February 27, 2010

Interview the fan, why don't you?

Players will only put you to sleep with their repetitive inanities

'The processes are in place and our plans have been executed. We just have to wait and see if it will produce results' © AFP
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