As kids, we heard a famous story from Aesop's Fable titled The Boy Who Cried Wolf. The tale involved a shepherd boy who repeatedly tricks nearby villagers into thinking a wolf is attacking his town's flock. When a wolf actually does appear and the boy again calls for help, the villagers believe that it is another false alarm and the sheep are eaten by the wolf. From this story, the English idiom 'To Cry Wolf' is defined as 'Giving a false alarm'.
The Boy Who Cried Wolf is an apt title for the way media has operated when it comes to the obsession of announcing MS Dhoni's retirement. Ever since the end of the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, Dhoni has made himself unavailable for selection for the West Indies tour. The first instance of retirement rumours started swirling when Dhoni was not picked for the three-match Twenty20 International series against South Africa. Many people missed the point that Dhoni's two-month break was to end on September 21 and MSK Prasad, the chief selector, had said Dhoni had made himself unavailable for selection.
However, the news about MS Dhoni's retirement reached a crescendo on September 8. A website announced that Dhoni was going to hold a press conference at 4 PM. It did not state what was it all about. Media outlets, driven by TRP, SEO Trends and fake news on social media had already announced that Dhoni was going to announce his retirement. Everybody had prepared their tribute pieces ready. However, come 4 PM, it did not happen. In fact, throughout the day, it did not happen. The original source, which announced the press conference, came out at 7 PM stating that Dhoni had cancelled the press conference because he had to 'attend his daughter Ziva's parents teacher association meeting'.
The joke was on the media itself. Social media users, who had themselves established a presence by commenting on Dhoni's retirement, now decided to troll the media.
The next instance was even more bizarre. On September 12, Virat Kohli had tweeted a photo with MS Dhoni reminiscing about their magnificent partnership which knocked Australia out of the 2016 World T20 in Mohali. It was just a random photo, without any context and without any relevance. Kohli did what any normal human being would do, which was to share a good memory irrespective of time.
This time, social media users ensured #Dhoni and #DhoniRetires trended heavily as speculation reached fever pitch. There was yet another fake announcement of a news conference announcing the same.
Yet again, many media outlets speculated on MS Dhoni's retirement. Once again, the criteria for putting out the news was not editorial judgment. It was again fickle trends, Google Trends, SEO Trends, Social Media Trends. These trends have mostly been hit and miss in the era of digital journalism and once again in this case, it was a big miss. India's chief selector had to dismiss it as incorrect reports while Sakshi Dhoni said it was all 'rumours'.
MS Dhoni's retirement speculations have shown the amount of fakery that exists in the social media. It has shown how many media outlets have thrown editorial judgment out of the window by relying on fickle trends. Dhoni's retirement has seen many media outlets go the extra desperate mile in order to get an impression on top search engine pages. No wonder, there are questions galore on why digital journalism lacks credibility.
When Dhoni actually announces his retirement, there will be relief that finally it has happened. It is a sad way to go as media have ensured that a significant milestone of India's greatest captain has been reduced to insignificance due to the desperation of digital journalism's numbers.
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