Tuesday, April 05, 2011
As newspaper interviews go, this must stand out as one of the most amazing. Gautam Gambhir, who has come in for much praise for his performance during the recently concluded ICC World Cup, thinks the population of India is 100 million and the interviewer, from Hindustan Times, does nothing to correct him. Instead he repeats the figure in the follow up question!
So is this illiteracy compounded by bad journalism and impossibly poor editing? Or are we expecting too much from Gambhir, from a sports reporter who is not expected to know the population of India any more than Gambhir, or from Hindustan Times that runs this interview? (Click here to read the interview)
There is more to follow and cricket and non-cricket lovers must read the entire interview. Gambhir says that the win against Pakistan followed by a win in the final (the interview was given before the final) should be dedicated to the victims of 26/11. Asked if that would soothe their pain, here is what he has to say:
“I am sure the win against Pakistan would have helped. Once on a trip to Jammu, I met some army men. They told me whatever we do, whoever we play; we should never lose to Pakistan. One of them was posted at the Indo-Pak border and was so emotional that he suggested that I should have a tattoo on my body saying, ‘I will never lose to Pakistan’.”
And then, when asked whether he had such a tattoo, he says:
“No, it's not on my body but is etched on my heart and soul.”
A senior sports journalist, who has followed Gambhir’s career over many years, assures me that the cricketer rarely makes such statements and is usually very balanced in his responses, especially on Indo-Pak cricket. So what happened when he spoke to Dinesh Chopra, who did the interview for ESPN’s Sportcenter, the transcript of which was reproduced in Hindustan Times.
Hyper-nationalism has now become an accepted part of the script during every international cricket fixture where Pakistan is one of the teams playing. Everything revolves around whether and when India and Pakistan will meet and the media on both sides of the border appears to keep its best arrows and bullets for that fixture. It has become such a routine that even in the atrociousness of some of the excesses, it fails to surprise anyone.
But the hyper-nationalism aside, the World Cup has provided entertainment and endless quantities of reports and comment for those who obsess over cricket. For those less interested in the game, it has demanded patience and humour to survive the 35 days until life can revert to some form of normalcy – until the next round of cricket madness begins, the Indian Premier League.
But one thing does stand out increasingly in the coverage of all sport, and most particularly cricket. The merging of sports and Bollywood. You cannot now have a cricket match without a Bollywood star in the stands and the cameras focusing on him or her. Any discussion on a match, and especially the final, must have the mandatory film star – Randhir Kapoor on NDTV the night after the victory who mumbled a few expected lines but had nothing much to add or Amitabh Bachchan’s over-the-top tweet, “Its like we just won our Independence!! Incredible!! Incredible!!” Or cameras focusing repeatedly on Aamir Khan, now sporting a prominent moustache, during the semi-final and final, who was there by virtue of having made a film in which cricket played a prominent role, “Lagaan”.
More than print or television, some of the more interesting and innovative comments were on the web. Cricinfo, for instance, did a couple of interesting experiments. They got an Indian editor and a Pakistani editor to write why they thought the other team had a better chance at the semi-final. They had a conversation between a veteran Indian cricketer, Sanjay Manjrekar and a veteran Pakistani, Rameez Raja, on Indo-Pak cricket. And the comment section on the site gave you an idea of the feelings cross-border on the match.
But a web comment that I thought summed up the Indian spectator during the World Cup was a poem written by Sudipto Mondal (I don’t love India but I love cricket). It is an apt comment on the often unsporting attitude of the Indian spectator during matches where only the skill of Indian cricketers is appreciated while that of the opponent is met with a deafening silence. This hardly reflects a real love for the sport. It also symbolizes how nationalism has over-ruled commonsense and appreciation for skill and sportsmanship.
(To read the original, click on the link above)