Insta mix great for the modern generation, but a chaotic presser is fun too – Times of India

Sunil Chhetri is interviewing Virat Kohli. Rohit Sharma is interviewing Mohd Shami. Shami is interviewing Irfan Pathan and Pathan is interviewing everyone under the sun.

Elsewhere, Rafael Nadal broke the internet last month by announcing on his social media accounts that on his instagram chat debut, he will be interviewing his great rival, Roger Federer.

Welcome to the lockdown world, forced by the Covid-19 pandemic. Here, the role of the sports journalist, who interviews sports stars and celebrities for a living, has evaporated.

Here, the stars ask questions to each other and in every five minutes, there is a headline-grabbing statement or something funny. It's all goody-goody. No chaos. No anger. No pandemonium.

With zero sporting action happening apart from the Bundesliga which resumed on May 16, these interactions enabled the editors of papers all over the globe, with some interesting matter to plan their editions.

Despite the openness and camaraderie between the stars though, one still longed for the barbed question and an angry riposte or a boycott of the press conference or a phone buzzing and the person addressing the press conference, answering it and chatting with a complete stranger for a good two minutes.

Having had the fortune of covering sport for a living, one has had the privilege or pain of attending press conferences or reading about them where some hilarious incidents have happened.

Here are a few.

The press conference just after the Indian team arrived from the 2005 tour of Zimbabwe, where the infamous Greg Chappell-Sourav Ganguly spat had occurred, and Chappell's e-mail to the Board's big-wigs about Ganguly's virtues, or lack of them, was leaked, was ironically conducted at a night club called Insomnia at Mumbai's iconic Taj hotel.

Judging by the sleepless nights both Ganguly and Chappell gave each other and also to the 24/7 news channel editors and anchors, the name of the venue for the interaction, seemed apt.

After being asked a tricky rhetorical question, the then BCCI President, Ranbir Singh Mahendra, addressing the reporter, thundered, "Mr ******, don't put mouth in my words."

Everyone had barely managed to gather themselves, when another gem arrived, when he was asked, "Sir. Coach saab ka email aap ne dekha hain?" (Have you read the coach's mail?)

The reply was frame-worthy and immortal and since Insomnia was a nightclub, one can say, it brought the 'floor' down.

"Nahin, maine padha nahin. Mera e-mail Bhiwani me tha." (I haven't read, my e-mail was in Bhiwani).

A few years earlier, when Ganguly as captain, had lost the first Test of that famous Border-Gavaskar Trophy series in 2001, inside three days, in Mumbai, the mood in the press conference was restive and the media seemed as if it was baying for Ganguly's blood.

The Prince of Kolkata sensed it. After a reporter asked in the press conference which had lasted over 40 minutes and involved angry and sarcastic questions and responses between the captain and the scribes, "Captain, you and the coach have talked a lot about need for character in this team. Did you see enough of that in the game here?"

The moment that question was asked, someone's Dictaphone which had a 45-minute cassette recorder, stopped and the red recording button was pushed up. That was the cue Ganguly was waiting for.

"This press conference has obviously gone on for too long," he said and left the room smiling. It broke the ice and was a good indicator of the sense of humour and timing the man had.

Indian captains always need to have a sense of humour because if you are grumpy, the media and the fans will get under your skin. The legendary Sunil Gavaskar usually had his way with words and with the bat.

After Imran Khan had destroyed India in Karachi during the 1982-83 series, the Indian section of the media was predictably very agitated and was demanding answers as to why the team looked so clueless against the great Pakistani all-rounder.

One reporter ranted, "So captain, Imran has once again destroyed you. Your batsman collapsed in one session. How do you plan to counter his reverse swing in the next Test?"

Gavaskar sensed the mood and also realised that it was important to get on a charm-offensive.

"I have a plan," he said, and added, "Put the sightscreen between Imran and our batsmen."

It was a brilliant response. It acknowledged Imran's skill, it acknowledged his team's cluelessness against Imran and it made the atmosphere less tense.

While he was no more the captain during India's 1985 tour to Sri Lanka, Gavaskar was still the team's premier batsman and hence the new skipper, Kapil Dev, wanted him to open the batting.

Gavaskar though had communicated his reluctance to open to the team and was pretty vocal about it in the media too. So, a journalist asked him in a media conference in Colombo, "So, Mr. Gavaskar, we hear that you won't open."

Gavaskar, sensed the scribe's need to search for a controversial quote and immediately said, "Who says I will not open? Of course, I will open. I will open bottles. I will open the doors to my room. I will open windows and cupboards."

It was a fabulous response.

Press conferences in the post-mobile phone era are a challenge too as they invariably ring despite requests from the media managers of respective teams to put them on silent mode as one of the housekeeping rules.

In one of his early press conferences as captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, while talking to the media, suddenly saw a phone being kept in front of the microphone, ring and disturb the press conference.

While others kept looking at the person whose phone it was, rather angrily, including the media manager, Dhoni, calmly picked up the phone, answered it, and told the guy at the other end, "Sahab busy chal rahe hain. Indian captain se baat kar rahe hain."

The media had got the story for the day. Cricket be damned.

Dhoni though wasn't very calm in the cool environs of England when the team landed there to defend their World T20 crown in June 2009.

There was intense speculation in the media that there was a rift between the skipper and his deputy, Virender Sehwag.

Sehwag was injured during the IPL held in South Africa just before the tournament.

When a reporter asked Dhoni about Sehwag's absence from the training session in Nottingham, he indifferently muttered, "May be you should ask his physio to issue a press release."

He then paraded the whole team as a sign of unity and refused to take questions.

Dhoni was always the man for the quotable quote. In Australia, when he was leading a young side in the Tri-series after the Test series which India had lost 0-4, Dhoni was asked about the change in the dressing room. His reply was classic, "From Kishore Kumar, we have gone to Sean Paul."

He was also the man to defend his teammates strongly. When a reporter advertised his impertinence in Australia and asked Dhoni, why does Shikhar Dhawan only score against weaker teams? He put him in his place by saying, "Because no team is stronger than India."

After his captaincy stint ended, one does not get to see much of Dhoni in pressers. One also has not seen him on Insta chats.

They would not be fun anyway. Apart from wanting sporting action to resume, one also hopes for a return to overcrowded press conferences where witty responses are given to tricky questions and phones go off.

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