Friday, November 28, 2014

Phil Hughes - Sound, Fury and Silence

Harish Dwivedi, the chief editor of emerging website Cricket@SpeedofThought, was fuming.
“What do you mean you can’t trace him?”

Mahindran, the junior reporter, cowered in front of the thundering voice.

“Sir, Mike is not reachable on his mobile. We hear he is on a primitive fishing expedition on the oceans, with handmade fishing equipment on a catamaran.”

Dwivedi groaned. These youngsters had no inkling of news sense.
“I don’t want excuses, Mahindran. I want solutions. Go and find him. There are just a handful of oceans in the world and we can rule out Arctic and Antarctic. That narrows it down comprehensively. Now don’t stand here, go and find him.”


“He is the only celebrity who was struck exactly where Phil Hughes was, on that spot behind the ear. By the tail of the alligator he mistook for a log. It will make a hell of a story. I want the interview by today.”

Mahindran sighed and walked out, just managing to avoid being run over by the galloping steps of Sunrita.

Dwivedi’s overwrought face lit up at the sight of this bright young girl bubbling with spirit and joie de vivre. Ideas always seemed to seep out of her in fascinating oodles.

“Sir, I have sent  Pradeep out to Vishwanathan Anand.”

Dwivedi raised his eyebrows. “Anand?”

“Yes, sir. You see, Hughes was 63 not out.”

Dwivedi winced. Yes, 63 not out. He had seen that number too many times in the past few hours. He had almost put down those figures on a check for a freelancer.

 “And his shirt number was 64. We will speak to Anand about the 64 squares on a chess board. We will call it ‘One short in the game of life’”

Dwivedi’s harried face now spread into a smile. “Brilliant. Wait. Make it ‘One short in the game of life, mate’.  The ‘mate’ in italics. We need to link Anand, Chess and Australian cricket.”
Sunrita’s eyes looked at the chief’s face with undisguised wonder. “Sir, you are a genius.”

Dwivedi smiled only for a second. “Nothing of that sort, dear. Just experience. Now where is Avinash? I sent for him hours ago.”

“I saw him come in. He was on leave until day before yesterday” reported Sunrita. “He was putting a cap on a bat in his cubicle.”

Dwivedi groaned. “We have already splashed those pictures. Why’s he wasting his time with that now?” The boss whipped out his cell phone. “Avinash?” he barked. “Get your ass in here.”

The young man was already crossing the threshold as he answered the phone. Within a couple of 
seconds he was inside the cabin with a sheepish look on his face.

“I have been looking for you since the morning,” Dwivedi complained.

“Had to write up the twenty interviews I took yesterday.”

“Twenty interviews?”

“Yes, with those Harris Shield boys. Ten of them had been struck on the helmet last season. And the other ten were fans of Hughes.”

“Oh right. Are they online yet?”

“I sent them across for edits.”

“Christ. How many times have I got to repeat? It’s the ‘new’ bit that needs to be important in News. Don’t make it old. Publish them. People never read, they just share. It will be days before typos are found out. You are senior enough to know that, Avinash. And listen. Do that piece about your meeting with Hughes during the Ashes.”

Avinash started.


“You met him when you covered the Ashes, didn’t you? Write about that.”

“But, I didn’t meet him.”

“What the hell were you doing in Australia in that case?”

“He did not play in the Ashes, sir. He was not in the team.”

Dwivedi snapped. He could not take it anymore. “We cannot afford to be bothered with technicalities now, Avinash. Heaven knows we are running out of time.”

“I was too busy writing about Trott and Swann during the Ashes …”

“Crap. Write one down anyway. How you met him and what he told you his future plans. He’s not going to come down here and deny it now, will he?”

Sunrita nodded. “Neville Cardus often wrote about matches he did not watch.”

Dwivedi clasped his hands. “There, you see? Follow great journalistic examples. Now don’t stand here looking at my face. Get on it. And assemble everyone for the ideation session immediately.”

A dazed Avinash walked out. Dwivedi turned to Sunrita. “I only wish everyone thought on their feet like you do, my dear girl. Nari – check, Sandeep – check, Jimmy – check, Brijesh – check. Have we spoken to Dilip about his getting hit on the face by Marshall?”

“Not yet, but we are on it.”

A hushed murmur of several voices indicated that the team had assembled. Dwivedi stepped out of his cabin and looked at the haggard eyes that stared back at him.

“Stop looking tired, guys,” he barked.

The eyes blinked and tried hard to manufacture sparkle and shine.

“These are defining moments of the industry. We live for news. And this is breaking. Ramesh, where are you?”

A bespectacled face whimpered that he was present.

“I need a statistical article. 63. Break it up. 7 times 9, 21 times three. Check how many other ways we can do that.”

“Those are the only ways of factorising it sir.”

Dwivedi could hardly keep himself from tearing his hair. “What’s the matter with you young folks? Always speaking of constraints. Find other ways of factorising. Think out of the box. And for each of these numbers, 7, 21, 9 – come up with something related to Hughes. Seven centuries, 21 catches whatever. Show incredible connections. A few numbers and a few facts will have the readers drooling about coincidences.”

“Sure sir.”

“I need a fictitious FB chat between Hughes and – who’s that oldest Test cricketer who died last year?”

“Norman Gordon, sir.”

 “Yes. The two of them talking about time on earth or that sort of a thing. Philosophical, but not too intelligent. We have to think of the readers too.”

“Something along Philosophy for dummies, sir?”

“Exactly. Prasun …”

“Yes sir.”

“Michael Clarke cried today. Make a list of all the speeches that had cricketers sobbing, weeping, crying. Go back in time. Kim Hughes and all that.”

“Okay sir.”

“Any other ideas? I am looking at all of you. This is the moment to pitch in with every sort of idea that we can use.”

A hand went up. Predictably, it was Sunrita’s. “Sir, I was thinking – since you had that excellent idea of factorising 63…”


“Can we make a collage of Shakespeare quotes. All the world’s a stage and we are all players … and then the seven ages of man, and the thrice again to make up nine from Macbeth. Seven into nine again gives 63.”

Dwivedi frowned. “Excellent idea, but we will park it for now. We cannot ask the readers to think of Shakespeare and multiply seven and nine at the same time. Too much of a stretch. We will use this for the monthly special. But, great. We need thoughts like these.”

Dwivedi paused. “Have we got the Hughes exclusive from the lady who reads tea leaves?”

“I am following up on that sir, we will get it soon.”

“I want a new cartoon. Any ideas?”

Another young lad spoke up. “What if we show people leaving a Forever21 store in New York and entering a Forever63 store beside it? With Hughes standing there with his bat and a smile?”

“Hmm…,” Dwivedi thought hard.

“We can call it new star attraction, sir. With the star standing for not out?”

It was Sunrita who had the clincher again. “We can set this cartoon in heaven. It can be captioned, 
'New Store beyond the Pearly Gates. Forever 63'.”

Dwivedi snapped his fingers. “Excellent. This is what the ideation sessions are all about. Sandeep, work on it. Any other ideas? I saw some cartoons of him walking out with Bradman. I would like one with WG Grace. Can we have something on how Hughes could have been the left handed Bradman?”

“Er, he averaged just 32 sir,”

Dwivedi waved his hands. “Numbers are not everything, Ramesh. The man is dead. That should amount to something.”

The young man looked disconcerted. Snapped at by the chief twice within minutes. He desperately racked his brains. “Well, we can bring in the Victor Trumper angle if required. He also died young and averaged less than 40. Most others have missed it.”

“Super. Any other ideas?”

There was silence. If there was one thing that scared Dwivedi it was silence.

“Think. We have to show respect to the departed batsman in every way we can.”

 “Well, sir.” A small voice spoke now, and the volume and tone spoke eloquently about the timidity associated with inexperience.

Dwivedi turned around, surprised. This was Jay, the newest intern, two days old in the office. He did not expect the baby of the team to speak in meetings. But then, Dwivedi was well aware that he planted seeds of future journalists everywhere he went.

“Yes, Jay.”

“Perhaps the best way to show respect is to shed a silent tear.”

Dwivedi raised his eyebrows.

“Of course. Excellent thought. We must get this idea across and splash more silent tears than anyone else in the news world. Great idea. How do we do it? What about a picture of a tear with an intelligent, concise, crisp, smart caption which touches the heart? Get on wikiquotes and thinkexist. We can update it hourly and make as much noise with the silence as possible.”

“Er …,” Jay hesitated.

“Yes, young man?”

“I meant true silence, sir. Respect from the heart. Sometimes it is better to grieve in solitude.”

Dwivedi looked at him in stunned silence. In other words, there was a full twenty seconds of ‘true silence’. He was truly at a loss for words before he snapped out of it and said, “Back to your desks, everyone.”

By late afternoon, Jay had been handed the pink slip.  

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