India Uncut

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

"Grass root is our original future"

Rahul Bhattacharya had written about it in "Pundits in Pakistan," his superb account of India's last tour to Pakistan, and I finally got to see it yesterday on the way to an afternoon nets session of the Indian team: the signboard for the Abdul Qadir International Cricket Academy. Here it is, below. Click on it to enlarge, there are priceless slogans there.

India's nets were at Pakistan's National Cricket Academy, which is next to the Gaddafi Stadium, where the Test match will be held. Oddly, it's ISO 9001 certified, as the sign below says. Whatever does that mean in the context of a cricket academy?

Inside, the Indians practised while journalists sat around and watched them.

Journalists often try to pick up cues about selection and personal relationships from what happens at the nets. If two people are contending for a spot in the side, which of them has a longer bat in the nets? Is X talking to Y? What are Y and Z laughing about there? Much guesswork happens, and as players speak a lot to journalists they like off the record, a lot of it is informed guesswork.

Photographers stand around, alert for good pictures. One superb photo-op came when Sourav Ganguly gave Rahul Dravid slip-catching practice.

Photographers immediately gathered at the angle from which they could capture both men.

Not all players got such media attention, though, and some were left in peace.

As players walked back one by one after finishing their practice, a journalist or two would accost them or walk besides them for the few seconds they could. There is tremendous competition for stories and quotes, and often a journalist will ask the cricketer three quick questions on this walk, the cricketer will give rushed answers, and the journalist will construct a quick story out of it, "exclusive" to whichever publication he or she works for.

Sometimes a player stops and gives a few bytes to a TV Channel. All the print journalists also gather around then, eager to pick up the stray quote, and keen not to miss anything. Sachin Tendulkar and Dravid complied yesterday, and were admirably calm and polite, though they would surely have much rather gone and rested after their workouts.

amit varma, 12:20 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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