Player-journos do the hard yards too!

Mar 29, 2012, 12:46 IST | Clayton Murzello

I've marvelled at once-upon-a-time cricketing stars being able to put their glittering past behind and concentrate on their present job

I've read about how Richie Benaud, during his travelling-cricket- writer years, sweating over what his rival journalists dished out next morning in the form of story angles.

Watching West Indies pace great Colin Croft work away on his audio and written reports for a popular broadcasting firm during a tournament in Sri Lanka in 2005 increased my admiration for him which till then was for his bowling and pilot duties.

Two years earlier, in Sydney, I was amazed how Greg Chappell, who would later become coach of India, concentrated on his column for an Indian magazine without being distracted by what was happening on the ground where Steve Waugh was doing his lap of honour after his last Test match for Australia. Despite being a case of being there, done that, the emotional farewell was worth watching.

Cutting straight to the chase: Mike Atherton is a fine journalist and broadcaster, who performs his media roles well without his cricketing background making it a smoother road for him.

Greg's brother Ian, too is an old pro in sports journalism (yes, Chappelli has done other sports too). He was once asked why was he so critical of Kim Hughes' captaincy in the first half of the 1980s considering he had been an captain before. In response, Ian said: "Of course, I was captain of Australia, but I am not the Australia captain now. I am a journalist now and my job is to be honest to my readers. If someone isn't performing, I have to say so." By the way, Ian was critical of Greg too and spared no brotherly love in his criticism of the underarm incident in 1981.

Michael Holding has now spent more years as a commentator than the number of years he played international cricket. He's a true blue professional with strong views on the game. His interview of match referee Mike Procter after Inzamam-ul-Haq refused to bring his team out on the field in the Oval Test of 2006 showed that he could be splendid on both sides of the fence. Cricket lovers in the Caribbean won't forget how Holding refused a commentary assignment in the West Indies because he didn't agree with the decision to appoint Carl Hooper as captain a decade ago.

Mike Atherton too is a fine journalist and broadcaster, who performs his media roles well without his cricketing background making it a smoother road for him. When Sachin Tendulkar was training at the Nursery End at Lord's before the first Test against England last July, Atherton watched nervously, as deadline time drew near, the Indian master at work through the glass protection at the back of the high press box.

He came up with the following lines: "Has any cricketer been so defined by his actions as Tendulkar? As if to reinforce the point, the first sighting yesterday was of him in full batting kit: helmeted, padded and ready to practice. With Rahul Dravid, he was the first into the nets and remained long after Dravid had left, seeing off the next man in, Gautam Gambhir, too. There are no short cuts to greatness."

The other day, it was pleasantly surprising to discover Atherton coming up with another fine piece of journalism. Atherton must be applauded for conducting one of the most important interviews of all time � Mohammad Amir. Going by the transcript that is put up on ESPN Cricinfo, Atherton sized up the 'conditions' well.

He didn't go full steam at the start. He served up a few 'half volleys' to his subject before the tough questions came along. But the soft questions on Amir's childhood and early mentors were not wasted. This particular question not only showed that Atherton had done his homework, but also that he could be as probing as a detective: "And then he (a businessman called Ali) asked you for your bank account details at some point and you sent your bank account details to him?"

Atherton has interests beyond cricketing boundaries. In 2006, his book on Gambling hit the stands. Wonder if he gave Amir a copy.

Clayton Murzello is MiD DAY's Group Sports Editor

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