March 5, 2009

Cricket's disaster journalism

There is always a buzz around our offices when big stories break. But big stories in recent weeks have only meant bad news, and it has gotten progressively, sickeningly worse
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There is always a buzz around our offices when big stories break. In sports terms, it can be likened to an adrenaline rush. But big stories in recent weeks have only meant bad news, and it has gotten progressively, sickeningly worse. The sandpit in Antigua and the collapse of the Stanford dream now feel utterly trivial in the wake of Lahore. Each of these events has brought enormous professional challenges but little joy.

As the world's premier cricket website we take pride in being quick and credible. But what a sad moment it is when we have to call Mahela Jayawardene to ask how many of his players have been wounded, or ask Kumar Sangakkara to give us a first-person account of the time he spent dodging bullets, or to get Younis Khan to open his heart about what this means to his team and his nation. As stories, each of these were remarkable, but we'd rather be writing on cricket.

You may have missed a familiar name in our coverage of the Lahore attack. Osman Samiuddin, our Pakistan editor and a veteran at covering cricket disasters, has taken a break to get married - the only event that has brought us some cheer in recent weeks. He wrote us a long email carrying emergency instructions before he left. It began like this:

"Just to let you know, barring nuclear strikes and the resurfacing of Osama bin Laden in the country (though if Stanford turns up in Pakistan everything is off), I will be off from tomorrow for my wedding."

And it ended this way:

"Cheers all and here's hoping the sh***$$$###t stops hitting the fan in Pakistan. Until I return at least."

But just when you thought nothing could possibly get worse in Pakistan cricket, it invariably does. "Looking at it cynically," Osman says about his job, which he performed with enormous sangfroid and resourcefulness, "it's been a hack's dream, getting to cover such big stories, mostly hugely controversial. But after a while it becomes incredibly sad, to watch what's happening and be torn between being just a journalist - an observer who just documents stuff - and being a fan of cricket and Pakistan cricket, who wants to make it better. Over the last two years, since the Oval Test, it's just become draining and it's strange how much cricket's fortunes here have coincided with those of the country."

I ended my previous piece with the promise that I would write about something more cheerful next. The world has got far more depressing since then. It's hard to escape the gloom.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dunga on March 6, 2009, 10:56 GMT

    Thank you for posting this article, Mr Bal, and it is quite bizzare that the economy and terrorism are taking the front seat.

    I've always wondered what it would be like to be a journalism in a time like this, on the outside looking in. I made a decision to become a journalist last year, but reading this I feel for the people who have to be on the outside, looking in...

    But once again, thank you for writing this article...giving us a insight into a journalistic mind.

  • T on March 6, 2009, 10:16 GMT

    CricInfo's coverage was excellent. Your cricketing lens put the incident into the context that we as cricket fans really cared about. I had the BBC and Al Jazeera on as well, but it was CricInfo that I found most informative, and most reliably informative.

  • teegee on March 6, 2009, 7:26 GMT

    Best wishes to Osman. The Lahore attack is utterly reprehensible, and I really feel for the SriLankan team, the officials, and for Pakistani cricket, but we need to focus now on getting back to business as usual.

  • Allan Pinchen on March 6, 2009, 5:48 GMT

    As an Aussie` cricket supporter,this is indeed a very sad occasion,police dead,cricketers injured and Pakistan cricket in disarray .I feel for the relatives of the dead and injured and I feel great sorrow.Maybe to never see the likes of Wasim, Waqar,Imran,Shoab,Younis the list is endless of the great Pakistan players,I have always admired your team,SUCH TALENT,Waqar is my favorite bowler of all time and to think we may not see more like him.....maybe ,but in England??.so sad.

  • Rutvik on March 6, 2009, 4:28 GMT

    It's very strange when on cricketing websites,you get to read articles about economy and terrorism.I hope this days are soon over and we can get back to cricket as we know it

  • Prashant on March 6, 2009, 3:15 GMT

    Great fan of ur site. The events of the last few days are tragic ,sports should be above petty politics,but then to expect such humane feelings from terrorists is a folly. I think the Indian team and board should,putting aside their money making and stupid India-pak politics,organize a goodwill tour to Pakistan.we need to show the terrorists that we will not surrender to them.I am an Indian living in NY and Mumbai 26/11 hurt me as much as 9/11, but we need to realize this is about cricket.everything else is secondary. I don't know though how many people agree with me,all j can do is hope and pray that the land that gave us people like imran,wasim and waqar shoud not become barren.

  • Lahoria on March 5, 2009, 20:41 GMT

    My best wishes to Osman for his marriage!! Well PCB has now to look further and decide where to hold its home-series (England / UAE). The best way to answer that coward-act is to play intl matches and bring smiles back to Pakistani fans, by winning them

  • Sri on March 5, 2009, 19:36 GMT

    First let me congratulate you and rest of CI team for being unbiased in your coverage of the Lahore tragedy. It is CI that I open the first thing every morning and will continue to do so. I even read about Mumbai attacks first on CI. Keep up the good journalism. Hope big media houses (especially TV) in India look at you to learn how to keep perspective and not add 'masala' to news. Lahore incident is deplorable, I was soo happy that cricket is returning to Pakistan. Now, I am scared that IPL will go ahead and some attack will occur during that time. It is the time of elections as well. It is a mesure of how much terrorism is affecting common life in sub-continent. Best would be for IPL and elections to go through without any incident. Its a twin edged sword - postponing IPL now is bad for cricket; any incident during IPL is even worse. But post-Lahore and post-Mumbai, looks like all we can do is pray. We have to be careful, next time cricketers might not be lucky as the Lankan's were.

  • Tony Deyal on March 5, 2009, 19:21 GMT

    Sambit

    Essentially this is cricket's 9/11 and changes all our future assumptions, expectations, behaviour and beliefs.

  • nasir on March 5, 2009, 17:05 GMT

    First of, let me state that i'm a big fan of this site and have, in the most, been quite impressed with the coverage of this tragic incident. Having said that I can't help but comment on some of the vitriol aimed at Pakistan as a nation by people in many of the comments sections and the 'expert' views expressed on pakistani politics by writers such as Mukul Kesavan. I will put my hand up here and say that the security was lacklustre, our nation is over run with violence and our politicians are thieves (at best). But I am sick to death of people hurling abuse at Pakistan sitting on their lofty perch of self righteousness. Yes, everyone has a right to their opinion but the kind of hypocrisy i've seen from people on these forums is criminal. Believe me, we are well aware of our shortcomings, there have been enough embarrassments and tragedies that keep reminding us of them. We are hurt, angry and totally bereft of hope. Don't kick us while we're down..

  • Dunga on March 6, 2009, 10:56 GMT

    Thank you for posting this article, Mr Bal, and it is quite bizzare that the economy and terrorism are taking the front seat.

    I've always wondered what it would be like to be a journalism in a time like this, on the outside looking in. I made a decision to become a journalist last year, but reading this I feel for the people who have to be on the outside, looking in...

    But once again, thank you for writing this article...giving us a insight into a journalistic mind.

  • T on March 6, 2009, 10:16 GMT

    CricInfo's coverage was excellent. Your cricketing lens put the incident into the context that we as cricket fans really cared about. I had the BBC and Al Jazeera on as well, but it was CricInfo that I found most informative, and most reliably informative.

  • teegee on March 6, 2009, 7:26 GMT

    Best wishes to Osman. The Lahore attack is utterly reprehensible, and I really feel for the SriLankan team, the officials, and for Pakistani cricket, but we need to focus now on getting back to business as usual.

  • Allan Pinchen on March 6, 2009, 5:48 GMT

    As an Aussie` cricket supporter,this is indeed a very sad occasion,police dead,cricketers injured and Pakistan cricket in disarray .I feel for the relatives of the dead and injured and I feel great sorrow.Maybe to never see the likes of Wasim, Waqar,Imran,Shoab,Younis the list is endless of the great Pakistan players,I have always admired your team,SUCH TALENT,Waqar is my favorite bowler of all time and to think we may not see more like him.....maybe ,but in England??.so sad.

  • Rutvik on March 6, 2009, 4:28 GMT

    It's very strange when on cricketing websites,you get to read articles about economy and terrorism.I hope this days are soon over and we can get back to cricket as we know it

  • Prashant on March 6, 2009, 3:15 GMT

    Great fan of ur site. The events of the last few days are tragic ,sports should be above petty politics,but then to expect such humane feelings from terrorists is a folly. I think the Indian team and board should,putting aside their money making and stupid India-pak politics,organize a goodwill tour to Pakistan.we need to show the terrorists that we will not surrender to them.I am an Indian living in NY and Mumbai 26/11 hurt me as much as 9/11, but we need to realize this is about cricket.everything else is secondary. I don't know though how many people agree with me,all j can do is hope and pray that the land that gave us people like imran,wasim and waqar shoud not become barren.

  • Lahoria on March 5, 2009, 20:41 GMT

    My best wishes to Osman for his marriage!! Well PCB has now to look further and decide where to hold its home-series (England / UAE). The best way to answer that coward-act is to play intl matches and bring smiles back to Pakistani fans, by winning them

  • Sri on March 5, 2009, 19:36 GMT

    First let me congratulate you and rest of CI team for being unbiased in your coverage of the Lahore tragedy. It is CI that I open the first thing every morning and will continue to do so. I even read about Mumbai attacks first on CI. Keep up the good journalism. Hope big media houses (especially TV) in India look at you to learn how to keep perspective and not add 'masala' to news. Lahore incident is deplorable, I was soo happy that cricket is returning to Pakistan. Now, I am scared that IPL will go ahead and some attack will occur during that time. It is the time of elections as well. It is a mesure of how much terrorism is affecting common life in sub-continent. Best would be for IPL and elections to go through without any incident. Its a twin edged sword - postponing IPL now is bad for cricket; any incident during IPL is even worse. But post-Lahore and post-Mumbai, looks like all we can do is pray. We have to be careful, next time cricketers might not be lucky as the Lankan's were.

  • Tony Deyal on March 5, 2009, 19:21 GMT

    Sambit

    Essentially this is cricket's 9/11 and changes all our future assumptions, expectations, behaviour and beliefs.

  • nasir on March 5, 2009, 17:05 GMT

    First of, let me state that i'm a big fan of this site and have, in the most, been quite impressed with the coverage of this tragic incident. Having said that I can't help but comment on some of the vitriol aimed at Pakistan as a nation by people in many of the comments sections and the 'expert' views expressed on pakistani politics by writers such as Mukul Kesavan. I will put my hand up here and say that the security was lacklustre, our nation is over run with violence and our politicians are thieves (at best). But I am sick to death of people hurling abuse at Pakistan sitting on their lofty perch of self righteousness. Yes, everyone has a right to their opinion but the kind of hypocrisy i've seen from people on these forums is criminal. Believe me, we are well aware of our shortcomings, there have been enough embarrassments and tragedies that keep reminding us of them. We are hurt, angry and totally bereft of hope. Don't kick us while we're down..

  • Robbin on March 5, 2009, 13:01 GMT

    Yes perhaps Osman can come back and fight Pakistan's corner as so far nobody has really bothered on cricinfo. Instead of writing about cricket, it's turning into the Sun newspaper, promoting people like Mukul Kesavan.

    The Pakistan government and deserve criticism (although not on a cricketing site) and so do the PCB. But no one on cricinfo apart from Andy Zaltzman has bothered thinking of Pakistan cricket and people.

    The editors should be ashamed of themselves.

  • Aatif on March 5, 2009, 12:16 GMT

    very sad news, I live near Qaddafi Stadium, I was about to leave for office when I got a phone call from my office about that incident. It was unbelievable, May God help us wipe out the mess created by blood lovers all around us.

  • Sean Giles on March 5, 2009, 12:11 GMT

    As an England and Yorkshire fan, and therefore someone lucky enough to have met Younis Khan when he starred as our overseas player, I feel only sadness at the inevitable isolation Pakistan will now face. We shall of course though, welcome the Pakistan team here whenever they next visit.

  • M.Umair Mushtaq on March 5, 2009, 12:08 GMT

    I really could understand what the journalists like Kamran and Osman would be feeling like.They have been loyal supporters of not only Pakistani Cricket but also "Cricket" in general.Every one and especially all Pakistani cricket fans would have been disgusted with the Tuesday's events.Many say Pakistani cricket died that day.But we wont lose hope because we are cricket crazy nation.No matter if no one comes to Pakistan ,Paki team could challenge other international teams in other venues.And now i feel its on people like Osama and Kamran Abbasi to continue with their good work with high spirits so that Pakistani cricket fans could get back on track.

  • Watriy on March 5, 2009, 11:50 GMT

    Wish you a happy marriage and many children (18). By the how old He is.

    Regarding the promised presidential security to the Sri Lankan team,If Pakistan send some of their security officials to Colpetty Junction at Colombo, Sri Lanka on an evening time at around 5:30 they can observe how our guys providing security.

  • Nilesh.T on March 5, 2009, 11:38 GMT

    Best Wishes to Osman, we really miss his columns. What terribly tragic times for not only Pakistan cricket but also world cricket.I am a hard core Indian supporter, but to see a country which has produced such greats as Imran, Wasim , Waqar,Zaheer, Miandad,Hanif and such, brought down to its knees as a result of this cowardly attacks makes the heart bleed. Listening to Younis Khan on TV and reading his column on cricinfo ,one can share his intense pain and sorrowful sympathy for the brave Sri Lankans.The perpetrators of this heinous crime need to be brought to justice w/o delay. Lets also not forget the brave security men who gave up their lives in escorting the SL team.May the Lord above rest their soul in peace and give courage to their families to bear this sad loss with fortitude. These men made the ultimate sacrifice in line of duty, our heads bow in reverence to them.Also one cannot forget the sheer valour of the bus driver who drove the SL team to safety. He was God in uniform.

  • Karthik on March 5, 2009, 11:35 GMT

    Well, you did give us some good news: My best wishes Osman. Wish you a wonderful married life.

  • Ashfaq Shah on March 5, 2009, 11:27 GMT

    Thanks for these realistic views Sambit. I can atleast vouch that Cricinfo has been unbiased in its reporting and non political in nature. It hurts to see a major sports channel trying to put words in SriLankan players mouths, who were being very sensible about saying any negative comments about Pakistan in this hour of tragedy. Most correspondents seemed to forget the damage this tragedy has and will continue to cause Pakistan. Its hard to imagine that Younis Khan might have actually played his last test match in his home ground. In anycase, thank you for being neutral. All we need right now is some understanding from rest of the cricketing world. I hope such tragedy is not repeated on anyother sporting field.

  • Shobhit on March 5, 2009, 11:16 GMT

    Sambit, congratulations to you, Osman and the rest of the Cricinfo guys. The spot on coverage of the attacks was faster and better than all the news portals in India. Now, if only you guys could start covering politics and cinema.... :D

  • Pali on March 5, 2009, 11:05 GMT

    My heart felt congratulations to Osman.It is really one of the saddest day in cricket history.I wish all Srilankan players recover fast from the mental dossier they received from the terror. Cricket should not be stopped from playing because of fear of terrorism it will mean give to terror.We can secure cricketers and cricket fans better and defeat evil terror..

  • Gautam on March 5, 2009, 10:46 GMT

    The need of the hour for all cricket lovers is unity, and let us not be divided by this attack on the sport we love. It is a moment of sadness for our pakistani brothers and let us not isolate them further and pray that cricket returns faster to pakistan and the pakistanis find the courage to rid their country of the menace that has gripped them, after all who would not like to see Ishant Sharma in full flow challenging an in form Younis Khan.

  • Haseeb on March 5, 2009, 10:41 GMT

    Very well put Sambit. Thank you giving an update on Osman - i wish him well. Tounge in Cheek most men complain about how draining the institution of marriage can be (IT IS NOT!). Having covered Pakistan cricket while being a fan of it - Osman is ready for anything. I did seriously think tht maybe Osman said enough is enough and hung up his pen. I am glad for those that got through unscathed, wish good health to those that got injured and hope those who were brave enough to lay their lives in this incident be proven correct. Sports is and SHOULD BE above terrorism and hope it helps unite the world and not tear it asunder :)

  • Sampath Perera on March 5, 2009, 10:29 GMT

    Dear Editor & Staff at Cricinfo.., Yes it would have been much better if he heard that Yunis Khan broke the world record of Lara in the 2nd Test Vs SL or Muralai-Mendis magic sharing nineteen wickets among them to give Srilanka a series win. But It's the name of the game this time around. in Cricket or Journalism. But cricinfo did there job..while all the other news providers describing the Lahore attack from there angles..cricinfo was the only site which gave us the real facts on crickets perspective. I think that's why you are unbeatable an still on number one spot.All the best to you guys at cricinfo. Lets hope for some good news. Blistering century from Shewag vs NZL or lightning first spell from Steyn vs Aussies. Bye Sampath Perera.Colombo.

  • Sanjeev on March 5, 2009, 10:24 GMT

    Pakistani cricket administrators have tried their best to kill cricket in the last few years. The last nail was driven into this coffin earlier this week by the terrorists.

    "I ended my previous piece with the promise that I would write about something more cheerful next. The world has got far more depressing since then. It's hard to escape the gloom."

    The recent attacks may spell the death knell for Pakistan cricket but For the sake of cricket fans everywhere, one hopes your next one comes with more positive news. One hopes....because without hope, we have nothing.

  • Satish on March 5, 2009, 10:15 GMT

    Yes, while I expected the Pakistan view soon on CI and it did from Kamran Abbasi, it was surprising to not to see anything from Osman Samiuddin. Here's wishing he has a happy and prosperous married life. The world today is indeed a depressing place. I feel we have, in the last 150 years, barring medical breakthroughs, made the world much much less safer to live in. Its a dubious legacy to leave to future generations but I think it will not all get any better soon.

  • Johnny on March 5, 2009, 10:13 GMT

    Depressing!

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • Johnny on March 5, 2009, 10:13 GMT

    Depressing!

  • Satish on March 5, 2009, 10:15 GMT

    Yes, while I expected the Pakistan view soon on CI and it did from Kamran Abbasi, it was surprising to not to see anything from Osman Samiuddin. Here's wishing he has a happy and prosperous married life. The world today is indeed a depressing place. I feel we have, in the last 150 years, barring medical breakthroughs, made the world much much less safer to live in. Its a dubious legacy to leave to future generations but I think it will not all get any better soon.

  • Sanjeev on March 5, 2009, 10:24 GMT

    Pakistani cricket administrators have tried their best to kill cricket in the last few years. The last nail was driven into this coffin earlier this week by the terrorists.

    "I ended my previous piece with the promise that I would write about something more cheerful next. The world has got far more depressing since then. It's hard to escape the gloom."

    The recent attacks may spell the death knell for Pakistan cricket but For the sake of cricket fans everywhere, one hopes your next one comes with more positive news. One hopes....because without hope, we have nothing.

  • Sampath Perera on March 5, 2009, 10:29 GMT

    Dear Editor & Staff at Cricinfo.., Yes it would have been much better if he heard that Yunis Khan broke the world record of Lara in the 2nd Test Vs SL or Muralai-Mendis magic sharing nineteen wickets among them to give Srilanka a series win. But It's the name of the game this time around. in Cricket or Journalism. But cricinfo did there job..while all the other news providers describing the Lahore attack from there angles..cricinfo was the only site which gave us the real facts on crickets perspective. I think that's why you are unbeatable an still on number one spot.All the best to you guys at cricinfo. Lets hope for some good news. Blistering century from Shewag vs NZL or lightning first spell from Steyn vs Aussies. Bye Sampath Perera.Colombo.

  • Haseeb on March 5, 2009, 10:41 GMT

    Very well put Sambit. Thank you giving an update on Osman - i wish him well. Tounge in Cheek most men complain about how draining the institution of marriage can be (IT IS NOT!). Having covered Pakistan cricket while being a fan of it - Osman is ready for anything. I did seriously think tht maybe Osman said enough is enough and hung up his pen. I am glad for those that got through unscathed, wish good health to those that got injured and hope those who were brave enough to lay their lives in this incident be proven correct. Sports is and SHOULD BE above terrorism and hope it helps unite the world and not tear it asunder :)

  • Gautam on March 5, 2009, 10:46 GMT

    The need of the hour for all cricket lovers is unity, and let us not be divided by this attack on the sport we love. It is a moment of sadness for our pakistani brothers and let us not isolate them further and pray that cricket returns faster to pakistan and the pakistanis find the courage to rid their country of the menace that has gripped them, after all who would not like to see Ishant Sharma in full flow challenging an in form Younis Khan.

  • Pali on March 5, 2009, 11:05 GMT

    My heart felt congratulations to Osman.It is really one of the saddest day in cricket history.I wish all Srilankan players recover fast from the mental dossier they received from the terror. Cricket should not be stopped from playing because of fear of terrorism it will mean give to terror.We can secure cricketers and cricket fans better and defeat evil terror..

  • Shobhit on March 5, 2009, 11:16 GMT

    Sambit, congratulations to you, Osman and the rest of the Cricinfo guys. The spot on coverage of the attacks was faster and better than all the news portals in India. Now, if only you guys could start covering politics and cinema.... :D

  • Ashfaq Shah on March 5, 2009, 11:27 GMT

    Thanks for these realistic views Sambit. I can atleast vouch that Cricinfo has been unbiased in its reporting and non political in nature. It hurts to see a major sports channel trying to put words in SriLankan players mouths, who were being very sensible about saying any negative comments about Pakistan in this hour of tragedy. Most correspondents seemed to forget the damage this tragedy has and will continue to cause Pakistan. Its hard to imagine that Younis Khan might have actually played his last test match in his home ground. In anycase, thank you for being neutral. All we need right now is some understanding from rest of the cricketing world. I hope such tragedy is not repeated on anyother sporting field.

  • Karthik on March 5, 2009, 11:35 GMT

    Well, you did give us some good news: My best wishes Osman. Wish you a wonderful married life.