Class Action

Bowled by a Full Toss

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Kolkata Knight Riders’ CEO reflects on how a gullible media was beaten comprehensively when the Fake IPL Player ‘broke’ dressing room news.

After 16 months, another ‘insider’ Fake Pakistani World Cup player blog, and a ‘game-changing’ book, the Fake IPL Player finally revealed his identity.

Surprise, surprise. He isn’t someone from Kolkata Knight Riders. He isn’t someone from the Indian Premier League. He isn’t a cricket journalist. And he wasn’t even in South Africa. Turns out, he’s a person sitting in Bangalore, whose only sources of information were the net and newspapers.

I have few issues with Anupam. He wrote racy stuff—called himself the Fake IPL Player, so anyone believed him at his own risk—and generally had a blast tearing his imaginary team apart. As he admitted, he didn’t have the faintest idea that it would become so big. Good for him, though I have a feeling some of those nicknames will not have gone down well. If his revelations get him enough publicity to sell his film script or book or whatever it is that he is planning to peddle, that’s his gain.

My problem, specifically, is with the mainstream media I dealt with in South Africa at the time. In that period, I met journalists from every leading newspaper and most of the channels. Obviously, their one question was who I thought it was. And my stock answer was: he still thought that players in IPL teams had roommates (the Indian team has allotted single rooms for the longest time), that the team played water volleyball in Cape Town, which was freezing that April (also, the water volleyball happened a year ago in Kolkata), and that we had team meetings every other day. Conclusion: this guy was not even on the same continent as the IPL.

I went on to tell them not to believe a word I said but to check the easily verifiable facts. For example, did the team take a flight that morning as mentioned, was there a team meeting in the hotel on a particular day, did the team practise at the nets that day? All these facts were easily verifiable, and certainly not restricted information. Any journalist present there could have found out in half an hour that the blogger was writing absolute rubbish when it came to verifiable details. And if he was wrong about these details, why on earth should they believe him when he wrote about what transpired in nonexistent team meetings?

It has been argued that it was easier and more enjoyable to just follow the blog—whether it was true or not was immaterial. In which case, I have a hard time understanding why there was so much feverish speculation on the identity of the blogger. Obviously, there was a strong belief in the media that there was some inside information.

It didn’t seem to strike a single journalist that it made sense to just check out a few details to see how much truth there was to the blog. There were more than a hundred journalists in South Africa, and not one of them did a background check. Not one editor decided that this was bullshit, and therefore a great opportunity to leave the rest of the media with egg on their face by proving it was a complete fabrication. Most of all, a fabrication by a guy who called it the Fake IPL Player blog. As a friend remarked, which part of ‘fake’ did they not understand?

Sixteen months on, I still do not see a single publication admitting they got taken for a ride. Not one teeny-weeny bit of introspection, or an article or television programme about how they were misled. I would love to know if any editor has lashed out at his reporting team, asking them how they could have been duped so easily. Or is that asking for too much from our media?