The spot-fixing controversy has administered a shot of gloom in our cricket-loving hearts. Things get more depressing when we see inane television coverage of the controversy.
While journalists running and pushing for bytes can be understood, since that is the nature of their job, what is utterly distasteful is the constant sacrifice of credibility in the race to get one-up.
Soon after the Emergency (by the way, the BCCI press release on Saturday called it Emergent) meeting of the Working Committee, one channel ran a headline saying I S Bindra, the former BCCI chief, is not taking any questions from the media. After a couple of minutes Bindra appears on our screens talking about the shambolic meeting. This was not a case of flying off the handle, but losing the handle itself.
And aren’t we tired of full-of-ego-and-a-lot-more television show hosts who invite guests on their show and don’t allow them to say their bit?
One of the loud horns told viewers how his channel ran a certain number of stories on the spot-fixing issues. Now, that made one laugh. On one of the spot fixing debates, cricket historian Gulu Ezekiel was called in as a guest who I got to hear no more than twice and I missed Lalit Modi leaving in a huff when he discovered he was not getting anywhere in the debate.
Srinivasan ought to have moved aside as soon as his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan was named in the controversy. That was the only fair thing to do. This kissa kursi ka has well and truly been entrenched in cricket infamy. But there was merit in the trial-by-media view and there were traces of a witch hunt in some of the coverage.
The BCCI’s overall attitude to the media has not helped matters and I believe Srinivasan paid the price for that. If this controversy does not cause an upgrading of their archaic, rusty PR machinery nothing will. That the BCCI couldn’t organise a press conference after the Emergency Working Committee meeting in Chennai showed the layers of thick skin the administrators have grown in the Srinivasan era.
In this dark phase, it will be unfair to ignore Srinivasan’s contribution as treasurer and secretary of the BCCI. Also, former cricketers shouldn’t forget that it was under Srinivasan’s tenure as president that the one-time payment was granted to them. Sure, they deserve the money and those payments were not made from Srinivasan’s pocket, but as BCCI chief he endorsed it. I know one cricketer who, according to the BCCI’s research, was not eligible for a one-time payment, but he wrote to Srinivasan with details of his career. His case was looked into and today the player is batting on a better wicket as it were.
A few years ago — before Srinivasan became an office bearer of the BCCI — a wife of a former India player, who was cancer-stricken, told me how Srinivasan went out of his way to arrange for his huge medical bills be taken care of.
So while we look above at the dark clouds hovering over our best-loved sport, we also need to display a sense of fair play ourselves.
Doubtless, the dirt piling up in Indian cricket is providing good reason for other cricketing nations to gloat. They must be fair as well.
Think about this: The Champions Trophy has kicked off in England. It owes its existence to India because way back in the late 1990s, Jagmohan Dalmiya, as ICC chief and a key operator of the BCCI as well, asked then secretary Jaywant Lele to submit the BCCI’s affiliation fee to the ICC before time. It was because the ICC didn’t have funds to pay its staff. Dalmiya assured Lele, he won’t again ask for similar fees before due date. In 1998, the first Champions Trophy was held in Bangladesh. It was a huge hit and ICC were financially healthy again. The funds earned through the Champions Trophy over the years helped in cricketing development all over the globe.
This is the last edition of the Champions Trophy and the ICC is on a firm financial turf. Instead of gloating, the anti-India camp should invite Dalmiya, the interim BCCI chief, to give away the Champions Trophy to the winner on June 23.
Clayton Murzello is MiD DAY’s Group Sports Editor