Offbeat December 23, 2010

Neil Johnson is a yogi ... or is he?

In this internet age, there can often be a viral element to newsgathering

In this internet age, there can often be a viral element to newsgathering. This means, of course, that news travels fast, but also that it is much easier for less factually accurate stories to pop up on reputable sites.

Such was the case when a bizarre story that former Zimbabwe allrounder Neil Johnson had been appointed yoga instructor to the touring Indian cricket team mysteriously appeared online. Within hours, it had been picked up by several cricket news sites and even found its way onto the official ICC homepage.

The original story suggested that coach Gary Kirsten had hired Johnson “to get his players supple and as fit as they can be for their grueling [sic] South African sojourn”, and claimed Johnson "was seen doing a few yoga asanas along with the players after India lost the first Test at Centurion". It even went so far as to declare "the Indian team's manager Ranjib Biswal confirmed the appointment of Johnson but refused to let him talk to the media”

While Biswal hastily distanced himself from the erroneous story, the ICC spiked it from their page as soon as the mistake was realised. Intriguingly, the Indian cricket team does in fact already have a yoga instructor on tour: Jim Harrington, an Australian married to a South African and resident in Hout Bay, South Africa, for the past eight years.

“I don’t even do yoga,” a bemused Johnson told ESPNcricinfo, before dissolving into fits of laughter. “If it was the 1st of April, I’d understand this,” added his wife Genie.

This website was not taken in.

Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town