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The joys of talking to the press

As if facing Fidel Edwards wasn't enough, the captains have to then face the press and answer questions on themes done to death

Mahendra Singh Dhoni looks on during a press conference, Colombo, January 26, 2009
For the 10th time, people, the bowlers are to be blamed for our defeat © AFP

If I were an IPL captain - humour me here - I could just about live with the fact that my opening bowler had just sent down a full toss. A panicky slog would try my patience but, again, I'd take it on the chin. And, hell, fluffed catches can happen to anyone in the heat of the moment. But having to justify myself to the media game after game - not to mention between games, before games and sometimes during games - might just drive me to distraction. After all, there are only so many ways to explain why Pragyan Ojha didn't bowl the 15th over, and repetition tends to dull their impact.

Perhaps it's a coincidence, but the longest press conference I've sat through so far came after the match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings in Cape Town was abandoned without a ball bowled. Perhaps Brendon McCullum's relief at not having to document his reasons for not scoring many runs encouraged him to relax. Because since then, the poor bloke has look like death warmed up.

Generally, the script can be written in advance. Kevin Pietersen, before he flew home, was always perky and would refer fondly to team-mates of average height as "little Indians". Mahendra Singh Dhoni keeps blaming his bowlers. Adam Gilchrist makes jokes about NOT coming out of retirement. Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar deliver quiet platitudes. Yuvraj Singh leans forward and mumbles. Shane Warne speaks with a twinkle. And McCullum blames himself for everything. The day when he accepts responsibility for swine flu cannot be far away.

Anything else is a variation on a theme. And those themes can be summed up thus: the first six overs, whether with bat or ball, are very, very important; you have to execute your skills, especially the yorker and especially at the death; it's not always defeat that hurts the most - although that's pretty bad - but the manner of defeat; giving away too many runs in the last six overs is a sin punishable by a stern talking-to; and if so many wickets hadn't fallen in a bundle, victory would have been inevitable.

I don't mean to sound ungrateful. As a member of the press, I should probably ask the captains questions that elicit more meaningful answers: we all play our part in this charade. But last night we learned that Anil Kumble rotated his bowlers quite well, and Kingsmead is a lucky ground for me (Yuvraj), and that the belief was always there, even after Kings XI Punjab eased to 70 without loss in 10 overs (Kumble).

You may already have read variations on these themes. And you will read them again. There's only so much skippers can say. Pity them. Facing Fidel Edwards is hard enough. Facing the ladies and gentlemen of the press must be the last thing they need.

Lawrence Booth is a cricket correspondent at the Guardian. He writes the acclaimed weekly cricket email The Spin for guardian.co.uk

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