Dearth of international action in Pakistan is killing our sports writers
Unable to host international teams has many repercussions — your players are always on the road; the budding ones don’t get enough chances to impress; the closest the crowd can get to the action depends on the size of the TV screens, and the federations’ cash-flow is heavily affected. The many biryani wallahs, chat wallahs and rickshaw wallahs miss out on their third Eid, too.
However, going through the many emails and articles on a daily basis, it has been discovered that the dearth of international action in Pakistan is also destroying the future of its sports writers. While domestic players lose out on opportunities to feature against the touring teams, it also means that those interested in writing about it are confined to the TV screens and not press boxes.
Times are tough for publications all over given the state of the economy and the booming market that is the online world. In Pakistan, not many newspapers have the cash, or the wish, to send sports journalists on tours. The boards do keep aside a budget but the list seldom features a rookie. As a result, some lose interest while others lose direction.
Live action, complemented by conversation, is food for the pen. The knowledge gained from presence in the press box, press conferences or at a training session is invaluable. It not only adds to the knowledge of the game but also provides those special moments you can reference even a decade later. It gives you that special feeling of getting paid to watch sports while your friends tap away at the keyboards, suffocating in that suit and tie.
You start making contacts – with players, officials and grounds men – not realising that you will still be talking to them years later.
The flourishing world of sofa journalism and blogging, meanwhile, has dented the future of sports writing in Pakistan further. The content of the countless emails and tweets I get from people who want to write about sports – especially cricket – fails to give hope either. My search for fresh bylines, of people who can provide an insight without relaying what has already been seen, ends mostly in disappointment. Barring a few, the majority’s source of information is the experts’ views on TV and newspapers, brainwashed into believing what they want all to believe.
The future looks bleak.
Have you ever attended a match at the stadium?
Have you ever spoken to the person you’re writing about?
Don’t you know it’s called the World Twenty20 and not the Twenty20 World Cup?
Can you differentiate between a penalty kick and a penalty scoop? Do you realise that an ‘expert comment’ isn’t just repeating the match bulletin? You wrote Shane Watson is an annoying person to talk to because some other journalist thinks so? We don’t have a choice, they say, there isn’t anything happening in Pakistan.
You turn to the sports pages and you prove them wrong — President’s Trophy, Pakistan Premier Football League, Ranking Snooker Cup, National Women’s Football Championship plus various other local events. The opportunity exists, the accessibility provided. National players are acting their trade on the field and apart from a chance for a detailed chat it is also the performance at your disposal.
The interest is there but what about the effort?
The fans are forced to stay away but those who yearn for live action and write about it, choose to. People often argue watching TV and reading articles is enough. For some it may be, but for others, it shows when the thoughts are converted into words.
A captain will be bashed after a loss while the view is limited to only where the ball travels. The rallying around the troops will be an act missed because the TV screen only shows the action, not all the actors. The view is limited if you’re not at the ground. The thoughts and the writing shouldn’t be. Environment, conditions, attitude and much more can be grounded into the story. Your view can be as wide as the field (and beyond) and not just the width of your TV screen.
The art of forming an opinion is dying. These athletes have trained long and hard under the sun, not on the Xbox in their lounge. The least we can do is spend a few minutes under the shade.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.