Posts Tagged ‘Prem Panicker’

Why the ace opener ‘pulled down the shutters’

1 September 2010

The Indian media—print, electronic and digital—have approached the spot-fixing scam involving the Pakistan cricket team with the same jingoistic insouciance with which they greeted the match-fixing scandal 13 years ago. Which is, what did you expect from the damned Pakis? Of course not, our players are brought up well, they are clean.

Result: five days into the scandal, there is no sign of the Indian link except for a hapless photographer (Dheeraj Dixit) whom Mohammad Asif‘s ex-squeeze, Veena Malik, loquaciously accuses of being in link with her beau. No mention of an Indian hand in shady deals. No mention of IPL’s stunning potential for sex-drugs-scams.

It takes India’s #1 cricket writer, Prem Panicker, managing editor of Yahoo! India, to point out that spot-fixing, like match-fixing, isn’t quite a 21st century phenomenon but a 20th century one.

“There was once an opening batsman known as much for his impeccable technique as for his preternatural sense of the ebbs and flows, the rhythms, of Test cricket.

“The way he constructed an innings was both masterclass and template: the early watchfulness, the constant use of the well-placed single to get away from strike and go to the other end, from where he could observe the behaviour of pitch and bowler, the imperceptible change of gears and then, as the lunch interval loomed, the gradual down-shifting of gears as commentators marveled: ‘He is pulling down the shutters… he knows it is important not to give away his wicket just before the break… the onus is on him to return after the break and build his innings all over again… the man is a master of focus…’

“I followed along, on radio first and later, on television, and I marvelled along with the commentators, the experts. And then, years later, I heard a story — of how, when the toss went the way of his team and this opener went out to bat on the first day of a Test, a close relative would bet with not one, but several, bookies, about whether the batsman would get to 50 before lunch.

“Or not.

“‘So he would get to 45 or so, and there would be 20 minutes to go before lunch, and he would defend like hell, and all these experts would talk about how he is downing shutters for lunch when the fact was, there was a lot of money riding on his not getting 50 before the break,’ is a paraphrase of what one of the bookies who suffered from such well-placed bets said.”

Read the full article: We know it’s so, Joe

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Indians in spot fixing too?

One question I’m dying to ask… M.S. Dhoni

15 June 2009

India’s ouster from the Twenty20 World Cup in England shows that 20 winks is all it takes for a defending champion to be validating return tickets. Since there is no place for logic, form, strategy, etc, in this version of the game, any post-mortem is not only illogical but pointless.

Nevertheless, all the world loves a champion and all the attention (and anger) will now be focussed on Mahendra Singh Dhoni whose face is used by advertising geniuses to sell bikes, cars, ceiling fans, chyawanprash, hair oil, phones, shoes, soft drinks, newspapers and nuclear plants built under the Indo-US deal. (OK, not the last one.)

What is the one question you are dying to ask Kaptaan Kool?

Keep your queries short of length, aim them at the head, neck and chest, and hurl them at over 140 kmph.

Also read: Prem Panicker on the defeat and after

Mysore Scandal Soap: Why Dhoni doesn’t wash

If Aishwarya Rai loves the state of her origin…

Will NDTV and Barkha Dutt sue Facebook too?

1 February 2009

If there is anything that l’affaire Barkha Dutt versus Cheytanya Kunte holds a mirror to—besides media hypocrisy, thin skins, forked tongues, and such like—it is: a) the quality of legal advice media behemoths receive and act upon, and b) the mainstream media’s bottomless ignorance of the wired world and how it works.

Even the spitting-image puppets that NDTV hauls out of the cupboard a few times a day to generate a laugh would have counselled Prannoy Roy & Co (for free) against embarking on the petty path of picking on a hapless blogger sitting in The Netherlands.

The bomb-Shell™ (pun intended) had boomerang written all over it, and in more ways than one.

If Dutt and NDTV wanted to protect their fair name, etc, from the slander, what are they proposing to do about Admiral Sureesh Mehta, who repeated the libellous charge of the channel and the correspondent “endangering lives” in Kargil by asking a military officer to trigger the Bofors gun for their cameras, at a media conference?

Has the channel issued the Admiral a notice, like it did to Kunte? Has he clarified/ retracted his comments/ apologised? Why is his response not public?

Secondly, how far is NDTV, which has a “convergence” outfit, from achieving convergence?

Was NDTV unaware that had run excerpts from the blog item that their lawyers were suing Cheytanya Kunte for? And do the “tech” chaps who run have no idea that everything, including everything they remove, is cached by Big Brother at Mountain View?

Scaring a blogger to apologise was the easy part.

What do NDTV, Prannoy Roy and Barkha Dutt propose to do with the Facebook group that has over 4,660 members demanding that she be taken off air? Will they sue Mark Zuckerberg next?

Good luck, NDTV (third-quarter losses: Rs 120.8 crore).

Prem Panicker, the editorial director of India Abroad, the New York weekly newspaper owned and run by, asks the best questions about Dutt’s (and NDTV’s) fundamental inability to differentiate between fact and opinion:



“But in journalism, we know that, praise and criticism are twins that travel together. And we welcome both and try and listen to both carefully.”

That is Barkha Dutt, writing against the backdrop of pervasive criticism of her conduct, and those of her electronic media confreres, during and in the immediate aftermath of 26/11.

Admirable sentiments, admirably expressed.

One of the many critical voices Dutt and her media parent NDTV listened to was this blog post [From Google cache; scroll down to the post titled ‘Shoddy Journalism’]. And as a result of that careful listening to a critical voice, this happened.

Kunte’s withdrawal and apology, likely the outcome of a threat of legal action by Dutt and NDTV [Parenthetical aside: Can I be sued for saying this? If yes, I the undersigned do hereby, et cetera…], has created an even greater storm than the television media’s hysteria-tinged coverage of 26/11 did.

Here’s a round up of posts: Patrix; a DesiPundit round up; The Comic Project; Venkatesh Sridhar… [There are likely many others, but you get the picture].

The immediate temptation is to wear my blogger’s hat, and blast away at NDTV and Dutt for muscling Kunte—the classic reaction in a David v Goliath face-off.

It is not that simple, though—I also have a journalist’s hat, and with it on my head, some points occur.

My name is my brand—and as with any brand, its equity is built carefully, over time, through much hard work and careful attention to quality. Legitimate criticism of that brand is welcomed [and even if I didn’t like it, there is SFA I can do about it, provided the operational word is ‘legitimate’].  In this case, though, I am not so sure: While respecting Kunte’s right to his opinion, I would suggest that ‘opinion’ needs to be differentiated from ‘fact’.

It is my considered opinion that Barkha Dutt is as a television personality a borderline hysteric; most comical when she is attempting to be most serious; and far too prone to put herself at the center of every story [Among the many moments when, even in the midst of the mayhem, I found myself laughing out loud was the one where Dutt, during the climactic phase of the Taj operation, got into a major flap about a flapping window curtain and alternately spoke to the viewer and to the cameraman on the lines of There, see, look at it, the curtain is flapping… no no, focus on the curtain, zoom in… no, now pan to me… there, see, the curtain is still flapping…].

That is fair comment [and if Barkha doesn’t like it she can do the other thing]. I do not, however, have the right to state as fact that Dutt endangered lives, whether in Kargil or in Mumbai—because the causal chain of Dutt’s admittedly over-the-top reporting and loss of life has not been established.

I’m totally with Kunte when he opines that Dutt and her ilk are insufferable bordering on incompetent [Barkha, note, that is an opinion]; I’m not however able to defend his right to state as fact something that is not demonstrably true [Brief aside: No, it is not a defense to say that I was merely quoting someone else, and to ask why that someone else—in this case, a wiki entry—has not been sued.].

All of that said, the NDTV-Barkha Dutt action leading to Kunte’s retraction leaves a very bad taste in the mouth. In her earlier, lengthy defense, Dutt says two things that IMH opinion are contradictory:

But in journalism, we know that, praise and criticism are twins that travel together. And we welcome both and try and listen to both carefully.


I believe that criticism is what helps us evolve and reinvent ourselves. But when malice and rumour are regarded as feedback, there can be no constructive dialogue. Viewing preferences are highly subjective and always deeply personal choices, and the most fitting rejection of someone who doesn’t appeal to your aesthetics of intelligence, is simply to flick the channel and watch someone else.

How does Barkha Dutt reconcile her stated respect for criticism and her intention to learn from it with the suggestion that those who don’t like what she does and the way she does it can say it with the remote? What the latter statement reveals is the hypocrisy inherent in the former—no more, no less.

A Barkha Dutt who grandly titles her show ‘We the People‘ [That title, factually rendered, should read ‘We the minuscule minority with access to cable TV who haven’t yet dissed you with our remotes], and who sheltering under that inclusive flag assumes the right to criticize the conduct of every politician, businessman, movie star and public figure in this country, needed to have shown more grace in accepting criticism directed her way.

So, we will now add this lack of grace, this intolerance for criticism, this tendency to the notion that you are immune to the searching examination you subject others to, to the already long list of reasons to reach for that remote.

Photograph: courtesy The Tribune, Chandigarh

Also read: The media is not the message

Prem Panicker: How India should play Perth Test

7 January 2008

India’s foremost cricket writer Prem Panicker writes that India should not walk out of the Australia tour at this juncture.

“Rather, they should play in Perth under protest. I’m not suggesting black armbands; they should play with one self-imposed rule: Never appeal.

“Not for caught-behind, not for field or slip catches, and not at all for LBWs.

“Never once look at the umpire.

“If the batsman walks after edging to the slips, fine. But if he stands his ground like Michael Clarke did (and later told a reporter that he stood because he is not a walker and was waiting for the umpire’s decision), just carry on with the next delivery. If a fielder completes a catch, just throw it back to the bowler and continue bowling. As for run-outs and stumpings, don’t even bother.”

Read the Prem Panicker blog: Smoke Signals