Friday, February 25, 2005


When the air was cleared about the Pakistani team going ahead to play a one-dayer in Ahmedabad and when it became clear that Chennai would not be on the venue menu, the strength of the sigh of relief heaved by the TV journalists here was enough to power a largish village. Cricket's cool.... its great... its fun... but only if you're a fan. Because get close to the game, especially as a journalist and it starts to smell really bad. I speak of course only of Indian cricket. I haven't covered cricket abroad. The administrative side of the game (ie. the various boards and the various busybodies in them) is unprofessional, unfriendly and their decisions sometimes, downright ridiculous. The machinations of the Board of course, have been laid bare by the television rights controversy but heres another example that bolsters the earlier thought.

I arrived at the Chepauk stadium during the India-Australia test match in '04 only to find that despite my pass they wouldnt let me in. The TNCA (Tamil Nadu cricket association) had received an e-mail from some BCCI babu in Delhi saying 'Do not allow NDTV and Star News into the stadium'. Providing a reason as part of the mail was obviously considered a waste of time.

The next step was to call my office in Delhi to tell them about this warm reception. They in turn called the BCCI and flexed some journalistic muscle. The ban stood cancelled. You cant keep the channels with the eyeballs out and expect everything to be right with the world. To date I dont know what inspired the mail. The growth of cricket in the sub-continent shares a deep relationship with the growth of television, and media relations is a huge big deal although as a concept the Board knows that. But in India, what the Board also knows is that you can treat the media like shit, and they'll still come back. Not because they want to, but because they have to. Not because various editors like to have their reporters insulted and humiliated but because the cricket nut with war paint dictates it. So the Board which is supposed to be the 'promoter' of cricket doesn't need media relations. I hope the picture is becoming clearer...

Whenever I read an article or a quote about how most sports in India are floundering because of the heavy accent on cricket, it doesnt sound like an old crib to me. It's true and with overuse has become a cliche. So i really hope that Sania Mirza lifts tennis to a mass sport and other sports throw up their enduring heroines and heroes, because if for nothing else and although in a small dose, i've had enough of covering cricket.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


My tsunami jottings are the product of a rusty memory... but here they will be anyway.

I had just about wrapped up the shoot at the Government Hospital in Nagapattinam when I ran into two young men wandering about with a box of syringes in their hands. Relief workers, they were. They came up to me and in conspiratorial tones said, they had just seen some dead bodies being buried on the hospital premises and requested I bring this to the notice of the hospital authorities. Since I hadn’t seen anything of the sort, I certainly wasn’t going to take these two strangers for their word. So I told them, I’d introduce them to the Regional Medical Officer (RMO) and they could make the complaint themselves. That way, id be assured that they weren’t lying and would then be able to confidently ask the RMO what the blazes was going on. But my two young friends didn’t seem to like the idea, saying they feared persecution. “You are in the press, so if you say it, nobody can harm you”, was their refrain. And a common refrain it is too. In this instance it struck me as being rather lily-livered. It gave me pleasure then to force the two into doing the job themselves.

The RMO, who, just a few minutes before, had been eagerly showing me the devastation in the hospital in the hope that it would draw the kind attention of wealthy donors, happened to be passing by. I flagged him down saying two young people wanted to make a complaint. Two things shocked me. First, the complete lack of spine displayed by the young chap… because all he could manage was some garbled account of what he had seen which ended with him asking the RMO if there was anything wrong in his disclosing it to me! And the second was the attitude employed by the officer. His first reaction was to rubbish the complaint, second was to stoutly say “nothing of the sort is happening” and the third was to simply turn around and march off. Sometimes we deserve such officers.