Canít plug this leak


By the time you read this, the Brisbane Test might be into its second session. Hashim Amla might have fallen moments after exchanging words with the bowler. Or Australia might be batting, and Dale Steyn might have dismissed both their left-handed openers.

In either instance, your thoughts may have turned to the 'leaked' dossier ó reportedly penned by Australia coach Mickey Arthur ó that The Courier-Mail got their hands on. The dossier detailed each of the South Africans' 'weaknesses': that Amla is susceptible to sledging, that Steyn struggles against left-handers.

Graeme Smith has said that the dossier would only fire up his players. Michael Clarke has said that the Australians hadn't prepared any dossier.

Did the Australian camp plant it to spark pre-series mind-games, or was the 'leak' merely a tabloid prank? Whatever its origins, the dossier will influence the series; not overtly óJacques Kallis won't suddenly worry about the short ball ó but subtly, in how the media reports on-field events and shapes their course.

It's impossible to determine cause and effect from a press box. But suppose Graeme Smith were LBW ó a weakness, according to 'Mickeyleaks' ó early on. Newspapers will suggest that the dossier had "played on Smith's mind." Smith will read this, or get asked about it. And this might cause the dossier to worm its way into his consciousness.

Last year, Sachin Tendulkar spent a long time stuck on 99 international hundreds. Initially, the impending milestone may not have affected him. But he was reminded of it every time he opened, or avoided opening, a newspaper. Soon, it must have become impossible for him to not think about it. We may soon observe similar entanglements between sport and its narration.

Karthik is a senior correspondent based in Delhi

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