Friday, February 25, 2005

THE BOARD AND ITS BABUS

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.

5 comments:

HR Venkatesh said...

you're lucky man, you just have to cover veerappan and tsunami. I have to do the Pak series!!

hmm, wonder which's worse...

Dileep said...

Hmmm, quite harsh, but can't argue with anything you've said. But your cribs apart, it was nice having you at the game because you weren't intimidated or scared to ask questions that bothered people. Far too many journos now don't like to rock the boat...

Dileep said...

Can't argue with anything you've written, red umbrella woman. That said, it was nice having you at the match since you didn't seem to care who your questions offended. Too many journos these days are petrified of rocking the boat, and make a good living on inanity.

Soumya said...

I am no journalist myself and can't really relate to your experiences. But I assure you that I am as much a 'non-fan' of Cricket as you are. I feel that the cricket-mania in India has gone far over the brim and it's high time something was done; but what?

Even the repeated failures in the Olympics are unable to stir our sense of self-respect and dignity. After every Olympic (when countries with one-tenth the population of ours take away ten times more medals than we do) we see a lot of pledges coming from everywhere: ministers, athletes, coaches... But these promises fade away sooner than they came and Cricket again takes over.

It may be true that Cricket is a gentleman's game (although it is tuning out to be more the opposite) but it is also the game of the rich. Had the crores and crores of money spent in sponsoring even a small tounament been diverted to other sports, it could have brought us many more smiles and much more respect. Also now, after more than 50 yrs of independence, when we are so concerned about changing everything associated with our colonists, why stick to this game which was one of their greatest legacy? I would say that our traditional sports like Kho-kho, Kabaddi, etc. are far more interesting to watch as well as play and are far less expensive.

Moreover, being a part of one game of Cricket is equivalent to wasting a day, or even 5 days (in the 'ideal' case) of our precious time. I don't know if a developing country like ours can afford such a thing. Please think about it.

Revanta said...

Though Sania has brought tennis into the limelight recently, i'm afraid that all that will happen is
- a few sponsors will throw money her way
- she will succumb to the pressure of the Indian fans expecting her to win every Grand Slam event she plays
- we'll be back to playing the game the British left behind; the game that we play as though we invented it ...