No-nonsense attitude refreshing

Published: Jun 06, 2019, 06:00 IST | Clayton Murzello

Full marks to a united media force for refusing to interact with net bowlers instead of a proper Team India member in Southampton

No-nonsense attitude refreshing
The barricaded area created for the Indian media to observe a team training session at the Murdoch University Oval in Perth before the India v West Indies 2015 ICC World Cup match. Pic/Ashwin Ferro

Clayton MurzelloGiven the shenanigans of the past, nothing should come as a surprise where the Indian cricket team's relations with the media are concerned. Nonetheless, the decision to send net bowlers Deepak Chahar and Avesh Khan to speak to the media two days before their World Cup opening clash against South Africa, did come as a shock.

Remember, no one from the team had spoken to the media since May 28; the day on which India beat Bangladesh in their second and final warm-up game for the World Cup.

On Monday, the press corps were right in declining to interact with the duo and their request for a proper member of the team made sense. Simply put, here's why. Firstly, it was ridiculous to decide to send the net bowlers. Secondly, what made the team management believe they would get away with such a farcical call? The easiest thing to do would be to put the media manager in the spotlight, but it's fair to assume that he was just following orders from the team bosses.

I read that the logic behind choosing the net bowlers for the media interaction was that they could relate what went into the World Cup preparation. To be fair, it wouldn't have been a story that could be promptly binned in newspaper offices around the world if done well. But there is a time and place for everything. In this case, the right time would be when they return home and the place — probably in one corner outside the arrival lounge.

The argument reportedly put forward by the media manager was, "What will the players talk about when they haven't played any game yet." Those who find merit in this line of thinking must then wonder what Virat Kohli would have to say the following day as well, at the mandatory pre-match press conference.

It is distressing to see the media being given a hard time for the second World Cup on the trot.

In 2015, journalists were discouraged by security from parking themselves even on the opposite road of the team hotel, forget getting into the team hotel, and in some cases, there were barricades that prevented the media from having a closer look at the net practice.

A few days before the India v West Indies game at Perth, the Indian media were in for a shock. Here's what my colleague Ashwin Ferro wrote in mid-day: "Around half an hour before the Indian team arrived at the venue (Murdoch University Oval), its local security liaison officer Daniel Wilshaw issued some strange instructions to the venue's security staff.

"He first ordered that the media be removed from the designated media centre and that a larger room be handed over to the Indian players. And then, in a bid to shun the Indian media, a temporary barricade, enclosed from four sides, was spontaneously erected and the media was ordered to remain inside it. It didn't matter that this new 'arrangement' — at a distance from both, the nets as well as the Oval — restricted the scribes' view."

Admittedly, a lot has changed for the media today. There are more press releases being put out by BCCI and thanks to social media, the game's followers see more of the off-field activities the players indulge in.

Yet, things are not as transparent as they should be. For example, Kedar Jadhav's return to fitness was made known by a BCCI source to a news agency. Shouldn't the BCCI have issued a media release to announce that the all-rounder was ready for the World Cup?

The BCCI don't have to reveal every detail, but they owe some level of transparency and meaningful interaction to the media because, whether you like our faces or not, we are the ones who transfer information to the public.

By the way, Kohli deserved kudos for the way he handled a question about South Africa's Kagiso Rabada at Tuesday's media conference in Southampton. In a recent interview, Rabada called Kohli immature even as he praised the India captain. That was before Kohli showed a tremendous sense of maturity by saying this: "I've played against Kagiso many times and I think we can discuss anything that needs to be discussed man-to-man (on Kagiso calling him immature). I don't need a press conference to answer anything on what he said."

When I first voiced my disgust at what happened with the media in Southampton, not everyone agreed with me lauding the touring journalists for not wanting to interact with the net bowlers.

There were some who felt it didn't make a difference to newspaper readers and said so. There were others who felt I am raising my pet peeve (indifferent treatment to the media) yet again.

When Ian Chappell dedicated his book, A Golden Age, to legendary Australian spinner Bill 'Tiger' O'Reilly, the former Australia captain-turned-broadcaster and journalist wrote: "In my early days in the press box, he [O'Reilly] told me, 'Son, you are in a privileged position. If you see something about the game you don't agree with, write about it. If they don't take any notice then write about it again and if they still don't take any notice, write about it again."

If history repeats itself, I expect I may have to write about it again.

mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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