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.