A spot of botherhttps://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/a-spot-of-bother/

A spot of bother

TV channels have had a field day since news of spot-fixing in the IPL broke

TV channels have had a field day since news of spot-fixing in the IPL broke

Did you see much of the visiting Chinese premier,Li Keqiang,on TV? No. Blame it on the Indian Premier League. Or,more specifically,S. Sreesanth. Imagine a bowler,who is not even a regular of the Indian cricket team,upstaging the prime minister of China? And the president of Afghanistan,who was also in the capital this week.

That is the charisma of Sreesanth,and the charm of cricket,which hold us so spellbound that TV news can dismiss such high-profile visits in the blink of an eye. Except that it is not Sreesanth the bowler or cricket the game that has (pre)occupied news channels. It is the spot they find themselves in.

On a normal day,an encounter between the Chennai Super Kings and the Mumbai Indians in the IPL semi-finals would have been irresistible. But after binge-watching TV news since Sreesanth and co allegedly went from being cricketers to spot boys,we’ve thrown in the towel (as perhaps Sreesanth should have done) where the Indian Paap League (thank you,ABP) is concerned.

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Watching the IPL is not the same,at least until next year. Now,instead of following the action,you catch yourself looking at towels,handkerchiefs,wristbands,gold chains,shoe-straps,even a twitch of the nostrils,to see if they could be a sign of worse things to come. It has been tough to watch the IPL without mistaking the white ball for a gold coin.

And perhaps someone should tell the Rajasthan Royals to withdraw their current promo,which has owner Shilpa Shetty gyrating on the sand dunes along with the team to their signature song that ends in the exhortation,“Hulla bol”.

It’s been hulla bol on the news channels since last Thursday. They’ve had a field day,literally,but without much to show for it: occasionally,we saw men in black hoods and blue jeans (Sreesanth and two others) alongside the Delhi Police. More frequently,we saw snap shots of Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan,the “dirty cricketers” (Karan Thapar,CNN-IBN),but mostly we were shown Sreesanth running into bowl with a red arrow pointing at the offending towel in his waistband — allegedly the green signal to the bookies.

We’ve also sat through interviews with these mercenary bookies (Times Now,Headlines Today) who explained spot-fixing,rate cards and all. The news channels were delighted when the “honey trap” found its way into the story and bookies said “women made it [entrapping cricketers easier”. That gave them just the excuse they needed to titillate us with sketches of curvaceous female figures — the “call girls” — and fleeting glimpses of smoky dancing scenes. The screen became steamier and steamier as Aaj Tak had a “Marathi actress” with Sreesanth when he was arrested.

Former cricket stars suddenly found themselves in a spot of trouble with incensed anchors demanding answers for the behaviour of their fellow cricketers: from Kapil Dev and Sourav Ganguly (Aaj Tak,Headlines Today) to Sunil Gavaskar (NDTV 24×7),they all said that a few bad apples did not mean cricket was rotten to the core. Rahul Mehra,laywer and activist,was having none of it: he was on every news channel saying former cricketers were compromised,the BCCI chairman should be “thrown out” because of a conflict of interest,and what prevented politicians from passing a bill to fix the problem (Headlines Today). Kapil Sibal obviously heard him.

A calm and,according to CNN-IBN,more “open” N. Srinivasan — current BCCI president — went to a live press conference to plead his helplessness. Such press conferences need to be better organised when they’re telecast on TV. As it was,we saw Srinivasan answering questions we couldn’t hear from people we couldn’t see see.

After Sreesanth,it was the turn of UPA 2 to be in a fix. Tuesday saw opinion surveys on ABP,Aaj Tak/ Headlines Today and CNN-IBN give the four-year-old government a very poor record card,and the first two news channels indicate a comprehensive defeat for Congress in the Lok Sabha polls. Heard at least one Congressman argue,on air,that these surveys were being used to boost the BJP and Narendra Modi’s electoral chances — a case of poll-fixing?

Lastly,wanted: a first class weather show on TV that gives us regular temperature updates throughout the day and forecasts the days ahead with monsoon predictions.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com