World Cup diaries: A press meet that never was!

FROSTY RELATIONSHIP: The Indian team, which had a full-fledged training session in Southampton on Monday, lived up to their notorious reputation of not honouring the media. AFP

World Cup is the biggest ICC event and not surprisingly one of the biggest Indian media contingents have come down the United Kingdom, the host nation. On Tuesday, it was going to be Virat Kohli-led team’s first official interaction. The visiting Indian media and nearly 40 journalists had gathered at the designated conference hall. Even as speculation was rife as to who could come to address the meet, the Indian team’s media manager’s announcement left the scribes slighted.

“Avesh Khan and Deepak Chahar would attend the press conference in 15 minutes,” he said. Now for starters, Avesh and Chahar aren’t part of the 15-member WC squad. They are here to help the Indian team during “nets” along with another pacer Khaleel Ahmed. When asked as to why no member of the WC squad could be made available considering that it was going to be their first match, he answered: “These two will be leaving tomorrow (for India), unko bhi thoda publicity mil jaye (let them too get some publicity).”

Now whether he was merely parroting the team management’s view or just wanted to lighten up the mood, it didn’t obviously go down well with the media. A senior journalist politely but firmly told him: “If you can’t send any member of the WC squad, then don’t bother sending anyone.” The media manager then went back to the change room for further instructions and came back with an expected piece of information. “No press meet today.”

The current Indian team, which has had a frosty relationship with the media because it doesn’t take kindly to any criticism, is notorious for not honouring even ICC mandated media commitments. In any other sport, players would be fined for doing so but these are a pampered lot of the richest cricket board. But when they failed to turn up for the compulsory Media Zone interaction after their big defeat in the warm-up match against New Zealand, the ICC firmly told the team to fall in line in future. And after the second warm-up match against Bangladesh, India sent as many as three players to the Media Zone! Were they overcompensating for their previous mistake or was it because they had won the match? Your guess is as good as ours!

England fancied but till no WC fervour

Cricket, the national sport of England, enjoys as much popularity in the Old Blighty as India’s national sport – hockey. While cricket occupies the sporting conscience of Indians, it’s football that is the No 1 sport in England by some distance. Cricket in the UK comes way down in the pecking order after football and rugby when it comes to team sports. While it won’t be any less than a festive atmosphere in the subcontinent when the World Cup happens, you hardly feel the buzz in England. If you miss a couple of non-descript banners at the Heathrow airport, you get little feel of the event. It gets only worse as you head to the interior part. Southampton, the home of Hampshire county cricket club, perhaps will be awash with blue on Wednesday when India meet South Africa but two days ahead of the big clash it was a normal Monday in this sleepy, quaint town. There is no sign of autograph hunters, the cab driver has no idea which teams are playing on Wednesday and to think England are one of the favourites to win the World Cup this time….                

SA feeling the heat

South Africa may claim they are playing this World Cup without the pressure of being favourites but that hasn’t helped them in anyway shedding the tag of “chokers.” They have lost both their matches against fancied England in the WC opener and underdogs Bangladesh on Sunday. Just hours after reaching Southampton on Tuesday for their third match against India on Wednesday, a couple of the South African players hit Rose Bowl for practice. Struggling opener Hashim Amla and the recovering Dale Steyn batted and bowled respectively for about 30 minutes under bright sun. Steyn’s bowling at full steam on a few occasions was an encouraging sign for South Africa who have conceded over 300 runs in both their matches. With Lungi Ngidi injured and out of India match, South Africa will hope Steyn recovers in time to revive their fortunes.     

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