December 4, 2013

Press conferences? Spare us

Enough of young men in baseball caps boringly answering questions that shouldn't have been asked

When they didn't get it the first time, MS Dhoni explained Heisenberg's uncertainty principle again © Getty Images

I'm not interested in the personal lives of cricketers. The percentage of the Hughes GDP allocated to cricket autobiographies has remained at a steady 0% this financial year, as it has done ever since I incautiously picked up a copy of Botham: My Autobiography in a bookshop and read half a paragraph. I was young, I was foolish, I didn't know any better.

My interest in a cricketer is restricted to the particular way in which they use their extremities to manipulate a small leather ball. Learning how someone can bowl an indipping, toe-crunching, wood-splintering yorker at 90mph is fascinating to those of us who couldn't do such a thing even with an infinite number of cricket balls and an infinite number of arms.

But the offal preferences of his pet chihuahua, the precise location of his hairy birthmark, his lifelong fear of jelly, and his thoughts on the single currency are none of my business.

Still, a lack of interest should not be mistaken for a lack of sympathy. Cricketers are, for the most part, human beings, and though there are perks to being an international willow swisher-cum-endorsement magnet, there is a downside. At any one moment, millions of people may be wishing you ill. Worse still, millions may be wishing you well.

Remember those people you saw at the bus stop this morning? Imagine all of them asking you for your autograph, telling you what an inspiration you are, and how sexy you look in white. Try going about your normal business after that. You wouldn't be able to pick your nose without worrying whether you were letting your people down.

Then there are the critics. Every time you have a bad trot, people who barely know which end of the bat is the holdy bit and which end is the hitty bit will take to the pages of newspapers to lecture you on the ugliness of your trigger movement or the wobbliness of your head, or to give the world the benefit of their unqualified psychiatric opinion.

But if there is one thing above all that should stir your sympathy for the modern cricket professional, it is their contractual obligation to attend press conferences.

Call me naïve, but I think a press conference should be a forum for newsworthy announcements, and I would define news as "some piece of important or interesting information of which we were previously unaware".

In sport, the most important news is the score, which is freely and widely available on the internet. As far as I can tell, the remainder of sports news consists of groin-strain updates, tittle-tattle, wild speculation and acre upon acre of dull quotations.

These quotations are harvested at press conferences in which a young man in a baseball cap sits at a table giving boring answers that nobody is interested in to tedious questions that didn't need to be asked. A sports press conference is a pile of dry kindling, waiting to be ignited by the spark of something vaguely interesting. One wrong inflection can launch a raging inferno of silly that can spread to Twitter, Facebook, and Parliament in seconds.

But that doesn't happen at an MS Dhoni press conference. He is the Bruce Lee of cricket diplomacy, the Kung-Fu Master of Tact. Toss him a hand-grenade question, and he doesn't flinch; he catches it in his teeth and disarms it with his tongue.

His talents have once more been on display in South Africa this week. How is the squad coping without Sachin? Are you glad the old git is gone? What about this two-Test tour then, eh? Aren't the BCCI the most evil bunch on the planet? What's your favourite colour? Deep-pan or thin crust? He brushed off every inane question with consummate discretion.

It is sometimes said that players can't win. They are criticised for being dull at press conferences and they are criticised for being controversial at press conferences. What can we do? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you a third option: no more press conferences.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • chitti_cricket on December 4, 2013, 15:11 GMT

    What else will they say other than the routine stuff, I sopped watching these presentations after matches because of their monotony. Of all the people I liked the way Sunil Gavasker, Imran Khanh used to talk at presentations, toss etc. They used to show some nonchalant humor in their comments. I remember Sunil saying after Wolrd series win in Australia when some one asked him if their win was a fluke he stated "World Cup was fluke1, this is fluke 2 like Rockie 1 and 2 movie series. That was bit humor at it's best. There might be some other captains players who might have been like them but rest and huge bunch look very formal and dead monotony.

  • AjitRaje on December 4, 2013, 10:53 GMT

    Press conferences as well as the post-match interviews. You heard one, you heard them all. Successful batsman - "The ball was coming on very nicely, so I decided to stay around and finish it". Successful bowler - " I decided to stick to my line and let the wicket do the rest". Successful captain - "The boys played very well...". As well as the mandatory "I dedicate my performance to...."

  • Rawal on December 4, 2013, 9:02 GMT

    I think I agree with the fact that most of these press conferences etc. have become, or had always been, boring. I just can´t stand some of the phrases uttered such as:

    1. "We will look to repeat/improve our performance."

    2. "We shouldn´t underestimate them. They are capable of a comeback."

    3. "We have got the players to come back into the series."

    What else are they supposed to say? That, that....

    1. "We will take it easily given that we have won."

    2. "They are a incapable bunch of jokers and can´t fight back."

    3. "We are lacking the players who can help us make a comeback."

    So it´s all too dull and predictable. Add also lines like, "It was a good toss to win."

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