Over the last few years, the term ‘outside noise’ has become synonymous with Indian cricket.

In the recent CRED ad featuring former India coach Ravi Shastri, he is asked by a media person about the one thing he hates about modern cricket. The ex-India all-rounder, in his own inimitable style, responds – “Talking to journalists”. While the ad pokes fun at the growingly fragmented relationship between the Indian players and the media, this is a topic that deserves to be debated in a much more serious manner. 

This is all the more significant in the wake of Gujarat Titans (GT) skipper Hardik Pandya’s irreverent dig at critics after his side entered the IPL 2022 final by defeating the Rajasthan Royals (RR) in Qualifier 1. Asked for his views on criticism, he commented, “Logo ka toh kaam hai kehna. Kya karu, sir? Hardik Pandya ke saath thoda news bikta hai. Mujhe koi problem nahi hai. Hasi ke saath nikal deta hoon.” (It’s people’s job to speak. What can I do, sir? News sells on Hardik Pandya’s name. I am okay with it. I just laugh it off.) The arrogant tone of his statement mirrored that of his ad, in which he proclaims that he was always going to reach the top and only needed some support from an uncle at the bat shop, who gifted him a high-quality willow. 

Undoubtedly, Hardik deserves applause for guiding his team to the IPL 2022 final in the franchise’s maiden season. However, his comments on critics are something he could have avoided, particularly considering the fact that it was such a joyous occasion for him and the entire GT contingent.

Outside noise – The sad legacy left behind by Kohli

Over the last few years, the term ‘outside noise’ has become synonymous with Indian cricket. Any questions raised regarding the poor performance of the team have been dead-batted with the ‘we don’t care about outside noise’ response. It all started when Virat Kohli took charge of the team and settled into the role and has continued even after Rohit Sharma took over the mantle. Whether or not Rohit and Virat have their differences is still a mystery, but they clearly agree on the ‘outside noise’ factor. So everything from Ajinkya Rahane’s poor form to India’s disappointing record in SENA countries and Kohli’s own struggles have had only one answer – ‘We do not bother about outside noise’. The spillover effect has been seen in IPL 2022 as well in the wake of Pandya’s self-obsessed views.

Things were not the same when MS Dhoni was around. There was a lot of criticism of his leadership as well when India lost. But Captain Cool MSD had an amiable and rather humorous way of dealing with the outside noise. During India’s disastrous tour of Australia in 2014, when he was asked about the alleged friction between two-star players, Dhoni tagged along and joked, ‘(Virat) Kohli used a knife and stabbed Shikhar (Dhawan)’. Barring the 2016 T20 World Cup press conference when he lost his cool after being asked about his future and needlessly insulted a journalist, Dhoni did a commendable job of dealing with pressure. 

Media no saint here

On the one hand, while the players need to be strong enough to take criticism with praise, the media, too, needs to know where to draw the line. From building up lofty expectations ahead of mega ICC events like the World Cup to breaking scandalous stories without any head and tail, taking the refuge of sources, the media, too, has played the villain in the story. Even when it comes to criticism, it has not always been constructive. Some of the brickbats given to players have been downright demeaning. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why the media and critics have been branded as ‘outside noise’.

Merely ignoring criticism is not a solution, though. To grow as a sportsperson, one needs to work on his/her flaws and improve them. Sensible journalism, as opposed to sensational journalism, is the order of the day. Of course, that seems a bit too much to expect in an era of social media reporting. What cannot be denied, though, is the fact that media and players have to coexist in the same ecosystem. One cannot survive without the other. Both parties thus need to find common ground leading to healthy debates for the betterment of Indian cricket. Any takers here?

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