Thursday, August 15, 2013

The fierce urgency of now

A few days back, the always excellent Jarrod Kimber had written an insightful article about Australia's search for the next cricketing messiah. One of the themes of his article was that the elevated level of scrutiny in today's world has resulted in young (and not so young) cricketers not being given the kind of patient run that players in the past enjoyed. The media is constantly hounding and twitter is constantly buzzing, affecting both the players as well as selectors.

I remarked to Jarrod that his point about scrutiny applied to journalists as well - Cardus never wrote under the cloud of real time fact checking and "experts" all round the world streaming in with their criticisms on twitter. Jarrod agreed and he said he has seen a visible change in the press once they came on twitter.

And then Scyld Berry happened.

What was otherwise a very good article on Broad running through Australia, was scarred by the unfortunate line "Australia’s experiment with their Asian immigrant population will be shelved.”
Berry was mercilessly attacked on twitter and on the comments sections of his article. The statement was stupid at best and racist at worst (whether it was intentional or not, the statement to me did come across as racist). The line was hurriedly removed by the Telegraph, with no explanation. Who were they kidding? This action by the Telegraph provoked another round of (twitter) outrage.

Now under a sudden attack, Berry chose to write a long, convoluted explanation of that line without ever apologizing for it. And because he did it in a hurry, the explanation did much more damage to his reputation as a journalist than the original article.

First was his mysterious classification of Asian players in the English team. He chose to exclude Nasser Hussain, who was born in Chennai, but instead focused on Monty Panesar, Samit Patel and Ravi Bopara - all of whom were born in England. The only explanation he could come up with is that Nasser has an English mother (so I guess he "looks" white unlike the other three).

Moving on, he had this line about Khwaja being the first non-white player to turn up for Australia since Sam Morris in the 19th century, "broadly speaking". Ashton Agar was playing all but two tests back and Andrew Symonds, Jason Gillespie and Dav Whatmore fit any definition of non-white players, broad or narrow.

And then there was this bizarre theory about Khwaja controlling his emotions (presumably because he has had to face scrutiny all his life because he is non-white in Australia) and this control of emotions is the cause of his downfall as a batsman. I guess given Dhoni's extreme control of his emotions it is time for India to stop the experiments with their Jharkhandi population.

As with most things, the coverup is doing more damage than the crime itself. All because he did not put in the time or effort to write a well thought out and researched explanation. Everything has to be done right now.

And oh, some of my best friends are journalists.

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