February 27, 2010

Interview the fan, why don't you?

Andrew Hughes


'The processes are in place and our plans have been executed. We just have to wait and see if it will produce results' © AFP
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Insomnia, ladies and gentlemen, is a terrible thing. To lie there, staring blankly at the ceiling, unable to quieten your brain as the clock ticks on inexorably is no joke. Luckily, cricket fans never have to worry about such afflictions. For those of us who follow closely the worldwide carnival that is the modern game, inducements to snooze are regularly pushed our way.

What’s that Lalit? No, I’m not talking about Test cricket, you naughty boy. I’m not even talking about the terminally drowsy County Championship that bumbles along from April to September without ever causing a single drop of adrenalin to enter the bloodstream. The fact is that no game of cricket has ever been dull, to the true fan and if you think it is, then you aren’t paying close enough attention.

There are, however, great reservoirs of tedium out there, held back by the mighty dams of editorial discernment. And in recent years, as cricketers have become superstars and the appetite for coverage of cricket has increased, the façade has begun to crack. Every day a new hole appears and on comes the tedious, the platitudinous and the downright boring, filling our lives with pointlessness

I am referring, of course, to the player interview. Players, for the most part, do not have anything interesting to say. They do not lead particularly interesting lives. They train, they travel, they play, they travel, they train. Indeed, they are contractually obliged not to do anything interesting because interesting can be misconstrued as scandalous or controversial. Instead, they say nothing and they say it at some length.

They could, if they wished, give us an insight into their craft. This would not be dull and it would increase our respect for them. For example, Aakash Chopra’s articles on Cricinfo are invariably fascinating. Stuart Broad yesterday revealed that he kept notes last time he toured India. That is an intriguing detail. But that is all he offered that could possibly be of any interest. The rest comes from the Manual of Cricket Interviews:

1. He’s right behind his captain 2. He thinks his captain is going to do well 3. He and his team-mates are confident and have been practising 4. But they’re taking nothing for granted

And so on and so forth. Players go through the motions, journalists politely offer up the same questions, readers snooze. So let’s shake things up a bit. Instead of putting up a hapless mumbling seamer or a wide-eyed young batsman for these press conferences, let’s fly in a cricket fan at random to sit at a table in front of a row of microphones. In the spirit of adventure, I offer myself as the first interviewee.

“Well obviously, its going to be a tough ask, what with the time difference, but my cook is ready for the challenge and I think he’ll have no problem sounding the breakfast gong. I expect it will be waffles, possibly croissants, but I’m confident I can step up to the plate. I’m not taking anything for granted, but I’ve been spending a lot of time on the sofa and I’ve been hitting good cushion areas.”

A clear improvement. And no talk of burnout, either.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Teal'c on (March 9, 2010, 11:57 GMT)

I thought the article was pretty funny. On another note regarding your article about Chris Gayle's interviews, I think its fair to say that Gayle's finally taken the coveted title for the fastest speaker away from Azharuddin.

Posted by nivi on (February 28, 2010, 3:20 GMT)

is this meant to be funny? Andrew Hughes is undoubtedly one of the worst cricket comedians. Take some pointers from Anand Ramachandran or Andy Zaltman. The Long Handle is really really boring.

Posted by arslan on (February 27, 2010, 19:09 GMT)

well comments and interviews of ppl involved in pakistan crkt are exceptions to this...e.g. the counter accusations between mohd yousaf and shoaib malik recently...mr ijaz butt's contradictory and confusing statements...and so on..

Posted by Khusro Mir on (February 27, 2010, 11:41 GMT)

True as that is Jamshed, Ijaz Butt is the exception. Memory of a goldfish, and the 71 years he's been living have got to him. He falls asleep during his meetings (apparently), and he couldn't remember that Pakistan actually had a chance of being able to host a match to a West Indies A team. Ah well. I suppose it isn't only fans that feel insomnia. On the other hand, if I were to be questioning an Indian my question would be "How dead are the pitches in India", a Proteas "Why do you choke so much?", an Aussie "Do you have any sympathy or mercy for your opponents? You always win!", an Englishman (this question is preferably for Collingwood) "How many golf courses are there in England?", a Pakistani "Do you plan to be captain in the next year or so?" (I mean, if Shoaib Akhter wants to then everyone must), and so on and so forth. They are comparatively relative to the current situation in the cricketing world, while interesting, so I suppose they must be good.

Posted by Anurag Bhide on (February 27, 2010, 11:19 GMT)

yes this is one issue that is seriously bothering me ever since u have brought it up. u've mentioned this player predictability in some of ur earlier blogs and i've been listening intently to many of the player interviews ever since. and really u do hit the nail right on the head. in every one of those interviews that i've paid attention to, there is not one tiny comment that i could not have predicted beforehand myself. the questions were completely unimaginative and downright obvious and the answers even more so. i gues if u just tell me which player's interview is about to take place, i could write up all the questions as well as answers right to the letter.

this should be a serious concern, but nobody seems to be noticing it. everyone has become puppets in the hands of the globalised media and since this is the route to big money, nothing will be done to change it. even sunil gavaskar has started to sound like an excited parrot these days

i suppose we just need a few more sehwags

Posted by jamshed on (February 27, 2010, 10:09 GMT)

Andrew,you cannot accuse Pakistan cricketers of being boring.Most of them are not "right behind their captain."

Posted by ajay pal on (February 27, 2010, 9:34 GMT)

nice initiative!! but graeme swann, harbhajan singh and virender sehwag are notable exceptions to the rule of bromidic and diplomatic interviews.

Posted by Tanmay on (February 27, 2010, 9:14 GMT)

@jamshed: begin difference between sleeping cricket and sleeping over cricket. which one is it? :)

Mr. Hughes, Ijaz Butt has proven to be the exception to the rule - passing on unsolicited information about match-fixing of all things! Maybe the alternative then is not to interview fans, but look for self-important people struggling to make their way to the limelight (and Ijaz Butt).

Posted by jamshed on (February 27, 2010, 7:32 GMT)

Insomnia ? Tell you what,when I cannot sleep,I watch cricket.I fall asleep easily thereafter.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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