Media bashing has a become a favourite pastime for cricketers. With lack of transparency on contentious issues, Indian cricket has been shrouded in secrecy and the latest in a series of turbid topics that has left scribes bewildered is Mahendra Singh Dhoni's sudden decision to quit Test cricket. (MS Dhoni on Standby for SCG Test: Ravi Shastri)
It is the media's job to ask questions. In an environment of murkiness and information blockade, speculations are inevitable. To call reporters "screenplay writers for thrillers" may sound dramatic but does it really clarify doubts that millions of fans have in their minds? Fans make cricketers and therefore, they must know. (Dhoni Missing From Team India's Tea Session With Aussie PM)
The latest to blast an inquisitive media is Team India director Ravi Shastri. The former Indian all-rounder, who perhaps has earned more fame as a tough-talking television commentator and expert writer than as a cricketer, has dramatically changed colours ever since becoming part of the current team management during the England tour.
Interestingly, this is the same Ravi Shastri, working as journalist during India's tour of South Africa in 2001, who was in quizzical mood at a media conference after ICC match referee Mike Denness had punished six Indian players, including Sachin Tendulkar for ball tampering, during the second Test at Port Elizabeth in January.
ICC regulations make it mandatory for match referees not to discuss punishments in public. The normal procedure is to issue a press statement. So when Denness refused to answer questions, Shastri blurted: "If Mike Denness cannot answer questions, why is he here? We know what he looks like." (MS Dhoni Quits: The Untold Story)
Coming as it did as a massive shock, Dhoni's Test exit was broken by the BCCI through a press release. Dhoni is no ordinary Indian cricketer. The most successful Indian captain's exit cannot be conveyed to the media simply through a release. The release, signed off by the BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel, clearly conveyed that Dhoni's decision came as a bolt from the blue. It thus left several unanswered questions.
With Dhoni refusing to talk on his sudden retirement, media asked questions. Pertinent ones. Most importantly, it speculated on the new power equation in the dressing room. Shastri has openly backed the new generation cricketers. Kohli seems to be his man because the 26-year-old Delhi batsman typifies the "mindset" that Shastri is professing. In terms of personality, Dhoni and Kohli are like chalk and cheese. (Kohli Represents New Age India: Jones)
In an interview to ESPNCricinfo, Shastri has "trashed" suggestions that he was backing Kohli. "You guys have no idea of the respect Dhoni commands, not just from Virat but every member of the squad, support staff and administration," Shastri said. But respect is one thing, comfort level/understanding is another. Body-language and subtle signals are enough to pass on a message. The new generation can be ruthless.
Shastri has made a telling remark. "He (Dhoni) felt that he is not doing justice to himself and the team. Retirement is a very personal issue and ...the best sportspersons know when it's time to go," Shastri said. As team director, who loves Kohli's mindset and predicts "a top-three ranking in 12 months," Shastri will therefore not be worried with Dhoni's absence. So, the new power equation is not a speculation but a growing reality. (Australia Plan to Counter Kohli With Boring Cricket)
The presence of Shastri in the dressing room was probably one itch too many for Dhoni, who has always enjoyed his own space. Dhoni had a great relationship with Gary Kirtsen because the South African knew his 'limits' as coach. Duncan Fletcher's role was appreciated by Dhoni when India were on their way to winning the ICC Champions Trophy in UK in 2013. The Dhoni-Fletcher-Shastri triangle may not have been the perfect combination. (Kohli Will be an Aggressive Captain: Johnson)
When there is smoke, there's fire. It's the reporters job to detect the fire. Like the classic off-drive through covers, hunting the real story gives reporters a massive high. The likes of Shastri and Dhoni will be naive not to understand this. What is important is transparency from both the players and the management.
The real story behind Dhoni's Test exit may probably never emerge. Kevin Pietersen's sacking was a matter of public debate. The fans knew the real story and made their opinion. In Indian cricket, where stakes are so high, this clarity is unthinkable.