Ian Johnson, captain in 17 of his 45 Tests for Australia in the 1940s and 1950s, writes in his introduction to journalist Bruce Harris's Ashes Triumphant 1954-5: "Today in cricket reporting, there is a trend away from the factual to the sensational. Many writers seem prepared to sacrifice their soul for a headline. In the search for 'an angle', often built on half-truths, they neglect the wants of true cricket lovers. Instead, they pander to the masses with journalistic outpourings rather than true cricket observations. I neither commend nor condemn this trend, although as a cricketer and cricket lover, I personally abhor it."
This, remember, was in the 1950s. I wonder what Johnson would have made of the media circus, especially in India, circa 2013. Not just around cricket and its illegitimate children - match and spot-fixing, questionable administrative decisions and much else - but around life, the universe and everything.
That TV news stations, by and large, thrive on the four Cs - corruption, crime, cricket and cinema - is now known even outside the newsrooms. Corruption, unless the amount is really big and the person involved is worth the effort, is not too important. It's become too everyday to be newsy anymore. Crime is always useful, especially if a young girl is involved. Cinema, well, it's always there, the gossip items - always dependable. And there's cricket. Or cricketers. It's best if a couple of them don't do well because you can criticise them endlessly. But it's even better if they are suspected of wrongdoing.
And then there's N Srinivasan.
If you were watching news television between May 16 and early June, you would have thought that Srinivasan was responsible for everything from global warming to recession. For over a week, every day and every evening, groups of people - mostly interchangeable - would sit down in the different news studios and call for Srinivasan to resign. Some of the voices were rabid, some deliberately measured, some sane (and therefore peripheral). At the end of the half hour or so, the conclusion was announced night after night: Srinivasan must resign.
Since then, he has stepped aside - not down. Two of the three arrested cricketers have been released on bail, as have a few of the 'bookies' and both M Gurunath and Vindoo Dara Singh. Raj Kundra's passport has been seized and ... and what? Why has the news flow stopped? Why have Neeraj Kumar and Himanshu Roy, the media-savvy faces of the Delhi and Mumbai police departments respectively, stopped talking? Is the case closed? Have the guilty been punished and the innocent cleared? Is cricket clean again? Yes, I know there are processes to be followed. But what has changed that the story is off the news channels now and that the quotes-on-tap cops are so quiet?
If a crime had, indeed, been committed, we are none the wiser than we were on May 16, when S Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan were arrested. Or was no crime actually committed? "We'll file charge sheets" and "More players from other teams are involved" and many such quotes were distributed at will by the police and duly reported by the media. Where are those other players? On May 24, Kumar had told me in an interview that "within the next 48 hours, hopefully" there will be an update on "four players from another team" - three weeks later, we're still waiting.
Well, what's changed since then is that the news channels have lost interest. Kumar and Roy, the good policemen, are not relevant anymore. A new crime or a new political development or a big-ticket film release has become more important, and, crucially, the Indian team is doing well in England. How many times, after all, can you reiterate that going away from India has helped the Indian cricketers, or that the Indian cricketers are doing well despite the taint? The 'no longer lambs abroad' debate is also worth only so much. Worse, Rohit Sharma is scoring runs - no one to portray as MS Dhoni's pet anymore!
Now we wait. Perhaps for the next spot-fixing charge. Then the news folks will remember May-June 2013. The old questions will crop up again. The same faces will appear on the same news channels and the same words will float on the airwaves; Kumar and Roy will be back with their quotes. Until then, sit back and watch the news. Oh, and do enjoy the cricket. Just the way Mr Johnson would have wanted us to.