July 14, 2012

Pakistan in Sri Lanka 2012

The Pakistan journalists go AWOL

Kanishkaa Balachandran
Mohammad Hafeez and Mahela Jayawardene at the press conference, Colombo, May 28, 2012
The way a player conducts himself in press conferences is sometimes indicative of his personality  © AFP


Not surprisingly, a question I was often asked, especially in the smaller towns like Hambantota, Galle and Kandy, was "are you from Pakistan?" My face may have been the most obvious giveaway and my accent meant that I couldn't pass off for a local. I had to explain that I had come from India, covering a series between two teams as a neutral. The advantage with being a neutral is that you're more or less free of leg-pulls from the local journalists.

It comes with its challenges too, especially when it comes to the spoken language. I was caught in one such awkward situation when Tillakaratne Dilshan gave a press conference during the one-day series in Colombo. The Pakistan journalists gave it a miss, leaving me as the odd one out among the Sri Lankan journalists. Perhaps Dilshan didn't notice. The questions were in Sinhalese and so were the answers. In such situations, it's a bit difficult to figure out if the particular question you wanted to ask has already been asked. I had absolutely no clue what was being talked about. I waited for a break and posed a question on his current batting form. Dilshan was caught a bit off guard by the sudden change of language. He duly answered the question. But I realised that I had sidetracked Dilshan from the hot-topic of the day - his captaincy, why he gave it up and his comments on Mahela Jayawardene possibly staying captain till the 2015 World Cup. I got the quotes translated and, not surprisingly, I didn't bother mentioning my question in the copy because it seemed irrelevant.

The press conferences were fairly hassle free, sometimes conducted with just a handful of journalists. Mohammad Hafeez was perplexed by the absence of Pakistan journalists in one such presser. When Misbah-ul-Haq walked in for the final presser of the tour in Pallekele, he appeared amused that there were no Pakistan journalists there either. He must have expected the brickbats and testing questions that usually torment captains after a series loss. He couldn't have had it easier.

The way a player conducts himself in press conferences is sometimes indicative of his personality. Hafeez would always appear with his shirt tucked, hair combed, as if ready for a 9am shift at the office. He would courteously apologise to all if he was late. And yes, he was forgiven. He was obliging with every photo request. A local cameraman in Hambantota had accidentally closed his eyes in one such photo, and nervously requested another. Hafeez chuckled, and said, "Come on, open your eyes!"

When Saeed Ajmal walked in for one presser in Galle, he was his usual jovial self, humming a tune before he sat down. When a few of us placed our recorders at the desk, seeing that we didn't pass off as Sri Lankans, he demanded, rather than requested, that we speak in Urdu. When Angelo Mathews sat down for one in Pallekele, he told a few of us, "nothing controversial please". That was pretty much the tone of the series. Save for the umpiring in Galle, controversy stayed away. World peace.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Manuel on (August 2, 2012, 3:20 GMT)

I simply want to meotnin I'm beginner to blogging and definitely loved you're blog. Likely I’m likely to bookmark your blog . You surely have remarkable articles and reviews. Cheers for sharing with us your blog site.

Posted by Usama on (July 16, 2012, 11:10 GMT)

Well done sir, Hafeez is always a humble man to deal with and i liked the way you described the event.Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences with us :D

Posted by Mir on (July 15, 2012, 10:43 GMT)

When Angelo Mathews sat down for one in Pallekele, he told a few of us, “nothing controversial please”.

Sums it up for me - its kindda planted isnt it.Not to ask the most important questions, whats the point of press conference then? Pictures ?:P

Posted by Mohammed on (July 15, 2012, 3:29 GMT)

Pakistan played very well. but they were unlucky at Galle Test . Pakistan played with 11 players and Sri lanka with 13 (2 umpires)

Posted by Khalid Hasan on (July 15, 2012, 3:22 GMT)

I wish India was playing SL at Galle and was on the receiving end of those horrendous decisions. Then maybe their stand on DRS would have changed.

Posted by Andyzaltzmannshair on (July 15, 2012, 2:06 GMT)

There usually isn't that much to report bar the match facts when Pakistan plays Sri Lanka. There's hardly any controversy, no needle, no angle for journalists to work with. The press conferences are drab cordial affairs with the usual polite answers. As a fan that's great. As a journalist it's difficult to generate column inches.

Posted by Ibrahim on (July 14, 2012, 23:40 GMT)

Nice ,this piece shows that the both countries have good ties between them and you're right on that misbah part, he really did dodged a bullet.

Posted by Usman on (July 14, 2012, 22:46 GMT)

Beautiful tour diary, i love to read it.

when i was reading, it was how i was there when all were happing! thanks for this tour diary, Kanishkaa Balachandran!

Posted by Siham on (July 14, 2012, 22:05 GMT)

Haha! This is cool. You should write more of these.

Posted by James on (July 14, 2012, 20:51 GMT)

All the Pakistan journalists are busy with King Iftikhar choudry , so no time for sports , sorry Kanishkaa and thanks for being there

Posted by John Zong on (July 14, 2012, 19:57 GMT)

Very nice Mr. Kanishkaa. Imagine a Pakistani reporter/journalist covering a series that involves India as a neutral journalist - in the absence of Indian journalists. Give peace a chance.

Posted by Naveed on (July 14, 2012, 19:32 GMT)

Pakistani Journalist do not have money to come to Sri-Lanka and cover the event. Lack of International Cricket in Pakistan has dried up opportunities for the media people to have a healthy balance sheet from Sports. Pakistan is hurting in Sports Financially.

Posted by Muhammad Lodhi on (July 14, 2012, 19:29 GMT)

I have listened to your interviews and your articles with great interest. I appreciate your professionalism and objectivity. Sri Lanka and Pakistan series are generally very cordial, may be a reflection of the relationship of the two cricket boards, two countries or people in general. Cricket certainly promotes friendship between the people - we almost saw that during the recent Pakistan-Bangladesh final except that it was from one side only.

Posted by imran on (July 14, 2012, 18:16 GMT)

Thanks Kanishkaa for helping us with the weather updates :).. I just wish that there was DRS and even this one controversy would have stayed away.. On the whole, a well played series..

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