember that playing a rash stroke on 99 is not a sign of selflessness but carelessness. Does the Indian cricket team deserve a better class of fans?
  1. We will not grudge Indian players their personal landmarks, regardless of how confused our ideas are about individual versus team. We will remember that many a cricketer is driven to excel in the game with the dream of producing brilliant performances and relishing it raising the bat or the ball in front of a huge crowd. That is just what is meant by sporting achievement. We will not conclude it is selfishness just because it is done by Indians, and look the other way when indulged in by the others. We will try to abide by this even if we have never played any sport and don’t understand anything about such sporting ambitions.
  1. We will at least glance at past scorecards before writing about the extraordinary deeds of past cricketers.
  1. We will refrain from using the cliché ‘numbers never tell the whole story’ with the intention of avoiding rigorous statistical analysis or in fear of being forced to reveal the actual truth.
  1. We will remember that there have been thousands and thousands of cricket books other than Sunny Days and Playing it My Way. And that goes beyond Out of my Comfort Zone as well. Reading them may be beyond us, but we will remember that they exist. And oh yes, writing ‘What do they of cricket know who only cricket know’ does not automatically translate to a sterling understanding and adroit analysis of Beyond a Boundary.
  1. We will remember that there were men like Len Hutton, Jack Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe and someone called Victor Trumper, even if we ignore Matthew Hayden, … before we nonchalantly claim that someone is the best ever batsman in a particular batting position. We will remember that Derek Underwood had better figures than some famed spinners and so did Iqbal Qasim. We will remember that Indian batsmen have repeatedly stumbled to finger-spinners across history and cannot be called masters of spin.  When we criticise the Indian team for poor performances abroad, we will realise we never had a bowler with an average less than 25. In other words, we will have a realistic conception of Indian cricket rather than being steeped in feel-good fairy-tales.
  1. We will not compare cricketers unless backed by solid numerical analysis, as opposed to the views of the only expert we could get hold of while in the tearing hurry after being asked to compile the article. And we will understand that there will be one and only one Don Bradman, and will not even dare to snare him with misguided pseudo-statistical traps. ICC Cricket World Cup 2015: Top 10 most memorable moments
  1. We will be balanced in our praise and criticism of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and MS Dhoni regardless of whether our readers are concentrated in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore or the North of India.

And finally

  1. We promise that we will never again raise false hopes of readers by writing such a load of fanciful pipedreams on April 1.

(S Chuzzlewit is a chronicler who sees the world of cricket through a sometimes light-hearted and often brutal lens)

NOTE: Today being April 1, we are obliged to inform you that you have just been pranked. Happy April Fool’s Day. May you enjoy a successful prank or two yourself!