Anurag Thakur, the new Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary, made all the right utterances on assuming office last week.
“Our utmost priority is to restore the confidence of the people in cricket and to work on the image of cricket and the board,” he told the media in Chennai after defeating Sanjay Patel to clinch the most active of roles in cricket administration. The Board secretary is more vital than even the president because it is he who has to run the day-to-day affairs of the Board.
Just to prove that he walks the talk, Thakur was quick to issue a media release as soon as, I presume, he understood the problem involving an irate Virat Kohli, who reportedly abused a Delhi-based journalist before the India vs West Indies World Cup match at Perth. File pic
Just to prove that he walks the talk, Thakur was quick to issue a media release as soon as, I presume, he understood the problem involving an irate Virat Kohli, who reportedly abused a Delhi-based journalist before the India vs West Indies World Cup match at Perth. Cynics would reckon Thakur had no option but to indulge in some damage control, but Thakur and the BCCI did the right thing by saying, “the player in question (read Kohli) has been told to maintain the dignity of the Indian team at all times, and avoid any such behaviour in the future.”
Thakur even made the media feel good by stating, “the BCCI respects the role played by the media in covering and popularising the game of cricket, and acknowledges the support of the media, in its mission to administer and promote the game of cricket in India.” That’s a fact and I hope other administrators, some of whom strut around in their corridors of powers with the swagger of a Viv Richards, feel the same about the media’s role.
Having said that, the media don’t have to be obliged all the time and they realise that. What they expect in the least is proper and regular information of the team. This Indian team is no ordinary outfit. It’s the most followed bunch of players in world cricket if not world sport and it’s disrespectful to them that they are made to live in their own cocoon.
Going by reports, the Indian team’s media manager for the World Cup Dr RN Baba appears to be more interested in keeping the large Press contingent at bay rather than paving the way for a smooth team-media relationship. No one expects player interviews to be granted to individual journalists during such a critical tournament but this complete abhorrence to get players speaking to the media group during gaps in games smacks of arrogance.
One travelling journalist reported that players have been asked not to greet media persons. Wonder what will happen if the media decides to boycott press conferences and what will the team’s and World Cup sponsors think of that.
Baba’s terse advisory about coach Duncan Fletcher leaving Australia recently to attend his father-in-law’s funeral in Cape Town was a ridiculous piece of public affairs. “Duncan has left for Cape Town to attend the funeral of his Father in law,” is what Baba sent out to the media on February 26.
Probably, Baba just doesn’t have the power to do what is right during the mega event. He could be merely following instructions from southern India where he lives, but what stops him from even addressing India’s coach appropriately? The bereaved head coach may be Duncan to Baba but to the media, he is Duncan Fletcher.
It is surprising that the support staff members are not sent to have a chat with the media on non-match days. Surely, assistant coach Sanjay Bangar can hold his own in a media interaction. Or for that matter, Fletcher, who can tell us about the other factors that are making this Indian team tick.
Fletcher’s aversion to the Indian media is a mystery. It’s no secret that he doesn’t like doing press conferences after his bad experience with the media pack when he was coach of England (1999 to 2007), but the Indian media can’t be so tigerish for him to stay away. Another thing is inexplicable: When Fletcher was upset with the views of big personalities like Geoff Boycott, Henry Blofeld and Michael Parkinson during his England stint, he tackled them head-on, so why should a man of his stature and achievement be bullet-shy now especially at a time when his team is on song.
India’s media strategy is non-existent and hopefully, there will be a better choice for the Board when it comes to appointing a media manager for the next tour. It’s a tough job, but Baba has made it a very easy one for him. His response to the Kohli controversy was precious: “There was a misunderstanding and no abusive language was used, Virat has spoken to the concerned gentlemen immediately and matter ends...”
A veteran journalist wrote back to Baba: “Many thanks for your email - it is greatly appreciated. One clarification please: I am a bit confused, if no abusive language was used, and we believe you completely, could you please enlighten us as to what the misunderstanding could possibly be about? Was it a case of misunderstood camaraderie? Awaiting your reply, Thanking you.”
As expected, there was no reply.
As Board secretary, Thakur can set things right. He needs to hunt for a man who can be firm with the media and help them professionally at the same time. Young Thakur is dynamic and a proven administrative achiever through his work at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association. If he plays to potential, his desire to improve the Board’s image will come to fruition.
Clayton Murzello is mid-day’s Group Sports Editor
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