I know I've blogged about this before, but seriously, why is it so hard for the NY Times to turn out a news story about India that doesn't degenerate into misrepresentation, ridiculous stereotyping and general incoherence?
So India wins some new-fangled cricket tournament. Fine, whatever. This is not a hard story to write.
Para 1: "Cricket fans on the subcontinent were jubilant today as....Twenty20...blah blah".
Para 2: New format - change from one day matches, which themselves were shortened form of test matches - 20-over format talked about for a while - (weren't there some earlier attempts to do something similar).
Para 3: Well received - hope will be more popular format - quotes from cricketers on how they feel about it? (note to self: if current team is not reachable, find retired cricketers and ask) - purists?
Para 4: Context of win - Cricket in the popular imagination - status of cricketers - yet, World Cup, etc. - excitement that Indian team actually won something - how much of popular reaction to this new form is biased by that?
Para 5: (Closing) Exciting new phase for cricket? Maybe, maybe not. Fireworks in New Delhi for now anyway.
There. Cheesy, true, but as simple as falling off a log.
Instead, we get this grotesque mockery of a piece from Somini Sengupta, who doesn't seem to have seen a cricket match since 1972 and apparently figures that just because she's writing a piece about cricket is no reason to leave out all the other tidbits she's been collecting for stories she's never going to get around to doing now.
Look, I have no interest in cricket and haven't watched a cricket match in ten years, but even I know that cricket does not consist of "gentleman players" distinguishing themselves in "white trousers and knit vests" in a "customary" five day match. Ms. Sengupta is contrasting this new format with a caricature of cricket that resembles the modern game about as much as life in England today resembles the novels of P. G. Wodehouse.
But that, frankly, is the least of her crimes. The really appalling bits are the ones that involve 'deep exploration of the Indian psyche'. So we're told that one of the gifts of this "new face of Indian cricket" is
"to present, for the first time, a powerfully athletic presence on the pitch. Athleticism has never been associated with Indian cricket, nor with Indians in general, and that has been a chip on the shoulder of Indian manhood."
Wtf? Not only am I supposed to have spent the last 28 years of my life feeling insecure about my manhood because I'm Indian and Indians are not athletic (why don't they tell you this stuff in school?), I can now stop feeling conflicted about it, not because I've got any fitter, but because some unshaven troglodyte can swing a piece of wood. Joy. I wonder what Indian manhood is going to do the next time the Indian cricket team gets trounced, which should take, oh, about two weeks? Ms. Sengupta attributes this opinion to one Rajdeep Sardesai  and "other cricket watchers" (whatever that means), but even if they actually said this, is it really so hard to see how completely ridiculous the statement is?
It gets worse. We're then told that
"The average age on the 11-man Indian lineup was about 23, and on the Pakistani team just under 25. That reflected two disproportionately young nations: the median age in India is about 24, and in Pakistan, 19."
Huh? Again, I know nothing about cricket, but I would think most cricket teams would tend to be fairly young - with average ages in the sub-25 range, completely independent of the demographic profile of the country they were drawn from. Surely it would be more relevant to tell us how the average ages of the Indian and Pakistani teams compare to the average age of other nations participating in the tournament? Or with the average age of the one-day sides of these two countries.
My favorite part, though, is this:
"It was impossible for the cricket-watching audience, which today excludes very few Indians, not to seize on the metaphors that Twenty20 offers for the changes sweeping the country, like the rise of small-town working class India and the fading of the old cricket decorum itself."
Really? So in a population of (purportedly) one billion viewers there wasn't a single one who was just enjoying the game for the sport itself? No, no, they were all sitting there thinking "What a lovely shot! Soaring straight into the stands! What a glorious metaphor for the rise of the Sensex". Or "Look, look, that boy from Ranchi hit another four! Don't Class A towns rock?". And just why was it "impossible" for them "not to seize on the metaphor"? What if they tried really, really hard? And will someone please explain to me how Twenty20 is a 'metaphor' for the fading of the old cricket decorum? Or for that matter how the fading of the old cricket decorum is a "change sweeping the country"?
The next paragraph achieves even greater incoherence:
"Much was made of the fact that the captain, Mr. Dhoni, grew up in an uncelebrated eastern city called Ranchi. The batsman S. Sreesanth, it was said, defied cricket manners by being unusually aggressive. The bowler Joginder Sharma was celebrated as the son of a small shopkeeper who could afford to buy no more than a cloth ball for his son."
I'm not even going to ask what "uncelebrated" means. Or what "cricket manners" are, or what being "unusually aggressive" consists of, or by whom "it was said". Or why Ms. Sengupta needs to say both "defied cricket manners" and "unusually aggressive" - surely each by itself would be enough? But I'd love for someone to tell me what sentence two has to do with sentences one and three. The latter are about cricketer's background, the former is (supposedly) about their behavior. Is there a reason why those two themes need to alternate? Twelve-year olds can write better than this.
Finally, I must make special mention of the line "Twenty20 was accompanied by cheerleaders wearing what resembled sports bras". First, what is something that resembles a sports bra? Can you buy them in stores? At what point do they stop resembling sports bras and actually become sports bras? I'm not being flippant, really. I'm genuinely curious. After all, these are weighty issues, probably allegorical of the uplift of India's poor and / or a long-standing chip on the shoulder of Indian womanhood. Second, was there a particular kind of garment these women were wearing, or did they just put on anything that struck them as resembling a sports bra? Third, were they really "cheerleaders" or were they just cheering fans?
Look, I understand that journalists get tough deadlines and don't have the luxury of doing as much research as they would like to. I get that they may have no interest in cricket and be bored and bewildered by having to write about it. Hell, I empathize. But that doesn't excuse writing this ridiculously bad - poorly structured, sloppily edited and full of non sequiturs and hyperbole. And it doesn't excuse propounding some half-baked theory or unsubstantiated generalization and passing it off as fact. This piece reads like it belongs in the Delhi Times. And it's a shame that people who know nothing about cricket or India are going to read it and come away with an even more warped understanding of both than they started with.
 By the way, Twenty20? Most uninspired name ever.
 And that's another thing - why is it that whenever the NY Times interviews people in India for 'public opinion' they always seem to find the loopiest fruitcakes? It is so difficult to find someone capable of offering an intelligent, lucid point of view? I don't know who this Sardesai character is, but someone should make him stay back after school and write "I shall not use shopworn cliches, such as the names of daytime soaps I watched in my hormone soaked adolescent days, in interviews with the international press" 500 times with a blunt pencil.